iPhone graphics may get multiprocessor performance upgrade

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Imagination Technologies, the firm that designs the PowerVR graphics core used in the iPhone, has announced a new generation of its SGX design with multi-processor support, providing embedded graphics applications such as a future iPhone with up to 16 cores.



The company's PowerVR chips have long dominated the mobile embedded graphics market, but the new SGX543MP processors released this week aim to deliver "high-performance console and computing devices" according to a press release issued by the company today.



The company has expressed a desire to push out of the embedded space and into the desktop computing market dominated by NVIDIA and AMD's ATI. Imagination's partnership with Apple may help on that front, as the iPhone family expands upward and as Apple develops technologies that abstract the the CPU and GPUs and makes multi-core processors more broadly usable to general purpose developers, and not just those with specific expertise in coding for multiprocessing.



Imagination's new processor design "maintains the highest performance per mW," a phrase familiar to observers of Apple's Intel transition; Steve Jobs noted at the time that Intel's new Core CPUs offered not just speed, but power efficiency, a critical factor in making them attractive to to the kinds of applications Apple had in its roadmap.



The new graphics cores also support "scalable GP-GPU compute power, which can be fully utilised through all Khronos APIs including OpenGL ES 2.x, OpenVG 1.x and OpenCL." General Purpose GPU computing using OpenCL is one of Apple's core strategies in delivering Snow Leopard, and will also play a factor in the company's mobile devices, unlocking new potential for mobile developers.



Last December, Apple was officially cited as both the mysterious PowerVR licensee that had obtained the rights to use Imagination's current and future graphics and video processing cores in its forthcoming "System on a Chip" designs, as well as an investor, taking a 3% stake in the company. Jobs had earlier noted that Apple had acquired fabless chip design firm PA Semi in order to develop new chips for its iPod and iPhone products.



The next hardware revision of the iPhone, expected this summer, appears set release a major new architecture change, which may include the first fruits of Apple's work at PA Semi.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    I see the chip as more suitable for a Netbook class device.
  • Reply 2 of 38
    nace33nace33 Posts: 94member
    Anyone know how much more power this multi-core chip would consume compared to the current iPhone chip?



    I assume it is too much for an iPhone, maybe not for a Tablet.
  • Reply 3 of 38
    irelandireland Posts: 17,751member
    A lot of things *may* happen
  • Reply 4 of 38
    cbswecbswe Posts: 116member
    I think Apple should go with nVidia on this one
  • Reply 5 of 38
    I don't see what a quadcore chip should be used for in an iPhone.
  • Reply 6 of 38
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    I thought Nvidia's Tegra was in the lead postion for the next iPhone. Is it still not ready for production?





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nace33 View Post


    Anyone know how much more power this multi-core chip would consume compared to the current iPhone chip?



    I think they aren't consuming any less power when going full throttle, but can use considerably less juice whilst not affecting performance when delegating typical tasks to a less cores.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by T'hain Esh Kelch View Post


    I don't see what a quadcore chip should be used for in an iPhone.



    The same reason that multi-core chips are in other CE. It allows you get more performance per watt. Is your argument that we should just make faster single-core chips regardless of power consumption or that the iPhone is already plenty fast enough?
  • Reply 7 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    The same reason that multi-core chips are in other CE. It allows you get more performance per watt. Is your argument that we should just make faster single-core chips regardless of power consumption or that the iPhone is already plenty fast enough?



    I don't see what it can use the extra power for at all. Better graphics is one thing, but there's a limit to the amount of screen on the phone.
  • Reply 8 of 38
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cbswe View Post


    I think Apple should go with nVidia GoForce on this one



    Why? Tegra is a nice chip and all but Imagination has a stable platform in PowerVR that's shipping in millions of devices.
  • Reply 9 of 38
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,502member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by T'hain Esh Kelch View Post


    I don't see what a quadcore chip should be used for in an iPhone.



    Seriously, I mean 640k is all you'll ever need.
  • Reply 10 of 38
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post


    Seriously, I mean 640k is all you'll ever need.



    That's going to be a classic that never dies.





    Well I can certainly see eventual iphone having HD outputs. VESA is working on a mobile connector for DisplayPort and since the spec supports HDCP I see no reason why we won't see HD output.



    Finally iTunes HD content will be transportable. This is one of the reasons why I don't think Blu-ray has a future as bright as DVD. The minute I have a 128GB iPod with HD output is the day I simply need a cable to connect to an HDTV set for playback.
  • Reply 11 of 38
    boogabooga Posts: 1,081member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    That's going to be a classic that never dies.





    Well I can certainly see eventual iphone having HD outputs. VESA is working on a mobile connector for DisplayPort and since the spec supports HDCP I see no reason why we won't see HD output.



    Finally iTunes HD content will be transportable. This is one of the reasons why I don't think Blu-ray has a future as bright as DVD. The minute I have a 128GB iPod with HD output is the day I simply need a cable to connect to an HDTV set for playback.



    There is no such thing as "HD". 1080p output is irrelevant if your compression rates are so high that you get macroblocking of the pixels during motion. Blu-Ray has 10x the bandwidth of the AppleTV's "HD" and one disk can fill 5 of today's iPhone's, so I wouldn't hold my breath for the death of discs. Maybe Blu-Ray's successor will fall to the iPhone's successor someday, though.
  • Reply 12 of 38
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by T'hain Esh Kelch View Post


    I don't see what it can use the extra power for at all. Better graphics is one thing, but there's a limit to the amount of screen on the phone.



    There are so many areas in which the iPhone can be much faster and smoother.
  • Reply 13 of 38
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Booga View Post


    There is no such thing as "HD". 1080p output is irrelevant if your compression rates are so high that you get macroblocking of the pixels during motion. Blu-Ray has 10x the bandwidth of the AppleTV's "HD" and one disk can fill 5 of today's iPhone's, so I wouldn't hold my breath for the death of discs. Maybe Blu-Ray's successor will fall to the iPhone's successor someday, though.



    Incorrect. HD is most definitely "defined" by resolution.



    1280 x 720

    1920x 1080



    Progressive for 720 resolutions

    Progressive or Interlaced for 1080



    I think Apple is smart to choose 720p for iTunes. It looks great on most HDTV

    under 65" and the bandwidth is half what 1080p requires for roughly equivalent

    quality.



    I'd say do a iTunes + for video in a couple of years. Raise the ceiling for 720p video

    to 8-10Mbps (up from the 5Mbps today) and with further maturation of h.264 consumers

    won't know or care about 1080p and 30Mbps and more datarates unless they have a full

    blown home theatre.
  • Reply 14 of 38
    mark2005mark2005 Posts: 1,158member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by T'hain Esh Kelch View Post


    I don't see what it can use the extra power for at all. Better graphics is one thing, but there's a limit to the amount of screen on the phone.



    The primary purpose of OpenCL and GP-GPU is to allow a GPU to use its power to better perform general purpose tasks.



    Snow Leopard for Mac OS X aims to make this happen, and if we assume it also applies to iPhone OS X, then the iPhone (and other Apple handheld devices) may very well have a GPU.
  • Reply 15 of 38
    hattighattig Posts: 858member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nace33 View Post


    Anyone know how much more power this multi-core chip would consume compared to the current iPhone chip?



    I assume it is too much for an iPhone, maybe not for a Tablet.



    It will be fabbed on a more modern process, but there's a lot more complexity in SGX than MBX, and to then go to multiple cores ...



    I could see Apple using the single core variant of this for mobile phone / iPod devices. Maybe even the 2-core MP. A tablet could then use a 4 core or 8 core, maybe at higher speeds.



    I don't know how much of this core IP has been developed in the past - often these things are announced, then people license them, then then spend 18 months integrating them and then you see them appear on the market. 2010 could be optimistic, never mind 2009. iPhone 2011, yeah, dead cert to use this.
  • Reply 16 of 38
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by T'hain Esh Kelch View Post


    I don't see what it can use the extra power for at all. Better graphics is one thing, but there's a limit to the amount of screen on the phone.



    This is the number one issue, iPhone needs a better processor to fix the performance issues. What performance issues you may ask, well how about the general slow down when recieving E-Mail while in another app or the random unexplained key board lag or apps that are generally unresponsive.



    Now this is not to imply that I think the specific chip in this artical is going into the next iPhone but rather just highlights the need for better performance. I suspect that the current iPhone will get a modest performance increases via a SoC update on a shrunken process. Apple will likely strive to keep the current iPhone low cost and drive higher performance on a new larger iPhone.



    The reason being many of us do want higher performance and more importantly a larger screen. There is a lot of room on the current iPhone for a larger screen but I'm talking a slightly bigger physical device here. We are taliking maybe a half inch wider and an eigth inch taller in landscape mode. Now I know many will say why bother, the answer of course is that those modest dimensional increases would lead to a huge increase in screen area, especially if much if the Bessel disappears. With the right rearraingement of components we are talking about getting a screen that is almost an inch wider. More importantly a larger device leads to room for another flash chip.



    In anyevent yes dual core and lots of GPU cores will help here. As others have mentioned this GPU and CPU combo (speculated) would be even more at home in an even larger tablet. The advantage to Apple is that the whole CPU/GPU package will likely do just a little over a watt of power. That is a lot of computational capability for little watts.



    Of course one needs to understand that those computational capabilities are very limited on most GPUs. The term "general purpose graphical processing unit" in my mind is a little mis leading. That due to the constructed processing capabilities in a GPU.







    Dave
  • Reply 17 of 38
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Hattig View Post


    It will be fabbed on a more modern process, but there's a lot more complexity in SGX than MBX, and to then go to multiple cores ...



    ARM hardware is difficult to compare as it is so configurable and can be built on numerous processes. The best charts I've seen give ranges of power disapation. However the new Cortex processors do draw more power in general but that is to be expected due to the performance increases.



    Apple is likely to gain some power savings via a high integration SoC. Going off chip burns a lot of power so much of that can be gained back by keeping as many functional blocks as possible on chip. The new Shuffle is interesting here as that device is highly integrated but I do wonder if it is one die or a set of stacked dies.

    Quote:



    I could see Apple using the single core variant of this for mobile phone / iPod devices. Maybe even the 2-core MP. A tablet could then use a 4 core or 8 core, maybe at higher speeds.



    I suspect that the current iPhone will get a modest upgrade that hopefully also lowers cost. That would be acceptable if they also come out with a higher performance iPhone.

    Quote:



    I don't know how much of this core IP has been developed in the past - often these things are announced, then people license them, then then spend 18 months integrating them and then you see them appear on the market. 2010 could be optimistic, never mind 2009. iPhone 2011, yeah, dead cert to use this.



    I don't think we will have to wait that long. Remember Apple is an investor in both companies I suspect that Apple had a lot of influence in the design of this new GPU. They may have even dictated certain levels if functionality to make sure it could work with OpenCL







    DAve
  • Reply 18 of 38
    huntercrhuntercr Posts: 140member
    That the updated GPU and CPUs are for the upcoming iPad/iTablet? Makes alot more sense.
  • Reply 19 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mark2005 View Post


    The primary purpose of OpenCL and GP-GPU is to allow a GPU to use its power to better perform general purpose tasks.



    Snow Leopard for Mac OS X aims to make this happen, and if we assume it also applies to iPhone OS X, then the iPhone (and other Apple handheld devices) may very well have a GPU.



    Anyone know of any talk about the underlying OSX in iPhoneOS 3?

    ie: is it based on Snow Leopard?

    It should be, right?
  • Reply 20 of 38
    roninjaroninja Posts: 15member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by huntercr View Post


    That the updated GPU and CPUs are for the upcoming iPad/iTablet? Makes alot more sense.



    It normal for Imagination ip announcements for an 18-24 month window from initial announcement to SoC availability. Therefore for anything Apple will be doing with Imagination was licensed in 2007. So for iPhone this will still be a Samsung manufactured SoC with either SGX 520 or 530 on board. What Apple have now in a long term partnership with Imagination and my guess is they have access to all of their leading edge ip.
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