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Manufacturer: ARM

ARM is Serious About Graphics

Ask most computer users from 10 years ago who ARM is, and very few would give the correct answer.  Some well informed people might mention “Intel” and “StrongARM” or “XScale”, but ARM remained a shadowy presence until we saw the rise of the Smartphone.  Since then, ARM has built up their brand, much to the chagrin of companies like Intel and AMD.  Partners such as Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Rockchip, and NVIDIA have all worked with ARM to produce chips based on the ARMv7 architecture, with Apple being the first to release the first ARMv8 (64 bit) SOCs.  The multitude of ARM architectures are likely the most shipped chips in the world, going from very basic processors to the very latest Apple A7 SOC.

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The ARMv7 and ARMv8 architectures are very power efficient, yet provide enough performance to handle the vast majority of tasks utilized on smartphones and tablets (as well as a handful of laptops).  With the growth of visual computing, ARM also dedicated itself towards designing competent graphics portions of their chips.  The Mali architecture is aimed at being an affordable option for those without access to their own graphics design groups (NVIDIA, Qualcomm), but competitive with others that are willing to license their IP out (Imagination Technologies).

ARM was in fact one of the first to license out the very latest graphics technology to partners in the form of the Mali-T600 series of products.  These modules were among the first to support OpenGL ES 3.0 (compatible with 2.0 and 1.1) and DirectX 11.  The T600 architecture is very comparable to Imagination Technologies’ Series 6 and the Qualcomm Adreno 300 series of products.  Currently NVIDIA does not have a unified mobile architecture in production that supports OpenGL ES 3.0/DX11, but they are adapting the Kepler architecture to mobile and will be licensing it to interested parties.  Qualcomm does not license out Adreno after buying that group from AMD (Adreno is an anagram of Radeon).

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