Vivante: Challenging the Status Quo In Mobile GPUs

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Over the past few years, a handful of mobile graphics companies have emerged as key pillars of the industry. The top dog, by far, has been Imagination Technologies, with Qualcomm, Nvidia (during the Tegra 2 / Tegra 3 era) and ARM all picking up significant businesses of their own as well. But now, there's a new kid on the block -- a company with a tiny, highly customized GPU, a number of recent design wins, and a strong product portfolio.

Enter Vivante. According to research from Jon Peddie, Vivante has surged from a 0.3% market share in 2012 to 9.8% of the market in 2013, thanks to multiple design wins both in Western products and multiple Chinese markets.

Vivante got started in 2004 and started licensing its GPU designs in 2007. The company's early wins have been in Eastern markets, but this past year, it's begun to show up in devices intended for the West, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.

A nifty new GPU core isn't worth much if you don't have vendors shipping your technology, but Vivante has made notable strides in the past year. The company's GC1000 GPU powers Google's Chromecast, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, and the 2D section of Texas Instrument's OMAP 4470 SoC. The company has also been picking up major market share in China, and with new wins in chips from Marvell, Freescale, Action Semiconductor, Ingenic, Rockchip, and even China's homegrown Godson-2H processor.


Vivante's Growth This Past Year Has Been Impressive

Many of these companies are smaller players that focus on Eastern markets at the moment, while the rest are motley group of midrange and low-power embedded players in the United States. Vivante's entire pitch, however, is that even the GC1000 core inside the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is only a modest example of the company's scalable performance.

The GC1000 contains 8-16 shader units depending on implementation -- the Marvell PXA988 appears to be an eight-core variant of the architecture, but this is uncertain. What we do know is that Vivante has designed the underlying architecture to scale up to 64 shader units in a hypothetical GC6000 implementation. That's rather larger than any product currently shipping -- Freescale's i.MX product family currently uses a GC2000 core with 16 shader units -- but it shows that the underlying design has legs and width to spare.
 

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Very interesting, I would love to see something in a PC, but it seems like it will be just tablet and smartphones. AMD and NVIDIA need some competition to drop prices.

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