Semiconductors and Components

China's Rockchip Takes 64-Bit ARM License

05 November 2013

Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Co. Ltd., one of China's more successful digital startups, has taken subscription licenses for 64-bit and 32-bit capable processor cores and the Mali family of graphics processor cores, according to licensor ARM (Cambridge, England).

Fabless Rockchip (Fuzhou, China) has developed system chips for mobile equipment such as Android mobile phones and tablets and has used ARM cores extensively, although it started in graphics with a GPU core licensed from Vivante before turning to ARM's Mali. Rockchip is also licensed to use PowerVR graphics from Imagination Technologies Group plc (Kings Langley, England) and has chips ramping into production on a 28-nm, high-k metal gate process from Globalfoundries Inc.

Rockchip has extended its relationship with ARM with subscription licenses to a broad range of processor cores, including Cortex-A57, Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A12 processor cores, the ARM Mali GPU family, and ARM CoreLink interconnect technology. The first two of these are the highest-performing cores from ARM and comply with its 64-bit capable ARMv8A instruction set architecture.

While Mali GPUs were originally developed for graphics rendering, there is increasing interest in the use of GPUs as accelerators for particular applications that would normally reside on the application processor. Examples where GPU-compute is being deployed include image processing and recognition.

A subscription license is the highest level of license offered by ARM other than an architectural license. While still based on ARM-defined cores, it implies fewer use constraints than other licenses but attracts higher license fees.

The Rockchip deal is the first subscription license for ARM cores in China and the first subscription license for Mali GPU cores anywhere, ARM said. Rockchip is set to use these licenses to address applications in the robotics, mobile internet and smart home markets.

"This subscription license of ARM technologies enables us to continue building a comprehensive technology and product roadmap, demonstrating our commitment to enabling the next-generation smartphone, tablet, Android notebook, phablet and Internet TV products with higher performance and power efficiency for consumers across the globe," said Feng Chen, chief marketing officer for Rockchip, in a statement issued by ARM.

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