Mediatek, a long standing partner of ARM, has licensed the company's Mali-400 GPU and will be using it in upcoming handheld and portable devices such as media players and personal navigation devices. This might not really sound like much, but this is the first major Mali-400 licensing announcement since the technology was launched back in June 2008. Mali-400 traces its ancestry back to Falanx, a Norwegian graphics IP company that originally came up with the whole Mali series, which was – obviously – acquired by ARM. The company boasts its low power consumption and high performance – claiming it can provide HD video decode (1080p) for a fraction of the power.
The Mali-400 GPU measures 5.5 square milimeters in die-size, and its single vertex processor pumps out over 1GPixel/s or 30M Triangles/sec, with FSAA 4x at no processing overhead. The silicon uses the OpenGL ES 1.x/2.0 API, which the company amply distributes to any takers, although it can implement the DirectX mobile API.
ARM has discussed scalability of these multi-core GPUs in the past, providing estimates of quasi-linear gains, which is possible considering the tile-based rendering nature of the part. A Mali-400 GPU includes 4 “fragment processors” that should provide enough processing power to produce the 1080p video render and uses the same rendering techniques used by its PowerVR SGX/MBX competitor.
It did take some time to make a big hit with the mobile device crowd, but that’s been a staple of all the portable device GPUs – APX2500, Imageon and SGX. Right now the market for digital video processing through a small SoC device attached to just about any display device is huge... and ARM has the full package.