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.