Imagination mobilises graphics

20 January 2008

Tony King-Smith
Tony King-Smith

Mobile devices with graphics for interfacing, for gaming and for navigation are imminent according to Imagination technologies ( The company has released the PowerVR SGX540 core for mobile and embedded graphics.

In fact, the UK SoC IP creator believes that this successor to the PowerVR MBX IP core for mobile 3D hardware acceleration will bring competitively-priced SoCs to consumers within 12 to 18 months. Electronic Product Design spoke to Imagination Technologies’ Tony King-Smith, vice president, marketing to find out his view of the market. ‘Around 10 per cent of phones shipped have graphics acceleration today,’ he says, ‘making around 50million shipped with MBX technology.’ Already the company’s customer base includes phone giants like Sony Ericsson, which uses Imagination IP in its high-end P1i and P9-90i phones and Nokia, in its high-performance N93 and N95 phones for its 3D gaming features.

The SGX540 is designed to enable the OpenGL ES 2.0 3D devices as well as the OpenGL ES 1.1 and OpenVG vector graphics standard that has only recently been ratified. The scaleable architecture doubles the execution pipeline of the SGX530 with four pipelines to double the core’s performance. It is also a low-power architecture; essential, explains King-Smith for the next wave of portable devices. The core can be used with the company’s video CODECs, also low-power for the mobile internet devices expected to be available early this year.

The IP core increases the process node clock speeds of previous versions, the SGX530 and SGX535, in preparation for the adoption of 3D in the next-wave of devices to which King-Smith refers, i.e. MPCs (mobile personal computers), UMPCs (ultra mobile PCs) digital TV, in-car systems as well as high-performance mobile phones.

The core is backward-compatible with the PowerVR MBX 3D graphics technology. In an integrated SoC, with graphics, CPU and communications functions it is claimed to minimise bandwith requirements.

Power consumption is reduced by the patented tile-based deferred rendering and multi-threaded USSE (Universal Scalable Shading Engine) which avoids unnecessary processing, keeping it on-chip. The graphics shaders are executed in parallel in the multi-threaded architecture to reduce the systems latency tolerance as different shaders can be scheduled, based on data availability.

Already, Imagination directly licenses the SGX IP core to lead partners, Texas Instruments, Intel, Renesas and NEC as well as providing synthesiable RTL to foundries such as SMIC and TSMC for 45nm designs. It already supplies hard macros to foundries, qualified for the MBX cores.

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