ARM, the British company that’s responsible for powering pretty much every mobile phone that’s currently in use, has announced a new graphics processor today. Dubbed the Mali-450, it’s being targeted at midrange devices that don’t need the power of the next generation Midgard graphics architecture we should expect to see in 2013 smartphones. While ARM doesn’t want to admit it, the Mali-450 is essentially two Mali-400 chips fused together. Remember the Mali-400? That’s what Samsung used in the Galaxy S II, which despite being a year old is still an incredibly capable device. So imagine something twice as fast as that. Again, that’s impressive, but not as impressive as the Mali-T604 and Mali-T658 graphics processors we should be seeing next year.
Crazy horsepower aside, the bigger question here is what are companies going to do with all that graphics capability? If you’re a gamer, then we hate to tell you this, but you should be using an iPhone. Not only do you have access to a larger number of titles, but you’ll also typically get first dibs on multiplatform games. Samsung could very well build a chip with a graphics processor that’s an order of magnitude faster than the GPU inside the third generation iPad, but how many times can you play Riptide GP until you’re bored to tears?
It should also be noted that when it comes to graphics, ARM isn’t really a big fish. Qualcomm’s Adreno, which is the GPU inside the Snapdragon, powers a ton of devices. NVIDIA, while their market share is tiny today, is on track to become big this year and even bigger next year too. They use a GPU that’s borrowed from their desktop and laptop solutions. Let’s not forget iOS either, Apple depends on PowerVR GPUs from Imagination Technology for the iPad and iPhone.