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Adreno 630: Small But Mighty

July 17, 2018

Author: Linley Gwennap

Our comparison of premium mobile graphics units shows Qualcomm leading in both performance and die area, yielding stellar efficiency for its Adreno 630. This GPU, which appears in the Snapdragon 845, has only four shader cores but relies on hard-wired acceleration logic to boost its performance. This logic is more compact than programmable cores, increasing both performance per watt and per square millimeter of die area.

By contrast, Samsung implemented 18 Mali-G72 shader cores in its Exynos 9810. The Arm GPU design relies heavily on these cores for most graphics tasks and has relatively little common logic. The GPU requires twice the die area of the Adreno 630 while delivering less performance on the GFXBench tests. Both processors were tested in Galaxy S9+ smartphones with equivalent power and thermal capabilities.

Apple says it designed the GPU in its A11 processor (which appears in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X), but that GPU retains certain features from the A10, which used a PowerVR GPU licensed from Imagination Technologies. Although Apple says the A11 has three cores, our analysis of the die photo identifies six shader cores in three pairs, with each pair sharing a texture unit. The A10 similarly features six cores, and the shared texture unit is a hallmark of the PowerVR design.

Although Intel no longer competes in smartphones, we also analyzed the GPU from the Core M3-7Y30, a Kaby Lake design that appears in the Microsoft Surface Pro and other Windows tablet PCs. The Intel chip’s HD Graphics 615 GPU delivers the lowest performance in this group, yet it has a larger die than even the massive 18-core Mali. When adjusted for Intel’s lagging IC process, the two GPUs are about the same size, but HD Graphics still trails in performance per watt.

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