GPU Designer Plans To Stuff A PS3 In Your Pants - HotHardware
GPU Designer Plans To Stuff A PS3 In Your Pants

GPU Designer Plans To Stuff A PS3 In Your Pants

The specs and capabilities of modern smartphones/handheld devices have been increasing rapidly for several years and according to the GPU developers of Imagination Technologies, the sky's the limit. The company owns and develops the PowerVR 3D architecture that dominates the mobile 3D segment; company reps at GDC this week have told journalists that it's already designing smartphone-style GPUs that will deliver PS3-quality graphics and come to market in the next three years. Games wouldn't be limited to tiny screens or lousy resolutions either, but could be delivered (or output to TV) at 720P.

This sort of capability is just one of Imagination Technologies' targets. The company has already been working with Adobe to develop PowerVR-compatible Flash acceleration functionality and already supports OpenCL. Going forward, PowerVR intends to explore using multiple GPUs in concert (think mobile SLI); a process which could theoretically boost performance considerably without drawing additional power or generating more heat than a handheld device can dissipate.


With the iPhone already capable of this...  We're off to a pretty good start

Claiming that a console will fit into a pocket in three years is a bold statement but not necessarily an impossible one. Let's take a look.

NVIDIA And PowerVR: Past, Present, And the PS3

The PS3's GPU is based on NVIDIA's G70 (NV47) architecture, first unveiled in June 2005. It was the last NVIDIA design to feature fixed pixel and vertex shader pipelines (24 PS, 8 VS) and it's not programmable in the same sense that a modern G80/R600-derived solution is. Even if it's not a modern GPU, the Reality Synthesizer inside the PS3 is several orders of magnitude more powerful than your current PowerVR SGX535 processor and considerably 'wider.' The real-world size and heat constraints of a modern handset make PowerVR's claims sound like hype, and they might be, if PowerVR used standard rendering techniques. They don't.


The Hercules Prophet II 4500. Definitely a unique solution in its day, but no, it can't play Crysis.


Nine years ago, in the chaotic rearrangement of products and preferences that followed 3DFX's sudden collapse, PowerVR partnered with STMicroelectronics and brought a GPU to market called the Kyro II. On paper, the Kyro II looked like a joke against NVIDIA's GeForce2 GTS; it had less than half of that card's theoretical fillrate, half its memory bandwidth, just two pixel pipelines (compared to four on the GF2) and couldn't apply more than one texture in a single pass.



What made the Kyro II competitive was the fact that it used tiled rendering; we can explain the difference using the Half Life 2 screenshot above. Looking at the image, you can tell that some barrels and objects are in front of and partially obscure others. Asked to render the above scene, the GeForce 2 would draw all of the objects completely, including those objects we can only see part of (or maybe can't see at all). This wasn't a problem at low resolutions or 16-bit color but proved staggeringly inefficient as games became more visually complex.



Kyro II sidestepped this problem by breaking the image into tiles and only rendering what was actually visible. As a result, it scaled much more effectively than any other GPU on the market as detail levels, resolutions, and color depth were raised. Ironically, the PowerVR solution actually competed more effectively at higher resolutions than lower ones—for a little while it seemed as though PowerVR might take 3DFX's place and maintain a three-way competition in the GPU market. This didn't happen for a variety of reasons, no Kyro III ever materialized, and PowerVR faded off the radar.



Nine years later the company is still using tiled rendering and the inherent efficiency of the approach could make it an ideal solution for mobile devices where low power consumption and small die size are more important than theoretical peak performance. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that PowerVR's 3D solutions three years hence will almost certainly be bumping up against NVIDIA's Tegra. We might all have front-row seats to a grudge match nearly 15 years in the making.

We'll bring popcorn.
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Is that a PS3 in your pocket, or are you happy to see me?

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LMFAO super, i would love to have higher quality on my iphone. A hand held tv console ;)

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Thanks for the explanation Joel, another well written article. I'd welcome the possibility of having PS3 level graphics in my pocket, but with a small screen/resolution that smartphones and handheld gaming devices are limited to, wouldn't this be overkill?

On a side note, I just say demo for the PS3 move, a motion sensor remote like the Wii-mote...looked pretty interesting.

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@Gibbersome - Yes, it will definitely be a overkill for a smartphone screen but Imagination Technologies is developing it to have a output to a larger screen. That is the whole point of this, PS3 level graphics. Otherwise the current level of graphics on a iPhone is sufficient enough to handle most.

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They would have to also compensate for the CBE, which can be used for graphics as well.

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Combine this with WiDi and you've got some pretty sweet tech there :-P

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Good idea, but don't you think in 3 years we will have a new PS as well as M$ console. So it may seem like a high aiming project which it is. A console in 3 years will be twice what this is now if not 4 times. Of course it would be cool to have that kind of graphics on an iPhone or a Droid etc.

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it's kind of the same concept as the PSP. The psp was meant to bring PS2 Graphics to the handheld. Which it did. And that came out during the PS3 generation. A PS3 level handhel seems logical coming during the next generation.

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"using the Half Life 2 screenshot above"

where?

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I was wondering the same thing...

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Some of the images in my post were inadvertently swapped. I've put the HL2 image back. :)

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Man, the memories. I had a Kyro II board back in the day and it worked pretty darn good.

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I was a 3DFX fan back in the day which left me feeling kinda homeless after the company imploded. PowerVR was the company powering the Dreamcast back then, so this tech was getting a fair amount of attention. The fact that the Kyro II lacked hardware T&L didn't mean so much in DX7, but the GF3 and DX8 blew people away.

From what I've heard there *was* an actual Kyro III but the project was canceled before the chips were ever built.

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Joel H:

I was a 3DFX fan back in the day which left me feeling kinda homeless after the company imploded

I'm with you there.  I think we will see handhelds connecting to tv's and the such, but I can't see the practicality.

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If he's going to be stuffing ANYthing in my pants, he'd better buy me dinner first.

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damn, it'd be a gamble i think- I don't think the market for a handheld tv console is that big...

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ixrs,

I think you missed the purpose. The idea is that you'd be able to hook a handheld up to TV and possibly play--and that the games would be powerful enough to look good. It'd still be the handheld doing the graphics. It's not much different than the idea of being able to use PSP or Nintendo DS games through a Wii or PS3.

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M-Man,

Compensating for Cell doesn't require much compensation at all. While it's extraordinarily good at certain specific types of FPU calculation, it's not a GPU and it doesn't lend itself well to be treated like one. If it did, Sony would have built a GPU solution by chaining Cells together. :P

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