Arm’s new CPU and GPU cores usher in a new generation of total computing solutions

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ARM updates the press and analysts like me on its latest innovations in client computing every year in advance of Computex in Taipei, Taiwan. This year, we met at Arm’s Austin, TX offices about a month later that 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 performance for its chipmaker customers. During the briefing, I had a strong feeling that Mobile Gaming greatly influences Arm’s vision of mobile computing. The company spoke extensively about performance from a gaming perspective, which generally translates into performance improvements for many other experiences as well.

CPU

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 includes three different classes of CPU cores: the Cortex-X series for extreme performance, the Cortex-A7XX series for balanced performance and efficiency, and the Cortex-A5XX series for energy-efficient cores. This year saw the introduction of the new Cortex X3, Cortex A715 and the updated Cortex A510.

The Cortex X3 is Arm’s “performance-at-all-cost” core, meaning it delivers up to 22% more performance over this year’s current Cortex X2 devices. In addition, the new Cortex A715 offers a 20% increase in efficiency while delivering a 5% increase in performance. For its part, the refreshed Cortex A510 delivers a performance reduction of up to 5% compared to the current A510.

Arm also introduced a new configuration of its cores, generally offered in clusters of eight, mixing and matching from its various 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, designed specifically for non-battery PC configurations that 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 using more Cortex X3 cores or more A715 cores than in previous years.

I think Arm has been the biggest mover in the GPU space this year. 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 GPUs: the Immortalis G715, the Mali G715, and the Mali G615. Immortalis is Arm’s latest tier of GPUs, specifically targeting the most powerful configurations with innovative features like ray tracing. While many don’t yet find mobile ray tracing necessary or powerful, it will need an install base before developers consider it relevant. Earlier this year, Samsung introduced the Exynos 2200 with Xclipse GPU, which also offers ray tracing thanks to AMD’s RDNA2-IP. While Arm may not be the first company to bring this feature to market, it will likely help bring 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 a smaller and less powerful GPU, you would have to go for a 7 to 9 core configuration with the Mali G715. If you want to go even smaller, you need to go for the G614 with 6 cores or less. All versions of Arm’s latest GPUs support Variable Rate Shading (VRS). According to Arm, this welcome addition should help improve performance by up to 40% in certain games. The great thing about features like VRS is that they allow developers to decide what to do with that extra power – whether to translate it into higher frame rates or better image quality. I also believe there is a performance hit when ray tracing is enabled; VRS is a way for the developer to restore some of that performance while still having both features enabled.

According to Arm, the G715 has a 15% increase in performance and power efficiency over the Mali G710. Additionally, Arm claims a 2x improvement in machine learning architecture that will hopefully be benchmarked in the next year as part of the overall system AI performance in the next-gen SoC.

Total Computing Solutions 2022

With Total Compute Solutions (TCS), Arm helps its ecosystem partners to aggregate its various IPs into a complete system to optimize it for the best user experience. That means combining its computing power with its tools, software, and security features to build a complete platform for its ecosystem partners. Last year’s TCS21 spawned 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 X3, 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 an emphasis on sustainable gaming. This means a huge increase in performance across the entire SoC and reduced power consumption and DRAM traffic.

Put everything together

It’s pretty clear that Arm is focused on mobile gaming this year – more than I think I’ve ever seen from the company. This follows from what I’ve seen from its ecosystem partners like MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Samsung. Mobile gaming is here to stay, and there’s plenty of room for improvement in the overall experience. I’d be curious to see how Arms’ focus here might influence its partners to attack the burgeoning handheld gaming market. Finally, Arm’s cores reside in both the Nintendo Switch (NVIDIA Tegra) and the Qualcomm G3x Gaming Platform. I believe we will see a plethora of Arm CPU designs in the many different SoCs this year and next. However, schedules continue to shift upwards each year, with devices lately launching as early as December. Whenever they arrive, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next generation of devices that take advantage of Arm’s latest CPU and GPU IP.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.

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