updated 05:25 pm EST, Fri January 14, 2011
iOS 4.3 teases next-gen PowerVR graphics
More clues have been unearthed in the iOS 4.3 beta that have given a preview of the graphics Apple will use in 2011 iPad, iPhone and iPod updates. A driver bundle is included that makes reference to the PowerVR SGX543, a video core not used in any shipping Apple product. The MacRumors tip didn't link it to a specific device, but Apple has usually implemented a single graphics technology equally across all its iOS devices.
The core is a close relative of the SGX544 and is a major leap from the SGX535 Apple uses today. Imagination Technologies' design is potentially much faster, but mostly beyond brute fore techniques. It can render 35 million polygons per second versus 28 million on the 535, but it doubles the pixel fill rate to one gigapixel. Performance can scale even further as it can stack in two- or even quad-core variants, although this might not be possible in smaller devices like the iPhone and iPod.
The graphics could mark Apple's first venture into general-purpose computing outside of the Mac. PowerVR SGX540 series chips are the first to support OpenCL and, with an OpenCL-aware version of iOS, could offload video encoding or other tasks from the main processor.
Combined with talk of a dual-core processor, the new PowerVR video could signify this year's iOS device updates focusing as heavily on performance as in 2009 and 2010, each of which was a generational leap. Apple may have to focus on performance as some competitors are jumping to dual-core processors like NVIDIA's Tegra 2, which can provide more advanced gaming and 1080p video.