updated 09:15 am EST, Fri January 9, 2009
PowerVR SGX543 and iPhone
Imagination Technologies has quietly introduced a new PowerVR SGX chipset at CES that may point to the future of the iPhone and other graphics-intensive smartphones. The PowerVR SGX543 is the first to use a new platform which its creator estimates is much faster than older SGX and MBX chips. Its new, more vector-friendly graphics engine is about 40 percent faster than the previous SGX series in very effects-heavy graphics, the company claims, and is much faster in floating point math, geometry setup, and culling unneeded parts of the scene than the previous generation.
These and improvements to caching, memory and other components are said to deliver a true, practical output of about 35 million polygons per second and 1 gigapixel per second of visuals onscreen, or nearly 1.2 million polygons and 33 megapixels for every frame at 30 frames per second. The speed is enough not only for more complex 3D but is enough to produce reasonable 3D at HD resolutions.
The SGX543 is also notably the first to embrace general-purpose computing, the company adds. The same effects engine that improves speeds is also capable of supporting the just-ratified OpenCL standard, which provides a cross-device format for accelerating physics and other certain types of non-graphics calculations. Imagination further points out that its new part can run in multi-core setups and thus can either accelerate graphics even further or balance video and general-purpose tasks.
A production date for the PowerVR technology isn't mentioned and will only see further details appear at a processor expo in March, suggesting the components aren't yet close to production.
Depending on power requirements, the SGX543 is a potential candidate for iPhones, Nokia devices, and others for at least 2010. Apple's product and some Nseries smartphones currently use different versions of Imagination's PowerVR MBX hardware, which has remained unchanged in many cases since 2007. Apple is additionally is largely responsible for creating the OpenCL standard and is expected to use it in at least Mac OS X Snow Leopard, opening the door to its use in OS X iPhone to improve performance for certain tasks.
Apple also recently increased its stake in Imagination, reflecting a long-term commitment to the company's hardware.