Imagination Technologies PowerVR GX6650 (image 002)

Apple’s been using GPU parts from Imagination Technologies since switching to its own in-house designed iOS device processors, starting with the iPhone 3Gs in 2009. This UK-based firm does not churn out actual chips. Instead, it licenses out its GPU designs and intellectual property to vendors like Apple, Intel, Qualcomm and many others – that’s why “they” call it a fabless semiconductor maker.

Now, Apple’s engine that powers iOS devices typically combines Imagination’s GPU and ARM’s CPU blueprints with some memory, I/O logic and other supporting functions on a single die, a solution known in the semiconductor industry as a system-on-a-chip (SoC).

Moreover, both Apple and Intel own a stake in Imagination, another indication of its importance to Apple’s mobile future. See, Imagination’s PowerVR graphics processors coupled with Apple’s efficient mobile operating system have been largely responsible for the smooth graphics, transitions and animations seen throughout iOS. It’s the reason iOS is the smoothest mobile OS out there.

At CES earlier this year, Imagination unveiled a new GPU that we suspect should make its way into upcoming iOS devices. Today, the company is detailing some of its more intricate aspects and boy does it make our hearts sing: it supports 4K resolutions and outperforms even Nvidia’s upcoming Tegra K1, apparently enabling the most powerful graphics yet in mobile phones and tablets…

The new PowerVR GX6650 was announced at CES 2014 back in January and today got spotlighted over at the Imagination blog. It offers low power consumption, an important pre-requisite for mobile devices where energy is at a premium.

The GX6650 owes this feat to Imagination’s PVR3C and PowerGearing G6XT technologies which compress textures, frame buffers and geometry. This kind of a solution is something competing chip makers have only started implementing recently.

Imagination Technologies PowerVR GX6650 (image 003)
Not only is PVRIC suitable for use with mainly static high-resolution home screens, it also shines in dynamic and performance-intensive gaming situations.

For those wondering, the GX6650 sports 192 cores.

To understand what graphics cores are and how they affect overall GPU performance, check out Imagination’s white paper here.

Most importantly, the GPU takes advantage of a massive pixel throughput rate allowing it to process twelve pixels per clock, a metric Imagination claims is “up to triple the number of our competitors”.

Infinity Blade III (iPhone screenshot 002)

This comes into play in graphics-heavy shooters and FPS games, complex user interfaces and 4K content creation and editing applications.

Here’s the GPU diagram.

Imagination Technologies PowerVR GX6650 (image 001)

If you’re into these things, there are also six unified shading clusters and up to 50 percent higher texture rate compared to its direct competitors. And what those “direct competitors” might be?

How about Nvidia’s upcoming Tegra K1, whose specs leave Apple’s A7 in the dust?

Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech has put together a handy comparison chart seen below.

AnandTech (Imagination Technologies PowerVR GX6650 vs Nvidia K1)

As you can see for yourself, on paper the GX6650 is a screamer.

It should outperform the Tegra K1 in terms of pixels and texels (texture pixels) per clock. To make the comparison even more comprehensible, the G6430 represents the GPU inside Apple’s A7 chip that powers the iPad Air, Retina iPad mini and iPhone 5s.

To top it all, Imagination today unveiled a new PowerVR Series2 V2500 imaging core which supports 4K video, high pixel count mobile photography and multiple CMOS sensors from all major vendors. As a bonus, it uses Imagination’s new PowerVR E5010 JPEG encoder that enables zero shutter lag apps because it encodes JPEGs without the use of external memory.

iPad Air promo (A7 closeup 001)

Of course, there’s no way of telling whether Apple has opted to implement the GX6650 in its upcoming A8 chip. What we do know is that Apple and Imagination recently renewed their contract.

In turn, the iPhone maker gets multi-year access to Imagination’s current and future PowerVR-branded graphics and video GPU blueprints so clearly Apple is perfectly happy with PowerVR GPUs, not keen on changing its graphics supplier anytime soon.

Apple October 2013 event (iPad Air, A7 GPU performance 001)

No matter how you look at it, the GX6650 has plenty of graphics oomph to drive a rumored higher-resolution 12.9-inch iPad, a pair of bigger iPhones that fall into the phablet category, a standalone Apple television set with 4K resolution and what not.

Mobile graphics and CPU technologies are clearly maturing.

If I were Apple, I’d start thinking about dropping Intel and instead creating a desktop SoC to power a next-gen MacBook Air. Think CPU performance comparable to today’s Intel chips for notebooks, but sporting way faster graphics and ridiculous battery life.

Oh, wait…

Image top of post: Imagination’s new Soft Kitty OpenGL ES 3.0 technology demo which highlights the performance of PowerVR Rogue GPUs.

  • leart

    Strange, i can’t open articles in new tab

    • Check

      Works fine for me.

      • leart

        try in idb home screen from mobile..

      • Check

        That was from idb homepage

      • leart

        You must be lucky

    • Agru

      It happens very often to me

      • leart

        before never happened, now with the new ui it’s impossible

  • DJ Focus

    I don’t think the GPU plays the biggest role in the smoothness of the phone… Its mostly a combo of ram, CPU and I/o

    • Kinda agree, the GPU is for the quality of what shows on the screen. However, if it were too slow, you’ll notice a latency as the screen pixels switch on/off to create a new image. That would be very noticeable in graphics intensive games…

  • Taf Khan

    This is good! The K1 demos rocked, the performance is comparable to a PS3 or XBox, anything that smokes the K1 has to be SUPERHOT!

    Looking good for the iPhone 6. I can see many people switching back to iOS. (Large screen mobb to return on its own will impact Samsung sales)

    The competition looks weak, GS5 is more of the same ol plastic tat, maybe it’s HTC to win the Android crown yet again…

    • Markus Hudobnik

      Yeah seriously what is up with the S5? I feel like it is nothing

    • Steve

      Yeah, that Shamesung phone is soooooo ugly. Apple is gonna sell much more iPhones, and it’s a good chance for HTC to have a come back this time (maybe the last time).

    • Grahaman27

      Sony, LG, and Motorola will battle out the android camp when Samsung looses steam.

  • Pato111

    I hate the new iDb design. Bring the old one back

  • Eikast

    A new Apple TV along with a new SDK?

  • Carlos Gomes

    Damn, I thought the first image was a photography!

  • Grahaman27

    How does it smoke the tegra k1? The chart from anandtech shows it matches it. And the k1 is coming out this quarter, but whatever.

  • Sandy Cook

    lol @ claim that iOS is smoothest

    • jasonca

      it is.

      • shaun walsh

        Depends on what device you are using…. My moto x is just as smooth as any iphone, though my HTC One m8… not so much

  • blastingbigairs

    Meanwhile Samsung makes a smaller Note 3 and calls it the S5.

  • Nathaniel Lewis

    Ever since I got into iOS app development back in late 2009 and saw how Apple’s tools made cross platform compatibility so easy between arm and x86, I’ve been seriously wondering when they might go with ARM chips in their laptops. The new ARMv8 64 bit chips coming out are monsters as far as performance per watt. Anyone seen the specs for the Opteron A1100? The chips sports 8x 64 bit arm cores @ 2 GHz and the CPU’s TDP is 22 watts.

  • Lex

    I hate to bust in on your statement, but I have the iPhone 6 with power bring gx 6650 and I have the nvidia shield tablet with tegra K1. I ran every benchmark that I could and while iPhone GPU is a monster, it DOES NOT beat the K1 in graphic benchmarks. It comes in behind it by 5% or so in gfx bench Trex and Manhattan. And it loses to K1 on antutu and in performance test mobile.
    Actually in 2d graphic it loses by 60%.
    But don’t take me wrong. It is the MOST powerful GPU in the phone right now. I don’t know how Mali T760 16 cluster cores (64bit exynos 5433 in note 4) will perform but so far iPhone 6 GPU is the most powerful phone GPU and 2nd most powerful mobile GPU i tested.