Arm today announces its new flagship Immortalis GPU, the first to feature hardware-based ray tracing on mobile devices. With PCs and the latest Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles all gradually moving towards stunning ray-traced graphics, Immortalis-G715 is designed to be Arm’s first GPU to deliver the same on Android phones and tablets.
Built on Mali, a GPU used by MediaTek and Samsung, Immortalis is designed for 10 to 16 cores and promises a 15 percent increase over the previous generation Mali premium GPUs. Arm sees Immortalis as the beginning of a transition to ray tracing on mobile, having been successful with the 8 billion Mali GPUs shipped to date.
“The challenge is that ray tracing techniques can consume significant amounts of power, power and area across the mobile system-on-a-chip (SoC),” said Andy Craigen, Director of Product Management at Arm. “However, ray tracing on Immortalis-G715 uses only 4 percent of core shader space while delivering more than 300 percent performance improvements through hardware acceleration.” tempt, but when Nvidia introduced hardware-accelerated ray tracing in its RTX 2080, it was advertising a 2x-3x boost at the time. “It’s the right power point for now to bring this technology to market,” says Arm’s Paul Williamson, adding that it could also prove useful in augmented reality applications, where RT could be used to power the you adapt virtual lighting to the real environment.
Arm already delivers software-based ray tracing in last year’s Mali-G710, but the promise of hardware support means we’ll see flagship smartphones with this chip in early 2023. Samsung also announced its Exynos 2200 chip with hardware ray tracing earlier this year, so manufacturers are bracing themselves for the games’ arrival.
“We decided to roll out hardware-based ray tracing support to the Immortalis G715 now because our partners are ready, the hardware is ready, and the developer ecosystem is ready (about to be),” says Craigen. Arm only offers a few examples of ray tracing on its mobile GPUs today, and there’s no clear commitment from game developers just yet. “We believe this technology has a strong place, but it’s going to take time,” Williamson says, hinting that over the next year or so we should “see some interesting experiences on mobile.”
Arm also has an update to its main Mali line with the Mali-G715. This GPU includes Variable Rate Shading (VRS) to boost gaming performance and power savings on mobile devices. Essentially, VRS renders the parts of a scene in a game that require more detail, so background details don’t require as much rendering power. “We’ve seen improvements of up to 40 percent in frames per second when enabling variable rate shading for game content,” claims Craigen. Other improvements mean these latest Arm GPUs see a 15 percent improvement in power efficiency over the previous Mali G710 GPU that launched last year. Arm wouldn’t say how much more expensive an Immortalis device might be compared to one in Mali.
Arm’s move to support hardware-based ray tracing on its GPUs is a significant step for Android mobile gaming. Ray tracing is currently limited to powerful GPUs typically found in gaming PCs or the latest Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles. Nvidia already demonstrated ray tracing in conjunction with Arm last year, but it was an RTX 3060 GPU paired with a MediaTek Kompanio 1200 Arm processor. That effort is focused on PCs and likely Chromebook-like laptops, but Arm’s new Immortalis is squarely focused on Android.
Arm also shared part of its roadmap, which you can see above, proposing to follow Immortalis with a flagship GPU “Titan” in 2023 and “Krake” in 2024. Arm declined to tell us whether Titan or Krake Ray will be expanding Trace support, though.
Epic Games supports Immortalis with its Unreal Engine alongside MediaTek and Unity. This is the kind of industry support you’d expect for a new mobile GPU like this, but the real test will be how many mobile game developers start implementing ray tracing. (Arm says his ray tracing will use the Vulkan API.) It’s still incredibly rare to see ray tracing in console games, so it’s unlikely we’ll see a flood of mobile games migrating to ray tracing anytime soon.
Additional reporting by Sean Hollister.
Correction Jun 28 11:50am ET: Article updated with more details on Immortalis, and to be clear, this is Arm’s first hardware-based ray tracing chip, not a first in the industry.