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PowerVR Readies Ray Tracing

December 17, 2019

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Imagination Technologies has revamped its PowerVR GPU architecture to deliver much higher performance and power efficiency today and ray tracing in the near future. The company says its next-generation IMG A-Series GPU cores are up to 2.5x faster than the PowerVR Series9XM and consume up to 60% less power in the same die area and process technology. Also, the new massively threaded architecture can run graphics and machine-learning workloads concurrently while maintaining secure task isolation. Production RTL is shipping now, so the GPUs should begin appearing in phones in 2021.

To serve the full spectrum of mobile graphics applications, the A-Series comprises three product tiers. At the high end, the AXT-Series includes four of the largest and fastest new licensable GPU cores for Chromebooks, tablets, automotive displays, and smartphones (premium and mid-premium). The AXM-Series initially includes only one GPU, mainly for midrange phones. The low-end AXE-Series includes two GPUs for entry-level phones, IoT devices, and entry-level digital TVs and set-top boxes.

Although the first A-Series GPUs can simultaneously handle graphics and neural-network processing, they don’t replace the PowerVR Series3NX deep-learning accelerators introduced a year ago. At 1.2GHz, the fastest of those specialized cores delivers 10 trillion operations per second (TOPS) on the 8-bit integer (INT8) data that neural networks often employ for inference. At the same clock speed, the fastest A-Series GPU (the AXT-64-2048) could deliver 9.6 TOPS. But the Series3NX cores are more power and area efficient for deep learning and are available in 2-, 4-, 8-, and 16-core configurations that can reach 160 TOPS.

The PowerVR A-Series lifts Imagination’s product line into top-tier performance as it faces more competition from Arm’s Mali GPUs. It competes well with today’s Arm Mali cores and lays the foundation for the future B-, C-, and D-Series GPUs, which the company says will boost performance by up to 90% in three years.

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