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Graphics Hardware Technology

PowerVR To Make Mobile Graphics, GPU Compute a Three-Way Race Again 74

MojoKid writes "For over 10 years, the desktop and mobile graphics space has been dominated by two players: Nvidia and AMD/ATI. After 3dfx collapsed, there was a brief period of time when it looked as though Imagination Technologies might establish itself as a third option. Ultimately, that didn't happen — the company's tile-based rendering solution, Kyro, failed to gain mass-market support and faded after two generations. Now, there's a flurry of evidence to suggest that Imagination Technologies plans to re-enter PC market, but from the opposite direction. Rather than building expensive discrete solutions, IT is focused on deploying GPUs that can challenge Nvidia and AMD solutions in tablets, mobile phones, and possibly netbooks. Over the past two weeks, Imagination Technologies has announced new, higher-end versions of its Power VR Series 6 GPU, claiming that the new Power VR G6230 and G6430 go '"all out," adding incremental extra area for maximum performance whilst minimising power consumption.' There's a new ray-tracing SDK out and a post discussing how PowerVR is utilizing GPU Compute and OpenCL to offload and accelerate CPU-centric tasks." Update: 06/17 17:53 GMT by T : Related: An anonymous reader adds a link to a new project from the FSF to reverse engineer the PowerVR SGX.
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PowerVR To Make Mobile Graphics, GPU Compute a Three-Way Race Again

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  • Umm, no (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @12:49PM (#40352325) Journal
    The mobile graphics space has been dominated by one player: PowerVR. ARM and nVidia are more recent entrants. AMD doesn't yet have anything in this space, although that will change very soon.
    • Re:Umm, no (Score:5, Informative)

      by dmesg0 ( 1342071 ) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @12:58PM (#40352417)

      AMD used to have mobile core, but they sold it to Qualcomm. It's now called Qualcomm Adreno.

      • Which shows what a piss poor previous CEO they had by selling it. But other than Nvidia PowerVR has pretty much ruled the roost in mobile, but now you have Nvidia, Intel looks to be tailoring the new Atoms for that market, and I wouldn't be surprised if AMD is cooking up a version of Bobcat or quietly marrying a couple of ARM cores to one of their Radeons instead of just tacking on an ARM to their X86 BD designs.

        Honestly? I don't care WHO wins because as long as their is growth and competition we the cons

        • The GPU core in the mobile (as in phone/tablet) Atom (aka Medfield) is a PowerVR SGX540. And the GPU core in several mobile (as in netbook) Atoms are PowerVR as well. There's only a couple of versions of the Atom CPU that include Intel GPUs.

    • Intel is starting to provide more serious competition to both NVIDIA and AMD/ATI too, on the laptop end of mobile computing. The latest rev of their graphics chipset, the HD 4000, is more than enough GPU power for many people.

      • They also stuck a PowerVR in their latest Atom CPU's
        • marshalltown? and is there much linux (accel video) support yet? is booting into text mode working, at least?

          I did have to do some kernel command line video parms to get my amd fanless board to even init video well enough to see text on the console. without it, you have to install with another video card or install from some other system and move the disk over.

          anyone know what version of kernel is promised for the marshalltown series?

          • by hazydave ( 96747 )

            Medfield uses the same PowerVR SGX540 found in the TI OMAP 4xxx series, and going back to the original Samsung Galaxy phones. The forthcoming Clover Trail (Atom Z2580) goes to the dual core PowerVR SGX544MP2, for next year's tablets (maybe phones too?), which is basically a Direct3D 9.3 upgrade to the SGX543MP2 in the iPhone/iPad.

          • searching find this: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=OTYyNw [phoronix.com]

            This means that for the Linux 3.1 kernel we could see the Cedar Trail graphics code merged, but more than likely it will still not be accelerated and only just be useful for kernel mode-setting. Before the Cedar Trail hardware is even publicly released we'll see the Linux 3.2 kernel and possibly even the Linux 3.3 release, so at least there's more time to hopefully better the open-source Cedar Trail capabilities.

            so, looks lik

    • by hazydave ( 96747 )

      Yup... PowerVR has long been the dominant GPU in mobile devices. You'd have to say that just because they're in every iPhone and iPad, even if they weren't also in many other SOCs, like those from TI, Samsung, Marvell, NEC, and Renesas. And Intel.

      Yup, they've been in netbooks... the PowerVR SGX535 usually goes by the alias "Intel GMA500" or "Intel GMA600" or whatever, but they've been the low-end default among Intel systems for awhile. That's probably changing, with Intel doing their own actual GPUs here a

      • It'll be interesting when Qualcomm's S4 Pro SoC is released, as it combines the CPU power of the Krait with the GPU power of the Adreno 300-series.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Imagination Technologies has announced new, higher-end versions of its Power VR Series 6 GPU, claiming that the new Power VR G6230 and G6430 go '"all out," adding incremental extra area for maximum performance whilst minimising power consumption

    I've been waiting for a GPU that goes "all out" for as long a I can remember. The nine tenths out that you get from a typical NVIDIA card just isn't enough any more.

  • The PowerVR GPUs integrated into Intel's Atoms are great -- in theory. The drivers are so terrible they can't even run Windows 7's aero at acceptable FPS, let alone a game. They also don't bother to support 64-bit, or any x86 Linux other than 32-bit MeeGo.

    I don't know if it's PowerVR or Intel, but someone needs to get their drivers in order before they'll have a chance of encroaching on any of the existing players.

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      PowerVR could compete if they opened their drivers, or at least released specs so that other people could write them. They've been extremely reticent about this.
      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @01:25PM (#40352593) Journal
        I'm inclined to wonder if their 'tile-based rendering' scheme for cleverly throwing away work that doesn't actually have to be done is more driver-based than some of the competing GPU vendor's schemes, making them rather touchy about opening that.

        It could also just be that they have some sort of inertial paranoia thing going on as a company; but it certainly seems like it might have had to be something good if Intel, Chipzilla himself, couldn't wring decent drivers out of them for their GMA500-based parts.

        That isn't exactly a spat on the debian mailing lists over firmware-linux-nonfree, that's a potentially huge design win that ended up sucking fairly hard wherever it showed its miserable face...
      • by wampus ( 1932 )

        Just like AMD?

        • by guises ( 2423402 )

          Just like AMD?

          That would be fine, though they could certainly go further. What are you getting at?

          • by wampus ( 1932 )

            AMD sucks butt on Linux despite them releasing specs, whereas nVidia is as close to "just works" as is practicable using their binaries. You know, the exact opposite of what you are claiming.

    • I'd have expected these to be really good at dealing with aero, because transparency is one of the areas tiled architectures work well. You're doing a lot of reading and writing to/from the framebuffer. When your framebuffer is a 64x64 tile then the entire thing can be kept in a fast segment of memory.

      If it is a driver issue, then it's rather sad to be letting poor software ruin a good overall design.
      • by Vanders ( 110092 )

        If it is a driver issue, then it's rather sad to be letting poor software ruin a good overall design.

        That wouldn't be anything new. S3 managed to ruin their hardware with poor software their entire lives.

  • Not news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dmesg0 ( 1342071 ) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @12:50PM (#40352339)

    It's already more than 2 players in mobile space: ARM with its Mali core, Qualcomm with Adreno (former ATI/AMD), NVidia with Tegra and IT with PowerVR.
    In addition, Intel already uses PowerVR cores in some Atom CPUs (targeted for tablets).
    Since they are still talking about mobile, how is that news?

    • Re:Not news (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @01:01PM (#40352447)
      Yes. It's not like PowerVR isn't already used in smart phones and tablets today. Most people just have not heard of them. If you are using an Apple mobile device, you are using PowerVR. If you are using a Sony PS Vita, you are using PowerVR. If you are using a Samsung Galaxy, you are using PowerVR.
      • by dmesg0 ( 1342071 )

        Not entirely true, my Galaxy S2 has ARM's Mali 400 GPU. Only Galaxy S and Galaxy Nexus come with PowerVR.

      • Well, if you are using *some* Samsung Galaxy devices, you are using PowerVR. There are many variations of the Galaxy, Galaxy S, Galaxy SII, and Galaxy SIII, some with Adreno, some with Tegra, some with PowerVR.

  • Although I don't know which PC products include CedarView/CedarTrail (Atom D2500/D2700/N2600/N2800) chips, they are there (with SGX545).

  • I had Asus EEEPC 901 and I currencly have Intel DC 2700 DC Atom-motherboard.

    I just love their Linux support! On 2700DC it doesn't exist. Hell, it took them 6 months to get XP drivers out.

    On GMA 950 (EEEPC 901) they decided quietly to downgrade OpenGL back to 1.x -versions, because they couldn't be arsed with maintaining the driver base.

    Let me guess - that SDK is Windows only?

  • by vinn ( 4370 ) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @01:29PM (#40352619) Homepage Journal

    Not entirely sure what is meant by "dominated" - Intel has 59% of the market (source: http://hothardware.com/News/AMD-Grabbed-GPU-Market-Share-from-Nvidia-Intel-in-Q4/ [hothardware.com] ). I think what was meant was something like, "AMD and nVidia have dominated the GPU market for serious gamer geeks". The rest of us running our Latitude work laptops could care less what kind of GPU is in it because they've all been sufficiently powerful for years.

    • by Henriok ( 6762 )
      You can surely dominate in other respects than market share, no? Look att Apple who completely dominated the cell phone industry from the day they released the iPhone, with exactly 0% market share. Domination can be measured in the means others take to counter the attack. Everyone scuttles against Apple or is about to perish. nVidia and AMD surely dominates the desktop GPU market before Intel since it'sIntel that's playing catch up in means of power and features.
    • Yes the point is a little muddled. NVidia and ATI are the two major players in the discrete GPU space. For mobile devices, very few discrete players exist as the GPUs are often part of the chip in a SOC design. For instance Qualcomm's Snapdragon, TI's OMAP, Apple's A4/A5, nVidia's Tegra. If anything PowerVR is more like ARM in that they license out their designs for others to build.
    • I don't know about you, but my Latitude work laptop has an Nvidia GPU so I'm not sure what you're trying to say.

    • by TheLink ( 130905 )
      The desktops I build typically have motherboards with intel graphics bundled, even if they actually going to have an Nvidia/ATI card in them. It doesn't really cost much extra, and often those motherboards are actually the cheaper ones (more volume I guess).

      And if/when the nvidia/ATI card fails, you may still have a usable computer for nongraphics intensive stuff (like filling out RMAs, looking for replacements, reading Slashdot).

      So I wonder if that sort of thing would be 5% of that 59% or more?
    • by Creepy ( 93888 )

      Yep - only about 10.5% of gamers use Intel - source: http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey [steampowered.com] suggesting very few of this almost 60% care about graphics at all - all they want to do is bring up their Office spreadsheets or play Solitaire or Facebook games at best. Integrated graphics are extremely cheap to add and they often are added at almost cost to the motherboards and chips they are embedded on (because Intel cares more about selling Motherboards and CPUs). Also many people I know own a desktop for bette

  • They used to make good graphic cards (Savage series especially, not as good as ATI/NVIDIA but close) but i wonder what happened to them?
  • are still their glory days to me.

    4-bit alpha blend precision in 24-bit color? Hell yeah!
    • by Guppy ( 12314 )

      PowerVR PCX2

      I had one, a Matrox m3d -- Looked great paired up with a Tseng Labs ET6000. Performance wasn't that great though -- by the time the drivers matured, it was already verging on obsolescence.

  • The mailinglist is closed already cause of a possible lawsuit. Let me
    quote Bob Ham:

    > The GNU lawyers have apparently stated that this PowerVR reverse
    > engineering project should not be hosted by the GNU project (on
    > savannah.nongnu.org) as there is a risk of the GNU project being the
    > subject of a lawsuit. Yay for lawyers!
    > Unfortunately, that means this mailing list is now closing. I
    > apologise for the inconvenience.

    citing this OpenMoko mailing list message:
    http://lists.openmoko.org/pipermail/community/2012-June/067130.html [openmoko.org]

  • And it looks like the FSF project can't be hosted on Savannah due to potential "legal problems" [nongnu.org]

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!