ARM pre-briefs the press and analysts like me about its latest innovations in the client computing space every year in the run-up to Computex in Taipei, Taiwan. This year, we met at Arm’s offices in Austin, TX about a month later this year to get the latest on the company’s CPU and GPU cores and how they fit into the company’s vision for SoC and system-level performance for its chip vendor customers. During the briefing I got the strong sense that mobile gaming is heavily influencing Arm’s vision of mobile computing. The company talked at length about performance from the perspective of gaming, which generally translates to performance improvements for many other experiences as well.
Everyone knows Arm for its CPUs. Last year, the company made the big transition to Arm v9, the company’s first new architecture in a decade. This year, Arm introduced the second generation of Arm v9 processors with two new cores and one refreshed core. Arm’s current architecture has three different classes of CPU core: the Cortex X series for extreme performance, the Cortex A7XX series for balanced performance and efficiency and the Cortex A5XX series for power efficient cores. This year introduced the new Cortex X3, Cortex A715 and refreshed Cortex A510.
The Cortex X3 is Arm’s performance-at-all-costs core, which means it delivers up to an additional 22% of performance over this year’s current Cortex X2 devices. Additionally, the new Cortex A715 delivers an efficiency improvement of 20% while also offering a 5% performance uplift. The refreshed Cortex A510, for its part, delivers a power reduction of up to 5% compared to the current A510.
Arm also introduced a new configuration of its cores, which are generally offered in clusters of eight that mix and match from its different classes of performance and efficiency cores. This year, Arm introduced a new high-performance configuration with eight Cortex X3 cores and four Cortex A715 cores, specifically designed for PC configurations that don’t run on battery and have better cooling solutions. Arm also showed how CPU clusters with this year’s new CPU cores can increase overall CPU performance by 23% when utilizing more Cortex X3 cores or more A715 cores than in previous years.
I believe Arm made the biggest splash this year in the GPU space. With a reported 8 billion units shipped to date, Arm’s Mali GPUs are among the most popular in the world. This year, the company introduced three two GPUs: the Immortalis-G715, the Mali G715 and the Mali G615. Immortalis is Arm’s newest tier of GPU, specifically targeting the highest performance configurations with cutting edge features like ray tracing. While many consider ray tracing not yet necessary or performant for mobile, it will need an install base before developers consider it relevant. Earlier this year Samsung introduced the Exynos 2200 with Xclipse GPU which also features ray tracing thanks to AMD’s RDNA2 IP. While Arm may not be the first company to market with the feature, it will likely be instrumental in bringing it into the mainstream. It will be interesting to see if Qualcomm follows suit later this year with its Adreno processors for next year’s flagship devices.
In terms of performance, the Arm Immortalis G715 is inherently faster than its Mali brethren with a GPU core configuration of 10 or more cores. This means that if you want to have a smaller and lower performance GPU, you would need to go for a 7 to 9 core configuration with the Mali G715. If you want to go even smaller, you would need to go with the G615 with 6 cores or fewer. All versions of Arm’s latest GPUs will support variable rate shading (VRS). According to Arm, this welcome addition is expected to help improve performance in certain games by as much as 40%. The great thing about features like VRS is that they allow developers to decide what to do with that extra performance—whether they want it to translate to higher frame rates or better-quality imagery. I also believe there is a performance penalty for having ray tracing enabled; VRS is one way to recover some of that performance for the developer while still having both features enabled.
According to Arm, the G715 features a 15% performance and power efficiency uplift over the Mali G710. Additionally, Arm claims a 2X architectural machine learning improvement, which will hopefully benchmark in next-gen SoC next year as part of the system’s total AI performance.
Total Compute Solutions 2022
Total Compute Solutions (TCS) is how Arm helps its ecosystem partners put together its different IPs into a complete system to optimize it for the best user experience. This means combining its compute with its tools, software and security capabilities to build a complete platform for its ecosystem partners. Last year’s TCS21 yielded the Dimensity 9000 which can be found in the Oppo Find X5 Pro Dimensity Edition and the Vivo X80. Last year’s TCS21 also included the company’s Cortex X2, Cortex A710, Cortex A510 with its DSU-110 cluster, Mali G710 GPU, MMU-700, CI-700 and NI-700. This year’s TCS22 upgrades the CPU and GPU IP to the latest generation of cores with a focus on sustained gaming. This means a huge performance uplift across the entire SoC and reduced power consumption and DRAM traffic.
Putting it all together
It is quite clear that Arm’s focus this year is on mobile gaming—more so than I think I have ever seen from the company. This tracks from what I’ve seen from its ecosystem partners like MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Samsung. Mobile gaming is here to stay, and there’s a lot of room for improvement in the overall experience. I’d be curious to see how Arm’s focus here might influence its partners to attack the burgeoning hand-held gaming market. After all, Arm’s cores are both inside of the Nintendo Switch (NVIDIA Tegra) and Qualcomm G3x Gaming Platform. I believe that we’ll see a plethora of Arm’s CPU designs across the many different SoCs this year and next. That said, the timelines continue to move up every year, with devices coming as early as December as of late. Whenever they arrive, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next generation of devices leveraging Arm’s latest CPU and GPU IP.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.