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ARM, Synopsys Bringing Mali GPU to 20nm Processing

By - Source: ARM | B 7 comments

ARM is feeling the PowerVR heat brought on by Imagination Technologies last month at CES 2013.

Chip designer and Intel arch enemy ARM said on Thursday that it has teamed up with Synopsys to bring its Mali GPU to 20-nm and smaller processing using the latter company's Galaxy Implementation Platform. The two companies have already successfully taped out the first ARM Mali-T658 design using a 20-nm process node, ARM Artisan physical IP and shader functionality.

The news arrives as ARM pushes its Mali GPU designs to SoC licensees that don’t have the resources to develop their own GPU. ARM also competes with Imagination Technologies' PowerVR on the GPU front, the latter of which just scooped up MIPS Technologies for $100 million in cash. The next-gen PowerVR Series6 "Rogue" is fabbed on a 20-nm process node, and was recently showcased at CES 2013 in Las Vegas via LG's Cinema 3D Smart TVs.

According to ARM, Mali GPUs are found in most Android tablets and smart digital TVs currently shipping, and are one of the most popular graphics solutions for smartphones.

"Users' demand for advanced graphics continues to increase, which means that optimizing GPUs for selected end devices is essential," said Pete Hutton, general manager, Media Processing Division, ARM. "Building on a long history of successful collaborations with Synopsys, this implementation will enable designers to optimally implement ARM Mali-T600 family GPUs using Synopsys tools in sub 20-nm leading-edge process technologies."

The ARM Mali-T600 series consists of the Mali-T604, Mali-T624, Mali-T628, Mali-T658 and Mali-T678, and not only features "exceptional" graphics performance, but the first graphics technology to bring GPU compute functionality into mobile devices. ARM said this combined functionality brings additional hardware complexity which is further compounded by the new double-patterning requirements introduced by 20-nm and below technologies.

"Smaller process technologies, such as 20-nm and below, require a highly integrated design flow for fast closure while delivering optimal results," the company explained. "The collaboration used the Galaxy Implementation Platform to produce a methodology tuned for the Mali GPU with ARM Artisan physical IP in 20-nm."

Chip designers like ARM typically contract firms like Synopsis to make sure their designs are transferred to silicon correctly. In this case, primary tools used included Synopsys' Design Compiler synthesis, Formality formal verification, DFTMAX and TetraMAX test, IC Compiler layout, StarRC extraction and PrimeTime timing analysis and signoff.

"Through this collaboration with ARM, the Synopsys Galaxy Implementation Platform with In-Design physical verification combines with the ARM Mali IP and Artisan physical IP to provide a proven, DPT-compliant solution that will helpaccelerate the time to design closure on complex SoCs at 20 nanometers and below," said Antun Domic , senior vice president and general manager, Implementation Group, Synopsys.

ARM said its ongoing collaboration with Synopsys will help designers optimize the implementation of Mali GPUs for their target applications. However despite the tape-put, neither company said when the 20-nm Mali T658 GPUs will appear in final SoC silicon, so stay tuned.

 

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  • 1 Hide
    annymmo , February 25, 2013 3:04 PM
    Don't forget to include advanced features and deliver API support.
    DirectX and OpenGL (ES 3).
  • -4 Hide
    phate , February 25, 2013 3:27 PM
    "this implementation will enable designers to optimally implement ARM Mali-T600 family GPUs using Synopsys tools in sub 20-nm leading-edge process technologies."

    "ARM said this combined functionality brings additional hardware complexity which is further compounded by the new double-patterning requirements introduced by 20-nm and below technologies."

    The "leading-edge" process technology is a misnomer, as evidenced by the second statement. Though nominally on par with Intel, this is actually still a generation or so behind. IIRC, Intel doesn't need to use double-patterning for their interconnects, because they are already implement EUV lithography.

    And the problem gets worse in the next-generation as ARM manufacturers will still be using 20nm double-patterned interconnects when their transistors hit 14nm. So power draw will drop, but density will still remain at 20nm even though they'll be marketed at 14nm due to transistor size.

    Basically this story is a lot of fluff, trying to spin how their weaker, older process technology is somehow something to be proud of.
  • 5 Hide
    InvalidError , February 25, 2013 5:18 PM
    phateBasically this story is a lot of fluff, trying to spin how their weaker, older process technology is somehow something to be proud of.

    ARM and Synopsys do not make the physical chips. ARM makes the HDL design and Synopsys makes synthesis software tuned to individual foundries' processes.

    If TSMC, Global Foundries and other fabs actually had 14nm capabilities, Synopsys would license a version of their suite tuned for that too.
  • 3 Hide
    saturnus , February 25, 2013 5:47 PM
    phateBasically this story is a lot of fluff, trying to spin how their weaker, older process technology is somehow something to be proud of.


    ARM design chips. They do not manufacture anything. If there was a demand for much smaller process node designs than 20nm and beyond, ARM would provide those.

    Intel's smallest process node for their mobility portfolio is currently 28nm although it plans to start 22nm production at the very end of this year (late Q3 or Q4)

    Samsung however is right on Intel's tail, and plans 20nm production (which will probably use the design mentioned in this article) to start Q4 this year or Q1 next year.
  • -3 Hide
    antilycus , February 25, 2013 6:36 PM
    Im confused on why I would care about this more than ARM + Tegra? NVIDIA has been doing it for years. I guess POWER VR has too but I'd rather take NVIDIA than Power VR simply do the their understanding of the market
  • 4 Hide
    twist3d1080 , February 25, 2013 9:51 PM
    phate"The "leading-edge" process technology is a misnomer, as evidenced by the second statement. Though nominally on par with Intel, this is actually still a generation or so behind. IIRC, Intel doesn't need to use double-patterning for their interconnects, because they are already implement EUV lithography.


    Nobody has implemented EUV in a production enviroment.

    antilycusIm confused on why I would care about this more than ARM + Tegra? NVIDIA has been doing it for years. I guess POWER VR has too but I'd rather take NVIDIA than Power VR simply do the their understanding of the market.


    Tegra's GPU has never been an industry leader, ever. Power and Mali GPU's have out performed ULP Geforce GPU at every release. Thats why you would care.
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , February 27, 2013 11:14 AM
    saturnusARM design chips. They do not manufacture anything. If there was a demand for much smaller process node designs than 20nm and beyond, ARM would provide those.Intel's smallest process node for their mobility portfolio is currently 28nm although it plans to start 22nm production at the very end of this year (late Q3 or Q4)Samsung however is right on Intel's tail, and plans 20nm production (which will probably use the design mentioned in this article) to start Q4 this year or Q1 next year.

    No, it's 22nm for Core and 32nm for Atom, Qualcomm uses 28nm for Krait.

    Samsung's 20nm...all i remember about it is that it was due for a 2014-15 launch, could be wrong.