iPhone chip designer trumpets multi-core GPUs; foundation for Apple’s ‘iTablet?’

“Immersive gaming, photo-realistic graphics, and HD video will soon take a giant step off your desktop and into the palm of your hand with the arrival of a new line of multi-core GPUs aimed squarely at the mobile, handheld, and automotive markets,” Rik Myslewski reports for The Register.

“The new designs are from Imagination Technologies, a fabless chip designer perhaps best known not only for the fact that its PowerVR MBX core powers Apple’s iPhone, but also because both Apple and Intel have made substantial investments in the Hertfordshire, England company,” Myslewski reports.

“In his Tuesday keynote at the Multicore Expo in Santa Clara, California, Imagination’s VP of marketing, Tony King-Smith, told the assembled engineers that the SGX543MP family would support from two to sixteen cores,” Myslewski reports. “The SGX543 can have any number of cores from two to sixteen with no change in the driver software or the application. All that complex data/pipeline/thread management is done in hardware. No muss, no fuss.”

“In his keynote King-Smith used only graphics apps as example, but in a statement he referred to the SGX543MP cores as ‘GP-GPU’ processors – invoking the ‘general-purpose computing on GPU’ holy grail being sought by OpenCL devotees such as Nvidia, Apple, Intel, AMD, ARM, and many others – including Imagination,” Myslewski reports.

Myslewski speculates, “Seeing as how Apple’s upcoming Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, will embrace the GP-GPU goodness of OpenCL, and seeing as how the iPhone already runs a variant of Mac OS X on an Imagination Technologies PowerVR MBX core, wouldn’t a many-core PowerVX SGX543MP make a mighty fine GPU for, say, an Apple tablet?”

Read more in the full article here.

Imagination Technologies’ press release verbatim:

Imagination Technologies launches advanced, highly-efficient POWERVR™ SGX543MP multi-processor graphics IP family

Truly scalable multi-processing graphics technology offers ‘super-high’ performance points extending POWERVR’s market reach into new segments

Imagination Technologies, the multimedia chip technologies company, announces further details of the first POWERVR SGX graphics IP core with multi-processor (MP) core support. The technology, henceforth POWERVR SGX543MP, is being delivered to customers in SGXMP2 (two-core) to SGXMP16 (16-core) variants.

With the POWERVR SGX543MP family Imagination continues to extend its leadership of the embedded graphics acceleration market with blistering POWERVR solutions which address the rapidly growing demands for high performance graphics in a wide range of consumer electronics segments.

Imagination’s graphics IP cores now range from SGX520, the world’s smallest OpenGL™ ES 2.0 mobile core, to SGX543MP16 for high-performance console and computing devices.

Some of the innovative technology behind POWERVR SGX543MP is being revealed in a keynote presentation at the 4th annual Multicore Expo (March 16 – 19 2009, Santa Clara, USA.)

Tony King-Smith, VP marketing Imagination Technologies says: “The performance delivered by our latest POWERVR SGX543MP family is the ultimate statement of the highly linear scalability of our unique Series5XT architecture. With the ability to combine up to 16 SGX543 GP-GPU cores on a single SoC, we are now able to deliver capabilities to our licensing partners previously only thought the domain of the discrete GPU chipset vendors, while maintaining our unrivalled power, area and bandwidth efficiency.”

One of the unique features of the recently announced POWERVR Series5XT architecture is that it enables highly linear scaling of all aspects of GPU performance, specifically vertex shading, pixel shading, primitive setup and overall GP-GPU functionality, whilst maintaining full software compatibility and with virtually no overhead in bandwidth usage.

The POWERVR SGX543MP family enables up to sixteen cores of POWERVR SGX543 programmable GP-GPU logic to be integrated in a high performance, multi-processor graphics solution without performance or silicon area compromises. Taking the already high-performance four-pipe POWERVR SGX543, and then scaling that performance up to between eight and 64 pipelines, POWERVR SGX543MP delivers performance comparable to many desktops, laptops and games consoles.

At 200MHz core frequency an SGX543MP4 (four cores) will deliver 133 million polygons per second and fill rates in excess of 4Gpixels/sec. Higher frequencies or a larger number of cores each deliver more performance. At 400MHz core frequency an SGX543MP8 (eight cores) will deliver 532 million polygons per second and fill rates in excess of 16Gpixels/sec.

POWERVR SGX543MP features:

• maintains the highest performance per mW of any embedded graphics core, a key benefit of POWERVR SGX
• highly linear scaling (over 95% efficiency) of performance in both geometry (vertex processing) and rasterisation (pixel/fragment processing)
• dynamic load balancing and on-demand task allocation at the pipeline level
• no fixed allocation of given pixels to specific cores, enabling maximum processing power to be allocated to the areas of highest on-screen action
• scalable GP-GPU compute power, which can be fully utilised through all Khronos APIs including OpenGL ES 2.x, OpenVG™ 1.x and OpenCL™
• use any number of cores from 2-16, even or odd
• no additional work for software developers; using one driver stack for all SGX cores means applications see a common SGX architecture via the standard APIs regardless of number of cores used
• no additional CPU load when using multiple cores or loss of performance

Continues King-Smith: “This multi-core extension to the scalability of the POWERVR SGX architecture, beyond the existing POWERVR SGX520 and SGX53x and 54x families, takes our highly efficient technology into new market segments. Additionally the leading and ever-growing ecosystem of POWERVR Insider, which is of great value to our licensing partners and their OEM customers, will both benefit from, and further develop with, this significant expansion of the family.”

The highly efficient POWEVR SGX543MP family delivers linear progression in vertex and pixel processing performance, unlike competitive solutions which scale only pixel performance. An SGX543MP2 delivers effectively twice the performance of a single SGX543 without compromise. And for a given workload the same bandwidth is required no matter how many cores are deployed – SGX543MP delivers faster performance by dividing the work on –demand, dynamically load balanced in parallel between cores.

The POWERVR Series5XT architecture builds on the highly efficient Series5 architecture, which ensures that maximum performance is achieved across a wide range of applications, regardless of whether the content is dominated by polygon throughput, pixel processing, high fill rate or any combination of these. Other architectures that use separate polygon and pixel processing units cannot achieve the sustained throughput or silicon utilisation of POWERVR SGX graphics cores.

Part of POWERVR Series5XT, USSE2 (Universal Scalable Shader Engine2), the main programmable processing unit within each POWERVR SGX543 pipeline, incorporates a major upgrade of the data path to deliver vastly improved vector processing performance and overall throughput. This datapath upgrade is one of the key reasons why SGX543 delivers up to 2x the performance for ‘vector-heavy’ applications compared to earlier POWERVR SGX cores

USSE2 is a scalable multi-threaded GPU shader processing engine that efficiently processes graphics as well as many other mathematically-intensive tasks. These tasks are automatically broken down into processing packets which are then scheduled across a number of hardware multi-threaded execution units for maximum processing efficiency.

About Imagination Technologies
Imagination Technologies Group plc (LSE:IMG) – a global leader in multimedia and communication silicon technologies – creates and licenses market-leading processor cores for graphics, video, multi-threaded embedded processing/DSP and multi-standard communications applications. These silicon intellectual property (IP) solutions for systems-on-chip (SoC) are complemented by strong array of software tools and drivers as well as extensive developer and middleware ecosystems. Target markets include mobile phone, handheld multimedia, home consumer entertainment, mobile and low-power computing, and in-car electronics. Its licensees include many of the leading semiconductor and consumer electronics companies. Imagination has corporate headquarters in the United Kingdom, with sales and R&D offices worldwide. See: http://www.imgtec.com

Source: Imagination Technologies

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dirty Pierre le Punk” for the heads up.]

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