ARM has launched its second generation of mobile GPU designs hoping the new Mali-T600 series architecture will help boost penetration in the smartphone and tablet market.

ARm Mali-T600 second generation

Cambridge-based ARM Holdings says that the new generation of GPU designs will provide a "dramatically improved user experience for tablets, smartphones and smart-TVs" with each of the three new designs promising a 50 percent performance boost over the current generation of GPUs.

GPUs (or Graphical Processing Units) are used in consumer electronics devices to power high-definition video and graphically-intense games. ARM is currently far-and-away the leading player in the mobile CPU market, with its designs featuring in the vast majority of smartphones and tablets on the market, including the Galaxy S3 and iPad.

In GPU terms, ARM trails behind another Britisdh company, Imagination Technologies, whose GPU designs feature in the iPad and a host of other smartphones and tablets, with a study by Jon Peddie Research suggesting half of all graphics chips shipping in 2011 featured Imagination designs.

Both ARM and Imagination are not hardware companies and so do not actually make the GPUs which feature in these smartphones. Instead they make their money by licencing their chip designs to companies like Samsung, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and many more.

"People expect higher standards of visual computing on their smartphones, tablets and smart-TVs with seamless access to their digital world and personal content," said Pete Hutton, General Manager, Media Processing Division, ARM. "GPU compute enables this as it increases the range of functions mobile devices can perform within the available battery life. ARM continues to focus on system-wide optimization by integrating market leading CPU and GPU technologies to drive both high performance and energy-efficiency."

The three new new chips - Mali-T624, Mali-T628 and Mali-T678 - are expected to begin appearing in smartphones, tablets and smart TVs at around this time next year.

The key new technology at play here is called ASTC (adaptive scalable texture compression) which ARM says "significantly optimises GPU performance and increases battery life in devices, enabling an always-on, always-connected experience."

ASTC is a "revolutionary new algorithm" that will let software designers use the same amount of data to describe more image detail than had been possible before, or to use less data to provide the same amount of detail. It basically means that the graphical output of a smartphone or tablet will soon be able to match that of current generation games consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.