ARM Introduces Mali “Egil” Video Processor With 4K 120Hz Target For Next-Gen Mobile SoCs

Over the last few weeks, ARM has revealed a number of details regarding its next-generation mobile processor IP. We posted news on ARM’s 10nm Artemis test chip here, which was manufactured in concert with TSMC, and also have numerous details regarding the upcoming high-performance ARM A73 CPU and Mali G71 GPU cores, due to arrive in premium mobile devices by year’s end.

Today, ARM is taking things a step further and introducing another building block for next-gen SoCs (system on a chip), a new video processor codenamed Egil.

arm video blocks

When ARM’s customers license the company’s technology for their mobile processors, different components (or component configurations) are used to build a chip that targets a specific use case. A simple device that doesn’t require much horsepower may feature a low-power processor core (or cores) and a basic GPU, while a high-end device may pack eight or ten high-end processor cores and ARM’s most powerful GPU and video engine. If you tunnel deeper, the individual blocks like the multimedia engine may also be tweaked or tuned to achieve a certain level of performance or specific feature set. Certain SoCs, for example, may feature ARM’s Mali-DP550 display processor, with a Mali-V550 video engine, and a Mali-T880 GPU, while others have a lower-end GPU and a video engine with fewer cores.

arm video processor

Having multiple, scalable blocks and an array of IP that allows customers to tune their solutions for particular use cases has advantages. ARM creates the specialized hardware and controllers, in addition to the firmware and software necessary to execute requisite codecs. And the solutions are scalable. So, by doing things this way, ARM is able to provide flexibility to its customers, while enabling broad compatibility with multiple industry standards, with a unified video solution.

arm egil diagram

Like previous-generation offerings, the Mali Egil video solution encompasses a number of hardware, software, and firmware elements. With Egil, ARM is aiming at the 4K market; the target is full 4K 120Hz support, but the engine may be capable of more – ARM is just not ready to say just yet.

The Egil video processor will make VP9 encode available to mobile parts, with support for high quality, 10-bit Profile 2 or 8-bit Profile 0 encoding. It also offers Reference Frame Scaling support for both encode and decode. On the HEVC side, B-frames and 10-bit encode support has been added, and there have been other improvements to all of the other encoders as well. The motion estimation engine, for example, has been designed and has finer granularity. The Mali Egil can simultaneously perform encodes and decodes, and also use multiple codecs at the same time.

arm egil scalability

Egil is also scalable. There is a certain amount of pixel processing available per core in Egil, and additional cores can be added to achieve the desired level of performance. The chart above illustrates how ARM is able to hit the 4K 120Hz target using a 6-core Egil video engine. Of course, not every device will need to achieve that level of performance, so fewer core can be used as well.

In addition to the Mali Egil video processor details, ARM also talked a bit about the Alliance for Open Media, of which ARM is a founding member. The group is pursuing a new, patent royalty-free video codec specification and open source implementation based on contributions from Alliance members, and the broader development community. The aim is to freeze the codec in Q1 of next year, and to have companion hardware 9-12 month later.

Now that we’ve seen that ARM has in store for its next-generation CPU, GPU, and video engine, the capabilities of future mobile devices is taking shape. It’s a bit too early to make predictions, but by year’s end, premium mobile devices should have significantly higher CPU and GPU performance, and better video encoding / decoding capabilities, within a smaller power envelope.
Tags:  Mobile, video, ARM, 4k, egil