Imagination Launches PowerVR GT7900, "Super-GPU" Targeting Consoles

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | February 26, 2015 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: super-gpu, PowerVR, Imagination Technologies, gt7900

As a preview to announcements and releases being made at both Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the Game Developers Summit (GDC) next week, Imagination Technologies took the wraps off of a new graphics product they are calling a "super-GPU". The PowerVR GT7900 is the new flagship GPU as a part of its Series7XT family that is targeting a growing category called "affordable game consoles." Think about the Android-powered set-top devices like the Ouya or maybe Amazon's Kindle TV.

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PowerVR breaks up its GPU designs into unified shading clusters (USCs) and the GT7900 has 16 of them for a total of 512 ALU cores. Imagination has previously posted a great overview of its USC architecture design and how you can compare its designs to other GPUs on the market. Imagination wants to claim that the GT7900 will offer "PC-class gaming experiences" though that is as ambiguous as the idea of a work load of a "console-level game." But with rated peak performance levels hitting over 800 GFLOPS in FP32 and 1.6 TFLOPS in FP16 (half-precision) this GPU does have significant theoretical capability.

  PowerVR GT7900 Tegra X1
Vendor Imagination Technologies NVIDIA
FP32 ALUs 512 256
FP32 GFLOPS 800 512
FP16 GFLOPS 1600 1024
GPU Clock 800 MHz 1000 MHz
Process Tech 16nm FinFET+ 20nm TSMC

Imagination also believes that PowerVR offers a larger portion of its peak performance for a longer period of time than the competition thanks to the tile-based deferred rendering (TBDR) approach that has been "refined over the years to deliver unmatched efficiency."

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The FP16 performance number listed above is useful as an extreme power savings option where the half-precision compute operates in a much more efficient manner. A fair concern is how many applications, GPGPU or gaming, actually utilize the FP16 data type but having support for it in the GT7900 allows developers to target it.

Other key features of the GT7900 include support for OpenGL ES 3.1 + AEP (Android Extension Pack), hardware tessellation and ASTC LDR and HDR texture compression standards. The GPU also can run in a multi-domain virtualization mode that would allow multiple operating systems to run in parallel on a single platform.

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Imagination believes that this generation of PowerVR will "usher a new era of console-like gaming experiences" and will showcase a new demo at GDC called Dwarf Hall.

I'll be at GDC next week and have already setup a meeting with Imagination to talk about the GT7900 so I can have some hands on experiences to report back with soon. I am continually curious about the market for these types of high-end "mobile" GPUs with the limited market that the Android console market currently addresses. Imagination does claim that the GT7900 is beating products with performance levels as high as the GeForce GT 730M discrete GPU - no small feat.

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February 26, 2015 | 02:22 PM - Posted by Silviu C. (not verified)

I remember when PowerVR was battling with 3DFx, Matrox, ATi, heck even S3 and Intel for the 3D accelerator market. Interesting days, I miss them.

February 26, 2015 | 08:14 PM - Posted by SetiroN

The Kyro 2 was a (relative) storm. The discrete graphics market would be so different if PowerVR and 3Dfx kept going at it.

February 26, 2015 | 03:12 PM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

I don't even know where to start with this.

I highly doubt Nintendo would ever make that same mistake ever again.

February 26, 2015 | 03:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well, Now maybe Apple will commission an even larger part for laptops, a nice discrete PowerVR laptop SKU, with some hardware GPU Ray tracing functional blocks added, for the graphics workloads, ray tracing eats up CPU core and processor thread time, and still takes time to render, so making the GPU functional blocks to maybe apply some more massive GPU parallelism is definitely in order. Picture a MacBook Pro being able to handle the ray tracing, that normally would require a much more expensive Xeon, or quad core i7. Apple if it would just commission the PowerVR folks for a part, may just be able to make some graphics designers happier, and who Knows maybe even some gamers, there just is no replacing light rays, real or simulated, for realistic images.

Look at the Hybrid ray tracing techniques.

February 26, 2015 | 03:27 PM - Posted by godrilla (not verified)

So if they put two of these together it will match the ps4 compute performance and beat the Xbox one.

February 26, 2015 | 04:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"I'll be at GDC next week and have already setup a meeting with Imagination to talk about the GT7900 "

Ask them about the PowerVR wizard, are there any design wins? Ask them if this new high end SKU can be ordered with the ray tracing functional blocks added. Ask them if a discrete PCI based mobile part may be in their future, with plenty of questions about driver support, and Khronos group graphics/other API support. Ask them how things are going with the HSA foundation, they are a founding member, what will Imagination's HSA be compared to the HSA standard. Ask them about Tablets and driver support, Android, but even more so any Tablet systems that may support a full Linux distro(Steam OS based, other).

On a unrelated/related note ask more about the MIPS i6400 and its SMT capabilities. Will there be MIPS based MINI/Micro form factor systems that support Linux/other for the HTPC market, that will include this latest PowerVR offering, maybe Tablets also, in addition to notebooks.
Graphics Tablets with hardware ray tracing built into the GPU, would be popular for graphics work/school.

February 26, 2015 | 04:29 PM - Posted by Alex Voica (not verified)

Hi guys,

It's the author of the quoted blog article here; just wanted to say hi and answer some questions.

- A fair concern is how many applications, GPGPU or gaming, actually utilize the FP16 data type but having support for it in the GT7900 allows developers to target it.

FP16 is very relevant for rendering high-resolution UIs at 4K; you rarely would use FP32 for that so being able to have smooth 60 fps performance at low power for user interfaces is a great achievement. FP16 is also useful in casual gaming - a lot of top titles in Android right now do not require FP32 precision.

- I'll be at GDC next week and have already setup a meeting with Imagination to talk about the GT7900 so I can have some hands on experiences to report back with soon.

Make sure you meet Rys when you see us; he'll be able to show you some very cool console-quality demos running on high-end PowerVR Rogue GPUs, including a preview of Dwarf Hall.
If you have time to check out GDC sessions and want an overview of our GPU hardware, I'd recommend this session (also presented by Rys)

- Ask them about the PowerVR wizard, are there any design wins?

We can't disclose design wins, but we'll be showing a lot of cool things that ray tracing can do, including GI.

- Ask them how things are going with the HSA foundation, they are a founding member, what will Imagination's HSA be compared to the HSA standard.

Things are progressing well, we are very excited about the work we're doing with our partners inside the HSA Foundation.

February 26, 2015 | 05:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Like to see some blender 3d demos, I not rich I can Not afford Maya, I am looking for a tablet that can run blender 3d for mesh modeling(not so much rendering) on the go, but I would also like to see a tablet that could run Gimp. Blinder 3d, and gimp run under Linux/WIN/OSX, I'll never buy a tablet that can not run a full function OS. I do hope you are successful with your Ray Tracing hardware included on the GPU, and hope your clients commission some laptop mobile SKUs with lots of ray tracing functional blocks. Someone needs to start think about making graphics tablets, for students, and professionals, with plenty of graphics/graphics design features built into the hardware, that can accelerate graphics software, even a core i7 quad takes too much time with the ray tracing interaction calculations, this needs to be put on the GPU, and massively parallelized, those workstation/server CPU SKUs are expensive.

Will your MIPS based systems clients offer enough core/threads to help with ray tracing workloads, pending the arrival of more powerful ray tracing functional blocks on your GPUs. I will be looking at ARM/MIPS/Other based RISC design SKUs with plenty of cores and threads for ray tracing workloads, the Xeons are to costly. I am looking forward to dedicated Ray Tracing on the GPU to put an end, mostly, to the necessity of having to purchase an expensive work station server SKU for graphics work.

February 26, 2015 | 08:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ask them if this chip will have hardware support for H.265 and/or H.264 decoding? Also what will they cost per 1000?

February 26, 2015 | 10:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You'll have to ask one of Imagination's licensees, Imagination does not make the SOCs they only license the designs, MIPS CPUs/PowerVR GPUs. Maybe there will be more licensees going forward, provided the license fees are competitive with ARM holdings, I'll take it that the PowerVR will be on more ARM based CPUs, than MIPS designs, provided Imagination does not introduce some HSA 1.0 compliant MIPS CPU/PowerVR GPU based SOC that can compete with AMD's future RISC based offerings. I'm hoping the Ray Tracing hardware baked into the GPU takes off, and forces the competition to counter, with some Ray Tracing IP of their own, the more that better to drive innovation towards the time when CPUs are no linger necessary for Ray tracing workloads, and users could get by, sans the quad core i7, or Xeon/other workstation CPU parts. The H.265 and/or H.264 decoding should be there as an option, at least.

February 27, 2015 | 01:59 AM - Posted by Alex Voica (not verified)

Our PowerVR Series5 video processors (VPUs) support up to 4K at 60 fps for H.265 (HEVC) and H.264.

February 26, 2015 | 08:47 PM - Posted by renz (not verified)

it does support OpenGL ES 3.1 and AEP. what about full OpenGL?

February 26, 2015 | 10:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Full OpenGL/OpenCL support is what is needed, to go with a full function OS, OSX, WIN, Linux distro, so Nvidia has the edge there, AMD's K12 better support the full version, I'd like to have a K12 based APU tablet, and the open source graphics software that runs on my laptop, and that software needs the full version of the Khronos standard APIs for graphics, and GPGPU. Nvidia appears to have gone all cars on the mobile SKU front, and android only just is not sufficient for my graphics needs. Nvidia's pants are on fire at the moment, and I hope they have not deep-sixed Denver, but you never Know with that CEO just in from the links, with barely enough time to shed the polyester, and throw on the jeans and leather jacket, wouldn't want to frighten that main demographic. AMD can not get their k12 APU line to market soon enough, the PowerVR folks are scaling UP, and innovating, Ray Tracing, and such, if more of the mobile SOC market innovation could just bubble up to the PC/laptop market things would be a whole lot better.

February 27, 2015 | 01:56 AM - Posted by Alex Voica (not verified)

On this family of GPUs, we support OpenGL 4.4 and OpenCL 1.2 FP.

February 27, 2015 | 12:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It would be nice to see some Blender 3D and GIMP demos running on a MIPS/PowerVR SOC based reference/testing device, especially with the PowerVR wizard Ray tracing functional blocks doing ray tracing workloads. I simply can not afford the commercial graphics software packages. Both GIMP, and Blender 3d require the full openGL/CL API standard, and a full WIN/OSX/Linux distro, to run under, I do hope that in the future more tablets will come with some full Linux based distro, Linux distros being more light weight, and taylorable to the tablet resource requirements. A reasonable cost Tablet made for the graphics market would be popular with students/professionals. How is your relationship with the Khronos group, and the Open Source community, with regards to involvement in any open source projects, other than the Linux Kernel maintainers, will there be support for Open Source software projects, and support for the Khronos APIs that most Open source, as well as mobile devices utilize. I realize that It's most likely your Clients that have the final say, for their specific SKUs, but for the HTPC devices market, and the MINI/Ultra MINI PC, and experimenter market, the support for a full OS/Distro, and the Khronos API support is necessary, so it's more about support of these Graphics API standards, as well as Linux(Full) distro support in your CPU/GPU SOC ecosystem.

February 27, 2015 | 01:57 AM - Posted by Alex Voica (not verified)

It's DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.4 and OpenCL 1.2 FP.

February 27, 2015 | 05:32 AM - Posted by renz (not verified)

what about full directx 12 support and OpenGL 4.5? the slide above also mention notebooks. does it mean Imagination will starts selling discrete mobile gpu like nvidia and AMD did on the laptop?

February 27, 2015 | 05:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm holding off on the Tablet, ARM, MIPS, x86 based SOC systems, from Nvidia, AMD, Imagination, Others, until I can see that there is support for full Linux/full OSs on any platform. So far the surface tablets are the only tablets that come with a FULL OS, but they are not priced affordable, and their Intel graphics(Internal, or Licensed) is not up to the task. Apple is another matter, as they have their own separate ecosystem, OSs/Driver APIs. I have not seen any news about any M$ products using AMD SKUs in their systems.

I really want a Tablet computer, but it has to be a computer, and not tied to any Android/RT type of phone ecosystem OS, getting in the way of my computing/computing software choices. The major reason that the Tablet market is experiencing saturation, and declining usage, is dew to the lack of a more PC/Laptop computing experience, and I do NOT mean the UI in this case, I mean the choice of at least two full, open/not tied to any app ecosystem, or app store, OSs on the majority of tablets. I want a non restricted, non tied to an app store ecosystem, Tablet computer, with the rights to install open source, and proprietary software, outside of any App store ecosystem.

I'd like there to be at least one Linux full distro available on tablets, more would be better. The ad based industry that is funding the Android/other more closed/locked tablet ecosystems, is going to stifle the market if they do not back off of this, Tablet as an appliance/restricted offerings tied to the cloud business model, people have phones for that. This lacking of mostly open, and fully functioning OSs on tablets, is kind of like the Internet, and needs some form of title 2 type of rules to level the playing field for tablet computer OSs/software choice. OEMs are being restricted from, or influenced not to provide an Open OS choice on tablets, by the big ad based interests, and Tablets are little more than a consumption point of sale type of appliance.

It looks to me like it's going to be a few more years of waiting, for some true affordable Tablet computers, with non Intel graphics/non Intel licensed graphics, to appear on the market. If I want closed ecosystem, I'd go with an Apple, but I hate having to shunt everything into the cloud. Intel just does not get the graphics end of the equation, even when they license graphics, it is always the least amount possible for the highest of pricing.

These ARM/MIPS based SOC systems are getting very close to matching, or exceeding the graphics capability of my discrete laptop GPU, so things are looking better on the hardware side, I'll be keeping my eyes out for 2016, and AMDs offerings, as well as The PowerVR offerings(mostly because of the Ray tracing hardware on the GPU), Nvidia appears to be automobile focused at the moment, and too wedded to the Android ecosystem. Things are getting close in the tablet market, SOC wise, where running a full OS will be no problem, but the market is too dominated by cross platform "VM" style OSs tied to not so Laptop/PC computer like software ecosystems.

February 28, 2015 | 04:54 AM - Posted by Bogdan (not verified)

Looks nice but sadly it will be yet another huge disappointment for FOSS community because, as usually, Imagination will not provide any docs or open source drivers.
So, most probably this card will not end up in anything but some iClosed source OSs...
If nvidia continues the trend and they will add support for X1 in nouveau driver as they did with K1, I'll definitely choose X1 instead of any closed source only GPUs even they are 10x faster than X1! Thought all my hopes are in AMD and Intel to ship something competitive soon, because they are the most FOSS friendly hardware providers out there!

February 28, 2015 | 10:10 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Really all these great ARM, and MIPS based SOC, and thar are available on nothing but appliances, The one company that make the MintBox/Fitlet.

February 28, 2015 | 10:23 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

fix: thar
to: they,

Add new sentences: The fit-pc folks make some very nice kit with very innovative expansion options, so there is some hope. I'd really like to see them kick start a mint based Tablet, or even a tablet that runs Steam OS.

Its very hard to be open and creative on devices, when these big horizontal monopolies, with large market OS share(M$, Google), try to illegally(Monopolistically) force a vertical market dependency on their closed APP ecosystems among the PC/Lpatop/Mobile independent device Makers/market. ARE YOU reading this US justice Department, Antitrust Division!

February 28, 2015 | 12:30 PM - Posted by Bogdan (not verified)

Well, as I said Tegra K1 is quite ok, if nvidia will do the same with X1 then I'm pretty sure that a dev board/tablet/console will be the next thing I'll buy.
The Fitlet it's a little bit expensive for what I need, it's much more expensive then a K1 board... But yeah, if AMD(Carrizo APU) and/or Intel (x3, x5, x7) will come with something fanless and powerful I'll be willing to pay 3X more for a really open HW.

February 28, 2015 | 12:54 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

(x3, x5, x7), is marketing nonsense, Only AMD, Nvidia, PowerVR(Their clients who license Imagination's IP) will be able to provide The GPU SP's necessary for all graphics uses. Intel, is tuning their SOC graphics for gaming only, forget about other graphics uses for Intel's integrated graphics. Did you look at the other Fitlet versions, below the X, or the MINT BOX, that Fit-pc offer.

if you go to their top level page, they appear to have an new ATOM based SKU, but really the graphics in the A-TOM, is just not there.

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