From Google Glass to Samsung Galaxy S4, PowerVR SGX is mobile’s leading GPU

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As the accelerated rate of adoption for mass-market smartphones and tablets is creating an increased pull from OEMs and ODMs to promote hype and buzz terms above everything else, consumers can easily lose track of which solution is better and why. Recent product announcements like Samsung Galaxy S4, Lenovo K900, Alcatel One Touch HD range, or Google Glass are living proof that the mobile and embedded world needs a flexible GPU solution like PowerVR SGX to address different performance, power, and area budgets.

PowerVRGPU Samsung Galaxy S4 PowerVR SGX544MP3

The Exynos 5 Octa processor inside the Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a PowerVR SGX544MP3 GPU

PowerVR GPU Google Glass PowerVR SGX SGX540 Series5

Google Glass uses a TI OMAP4430 SoC with a PowerVR SGX540 GPU

You can now find Imagination’s GPU IP in every consumer electronics product from high-end smartphones and affordable tablets running Android, to Windows 8-based ultrabooks and hybrids, wearables, and kitchen appliances. In a recent article on IEEE Computing Now, we’ve listed some of the key features that have enabled this incredible growth, together with reasons why PowerVR SGX (which includes Series5 and Series5XT GPUs) always come first.

PowerVR SGX GPUs deliver better performance with fewer cores

Focus on real world performance

We believe performance shines in real platforms. That is why, on commercial devices, PowerVR Series5XT MP2-based platforms are almost 50% faster for the same frames being rendered, compared to competing solutions claiming twice as many (or more) cores (depending on who’s doing the counting).

Optimizations done for real world performance lead to similar results in benchmark tests. We’ve seen a range of competing platforms that looked very attractive on paper, yet failed to pass even the most basic test in GFXBench 2.5. Imagination has a dedicated team focused on efficiency and performance optimisation of our PowerVR driver and compiler technology. Work by that team over the last couple of years has led to some significant performance improvements in the potential performance of all 3D graphics applications through a wide range of optimisations in the compiler that are useful in everyone’s applications – not just benchmarks.

PowerVRGPU unified shaders vs separate shaders

The shader compiler for PowerVR Series5XT GPUs in particular is now capable of using the available compute and register resources much more efficiently, as performance continues to improve.

Mobile graphics are all about high efficiency and low power

All PowerVR GPUs are designed for high efficiency and low power. This is reflected in unique, patented technologies like our TBDR (tile based deferred rendering) architecture, dedicated 2D core, and microkernel firmware. These combined advantages result in significant memory bandwidth and power reductions compared to competing solutions.

PowerVR Series5 Series5XT GPU deferred pixel shadingThe TBDR principle: the screen is split into tiles; for each tile, only the visible elements are rendered

PowerVR Series5XT GPUs provide future proof system designs

More sophisticated hardware and a richer API offering

PowerVR Series5XT GPUs offer much more than just a basic OpenGL ES 2.0 implementation, with an impressive list of optional features, and near OpenGL ES 3.0 functionality that no other competing solutions can offer. While other multicore solutions lack vertex texturing or floating point textures, or support only a limited number of extensions, Imagination is able to provide higher floating point precision and up to 4xMSAA hardware support, leading to an important reduction of rendering artefacts at high resolutions.

This anti-aliasing comparison demo shows the significant visual improvement in using the hardware accelerated 4xMSAA available with PowerVR Series5XT GPUs
No compromise on GPU compute

Instead of supporting GPU compute on only certain graphics families (or even not at all), we’ve chosen to enable APIs like OpenCL, Renderscript and Filterscript across all of our PowerVR Series5/5XT and Series6 cores. Furthermore, Series5 was one of the first mobile architectures to achieve full OpenCL Embedded Profile (EP) conformance, paving the way for GPU compute to realistically make its way into the mobile and embedded space.

Most popular texture compression with PVRTC and PVRTC2

Our advanced texture compression support is unmatched. While others are limited to ETC-only support, Imagination provides a wide portfolio of OpenGL ES and DirectX-specific textures (ETC, ETC2, DXTn, etc.) and RGBA formats. All PowerVR GPUs include PVRTC support, while PowerVR Series5XT and Series6 cores also offer developers Imagination’s PVRTC2, the most efficient texture compression formats in the mobile industry.

PVRTC2 and PVRTC compared against ETC1, ETC2 and BC1

PowerVR GPUs support a wide range of texture compression standards, including PVRTC (4bpp and 2bpp) and PVRTC2 (4bpp and 2bpp)

PowerVR Series5XT GPUs are mature, proven solutions

With over a billion devices shipped to-date with PowerVR IP, most of which are PowerVR Series5 and Series5XT GPUs, Imagination provides a mature, proven solution that is unrivaled in performance, scalability, efficiency and ecosystem support.

Imagination’s PowerVR Insider ecosystem is the largest developer community dedicated to app development for mobile. While others encourage locked-in app development and extreme fragmentation, supporting only a limited set of operating systems or API standards, or promoting only certain developers, our PowerVR Graphics SDK is a free, cross-platform development suite that covers all mobile operating systems (Android, BlackBerry 10, iOS, Windows, Linux, etc.) and APIs.

_PowerVRGPU PowerVR Insider ecosystemThe industry’s largest ecosystem is built around PowerVR GPUs

Final words

By providing scalable and robust graphics IP solutions, the PowerVR GPU family continues to lead the market in technological capability, roadmap strength and ecosystem. It remains by far the most adopted and shipped technology of its kind, with the largest ecosystem of mobile graphics developers in the industry.

PowerVR Series5XT has been optimized for high efficiency, obtaining better real device performance and compatibility than competing multicore solutions, with important savings in battery life. Its feature set clearly exceeds the capabilities of recently released competing cores, providing better levels of performance, lower power consumption and reduced area.

This article is the first in a larger series of white papers, blog posts and editorials on PowerVR Series5 and Series5XT GPUs. If you have any questions or feedback about Imagination’s graphics IP, please use the comments box below. To keep up to date with the latest developments on PowerVR, follow us on Twitter (@GPUCompute, @PowerVRInsider and @ImaginationTech) and subscribe to our blog feed.

Alex Voica

Alex Voica

Before deciding to pursue his dream of working in technology marketing, Alexandru held various engineering roles at leading semiconductor companies in Europe. His background also includes research in computer graphics and VR at the School of Advanced Studies Sant'Anna in Pisa. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

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