updated 03:25 pm EDT, Wed March 18, 2009
Imagination Technologies fulfilled early promises by detailing its first multi-core, smartphone-class graphics chip in the PowerVR SGX 5XTSeries. The SGX543MP is now known to come in at least a dual-core version and scales up to 16 cores depending on the version; the change lets the graphics scale from low-power devices like small phones up to gaming consoles and other very 3D-intensive devices.
In a typical 200MHz, 4-core chip, the SGX543MP is capable of rendering a peak 133 million polygons per second (4.4 million polygons per frame) and can draw as many as 4 billion pixels per second. Performance also scales almost perfectly with clock speed and the number of cores, as a 400MHz, 8-core version is 4 times more powerful and renders up to 532 million polygons per second.
Imagination has already mentioned that each core is also about 40 percent more efficient for very shader-heavy (visual effects) graphics and supports features like general-purpose GPU computing to offload some work from the main processor. Developers nonetheless won't need to adapt their code to reflect the new technology.
When the SGX543MP will arrive still hasn't been mentioned, though the absence of production details implies that the hardware won't be ready in time for devices this year.
Most speculation suggests Apple is likely to replace the PowerVR MBX graphics in the current iPhone with some variant of the faster SGX family at a later date. Apple has a partial investment in Imagination that reflects a commitment to PowerVR hardware in the long term.