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ARM prepares for VR in 2017's phones with new chips

Engadget Engadget 30/05/2016 Devindra Hardawar
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Come next year, ARM has one major theme in mind for its next batch of mobile processors: virtual reality. Its new Cortex-A73 chip and Mali-G71 GPU are, naturally, faster than its current lineup. But more so than the past few years, where incremental improvements were enough, ARM sees VR as the ideal goalpost for its chips. The new Mali chip, for example, will be able to push up 4K screens with refresh rates of up to 120Hz (90Hz is the bare minimum for decent VR). And both new processors will also be easier on battery life, which means you'll be able to stay jacked into virtual worlds for much longer.

The Cortex-A73 is both 30 percent faster and more power efficient than last year's A72. ARM says it's able to sustain peak performance speeds far more than its previous chips, and it has the smallest footprint yet for one of its mobile processors (under 0.65mm sq). The A73 is built on a 10nm FinFET (a type of 3D transistor) design, which is a big reason why it's so much more compact and power efficient than ARM's previous chips.

The Mali-G71 is an even bigger leap, with 50 percent faster graphics performance and 20 percent better energy efficiency. It's built on ARM's new Bifrost architecture, and it'll also be able spit out graphics with a low latency of 4ms (also ideal for VR). The G71 also has 32 shader cores, twice as much as its predecessor, the Mali-T880.

ARM says ten companies have already licensed its new chip designs including Mediatek, Marvell and HiSilicon. But, as usual, it'll be awhile before you'll see the A73 and G71 in new devices. ARM's partners have only just started testing out the hardware, so you'll have to wait until early next year to see it in phones.

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