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Vivante Mobile GPU Architecture Gains Traction 29

Posted by timothy
from the moment-in-the-sun dept.
MojoKid writes "Over the past few years, a handful of mobile graphics companies have emerged but the top dog, by far, has been Imagination Technologies, with Qualcomm, Nvidia and ARM all picking up significant businesses of their own as well. But now, there's a new kid on the block — a company with a tiny, highly customized GPU, a number of recent design wins, and a strong product portfolio. Vivante got started in 2004 and started licensing its GPU designs in 2007. The company's early wins have been in Eastern markets, but this past year, it's begun to show up in devices intended for the West, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and Google's Chromecast. Vivante has taken a different approach to core design from most of the other companies that play in this space. All modern GPUs are explicitly designed to be modular and scalable. Typically what that means is that a company like Nvidia or AMD defines a single compute unit that can be duplicated throughout the GPU design. Vivante's GPUs are modular as well, but with a much finer level of granularity. Each of the three shaded blocks (3-D Pipeline, Vector Graphics Pipeline, 2-D Pipeline) can be segmented or stacked into various configurations. A GPU core, in other words, could contain more ultra-threaded shaders, or additional vector graphics engines, up to 32 cores in total. One of the advantages of this tiny, modular architecture is that you can clock the cores like gangbusters. According to Vivante, the 28nm high performance silicon variant of the Vivante architecture can clock up to 1GHz at full speed, but fall back to 1/64th of this in power saving mode, or roughly 16MHz."
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Vivante Mobile GPU Architecture Gains Traction

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  • Um (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @03:05AM (#45112749)

    Is this an article or a press release?

    • It's an article (Score:3, Informative)

      by maroberts (15852)

      It fairly benchmarks the current Vivante device against an iPhone4s, against which it loses, but the article points out the design is modular and has plenty of scope for performance improvements and scaling.

      It does appear as though the rest of the journalism is a little on the lazy side though

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Losing to the 4s is similar to losing to Adreno205. Both two, going on three, year old chipsets. No iPhone 5/5s/HTCOne/Nexus4/SG4s were available?

        • Why is that insightful?
          Losing to an iPhone 4S means it will lose to an iPhone 5 by a factor of 10, 100, 200? Pick your mark.

        • Re:It's an article (Score:4, Informative)

          by Dputiger (561114) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @12:01PM (#45114359)

          As the author: No, they weren't. I don't own them.

          But furthermore, the iPhone 4S is the best comparison against the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. Both are Cortex-A9. Both are dual-core. The Tab 3 7.0 has a faster chip. The two displays have *exactly* the same number of pixels. And the iPhone 4S generally wins.

          While I'd have included the additional devices if I *owned* those devices, the point was not to simply dogpile a new chip by dumping far more powerful chips at it, particularly when the focus was on the GPU architecture itself and not the Tab 3 7.0 as a device.

    • It's a press release for nerds, and a press release that matters (to nerds, at least, I suppose, maybe).
    • by TyFoN (12980)

      Doesn't look like either.
      When I click the link, all I get is a large page that want to "give me" an iphone 5 as the lucky winner. How did this page pass the editors?

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Is this an article or a press release?"

      This is the New Slashdot, where those are not different.

  • by elucido (870205) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @05:18AM (#45113023)

    Because that is what matters most.

  • In the PC space, there are still only two real players in the field. I'll be excited when someone can challenge the ATI/AMD-nVidia duopoly.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Uuuuhhh...why? These are ULV embedded chips, they wouldn't even be able to keep up with the 2008 HD4650 I have in my nettop, hell they would probably get stomped by my early 00s X1650 PRO AGP that I have in the closet, so why would you care about this supposed "duopoly" when it does what the market is supposed to do and lower prices through competition?

      If all you care about is video you can go with Intel (although the way they slit Nvidia's throat to get them out of the chipset biz really should have gotte

    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      I don't know about you, I am still rocking Matrox and Voodoo cards. :)
    • by exomondo (1725132)

      In the PC space, there are still only two real players in the field. I'll be excited when someone can challenge the ATI/AMD-nVidia duopoly.

      Doesn't seem like there is even enough margin/market for it to be worth starting up a competing business in the discrete PC graphics market.

  • by citizenr (871508) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:10AM (#45113231) Homepage

    From one of the etna_viv open source Vivanete drivers:
    https://blog.visucore.com/2013/3/12/opencl-on-i-mx6 [visucore.com]

    afair its something like: 512 instructions per kernel, no atomics, 1K memory (!!!), 64B cache(!!!!!!!), and shitty narrow databus
    Theoretical peak 16Gflops, real world results 600Mflops :)

    Vivante is a JOKE when it comes to GPGPU. They try to paint themselves as pioneers and leaders (of of the first mobile gpus with working opencl driver), but its only a token gesture. Same goes for the graphics part of the GPU. They are pretty notorious about advertising features that DO NOT WORK or are UNIMPLEMENTED.

    Of course they arent the only ones, whole mobile GPU market is littered with CRAP
    https://dolphin-emu.org/blog/2013/09/26/dolphin-emulator-and-opengl-drivers-hall-fameshame/ [dolphin-emu.org]

    • by leuk_he (194174)

      Drivers are a thing that matter. Intel felt that hard whenit had to abandon larrabee, when it found out it could not quickly produce efficient drivers for it, and had to upgrade the existing GMA drivers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @12:07PM (#45114397)

    Vivante has been paying large sums for a major PR campaign all over the Internet. They PURCHASED a major article on the notorious Semiaccurate.com rumour site, for instance, and Slashdot is even worse at taking pay-offs, or pushing neo-con agendas.

    The GPU IP arena is now pretty much wrapped up. First class mobile cores, with very weak AAA gaming performance, are available from Imagination (PowerVR) and Qualcomm (Adreno) with ARM (Mali) trailing somewhat behind, but always threatening to catch up.

    In the large battery/mains powered arena, Intel is outspending every other GPU company combined, but making very little decent progress. AMD and Nvidia have the world's best GPU cores, and both are scaling their business up into 'super-computing' and down into ARM based mobile. Both AMD and Nvidia anticipate ARM conquering most of the desktop and laptop space, and have designs ready for these markets.

    Where does a no-hopes like Vivante fit? Answer: they don't. Vivante just has venture-capital money available for self-promotion as the company follows the same pattern as the major losers in the PC hardware-graphics space. A couple of years back, and sh*tty ARM parts from promitive Chinese chip companies would use any old GPU IP, if it was cheap enough. When ARM grew up, and EVERYONE switched to killer ARM Cortex CPU designs, no-one wanted to use crappy GPUs anymore.

    Allwinner, Rockchip and Mediatek make the ARM SoC parts that power every cheap mobile device, and they are either using Mali or PowerVR, with PowerVR looking like the big winner because Imagination is fighting for its life against AMD and Nvidia, and now needs to get as many customers as possible. With PowerVR GPU IP available to even the cheapest ARM chip companies, there is no room in the market for lesser players like Vivante.

    Well, that isn't quite true. Vivante is banking on a complete collapse in the cost of low-end mobile devices (tablets, phones, etc), creating a need for ARM parts so cheap, that cannot afford to licence even the cheapest Mali or PowerVR cores, and so would go Vivante. However, this is a ludicrous fantasy. Both ARM and Imagination will reduce the licence fees for their older/simpler OpenGL ES2.0 cores to whatever level the market needs. Vivante's gimmick is that they will match the price, but offer OpenGl ES3.0 - a pointless tick-box feature in such underpowered hardware.

    Those with a memory will recall the history of PC graphics companies. What happened to Hercules, Number-Nine, S3 and all the other giants of the early days? They followed the Vivante strategy of paying for good press, while new-comers like 3DFX, ATI and Nvidia actually built the future technology that PCs were very soon going to require.

    With ARM, Qualcomm, Imagination, AMD (2014) and Nvidia, the ARM GPU market already has too many very good players. High end ARM devices are going to need the same AAA GPU performance only AMD and Nvidia can provide. PowerVR and Mali can now cover the really really low end. All five companies want to cover the middle. Companies like Vivante blew it long ago.

    • by Dputiger (561114) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @04:20PM (#45115763)

      Alright, so, I don't normally comment on this sort of thing, but I'm going to make an exception. I'm the author of the article. I've written for hardware IT sites for 12 years. I've written for Hot Hardware since 2009.

      Vivante contacted us in August and asked if we'd be interested in doing an article on the architecture. I looked over the slides and data, and said I'd like to see an example of the chip in action. They arranged for us to test a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. This was done in exactly the same fashion as any other product review.

      The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is objectively a pretty lousy tablet relative to other products in the market. It's an 8GB device with a dual-core Cortex-A9 at $199, when you can buy a 16GB Nexus 7 for $229. But remember -- the point of the article was to talk about Vivante, not the mediocre device the GPU is currently paired with. To be clear, the major problem here is *price.* If the Tab 3 7.0 was selling at $129, I'd call it a much stronger product and it would compare passing well against the non-advertising supported version of the Kindle Fire.

        If I'd had more devices to compare against, I would have compared against them, but the only iOS product I own is an iPhone 4S that I bought out of my own pocket. I wrote the article to discuss an interesting, more modular approach to the GPU market, backed it up with standard benchmarks, and noted that faster, larger versions of the core were available. If I had access to those versions of the core, I would have benchmarked them.

      I will be paid at a standard rate for this work, with no additional kicker from Vivante or Hot Hardware. I was not asked to take a particular stance on the product or its performance, and I chose my own benchmarks.

      I maintain that it's interesting to see a new GPU vendor come on the scene, that building midrange parts that are designed for modest products is a viable strategy, and that a company doesn't need to deliver the fastest performance to build an acceptable product for a given price point. Vivante's work is still relatively new and so I am not surprised that its driver stack or OpenCL support is still in early stages.

      Anyone claiming that this chip is automatically a Kepler, or PowerVR, or Adreno killer is mistaken. I did not evaluate the chip under such criteria and feel no obligation to rate it against chips it was not designed to face.

      • by wlad (1171323)

        Thanks for covering this. It appears other tech blogs such as Phoronix like to ignore Vivante, but their market share has increased a lot over the last year, mainly thanks to Freescale and Huawei.

        I'm a bit sad that my blog post on GC2000 OpenCL is being used to bash Vivante. Many of the problems I encountered were due to drivers, not hardware limitations. They were still taming LLVM at the time. And you simply cannot expect the same performance and features from a mid-range embedded project as from desktop.

        • by Dputiger (561114)

          I am honestly not familiar enough with OpenCL implementations to even judge the situation there. But I thought the emergence of a new player interesting in its own right. Obviously good driver support and long-term OpenCL integration matters, but you've got to run before you can walk, and mid-to-low-end devices aren't going to be the first targets for the kinds of users that care about broad GPGPU support and want to play with the tricks it offers.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      In the large battery/mains powered arena, Intel is outspending every other GPU company combined, but making very little decent progress. AMD and Nvidia have the world's best GPU cores, and both are scaling their business up into 'super-computing' and down into ARM based mobile

      Intel's just doing a lot of graphics research. They're not aiming to compete against AMD and NVidia anytime soon in performance. Remember, Intel vastly beats AMD and NVidia in GPUs shipped They only need to keep up with maybe 2 to 3 y

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