PowerVR Series7XT Plus GPUs give mobile visual computing a boost

— 9:00 AM on January 6, 2016

Imagination Technologies is announcing two new high-end mobile graphics processing units today in its PowerVR Series7XT portfolio. These designs—the GT7200 Plus and the GT7400 Plus—add integer pipelines and OpenCL 2.0 support to the GT7200 and GT7400 graphics processors. Those features purportedly make the Plus GPUs especially well-suited to tasks like computer vision, computational photography, and deep learning applications on mobile devices.

The GT7200 Plus is a "dual-cluster" design with a total of 64 ALU "cores," while the GT7400 Plus doubles those numbers to four clusters and 128 ALU cores. We've already examined the general principles of the Series7XT GPU, so we'll focus on that new integer pipeline here. The company says that while previous iterations of its Rogue-architecture ALU cores could only perform int32 operations, these Plus designs can now perform int8 and int16 operations, as well. Those more flexible processing paths are apparently useful for visual computing applications like those built using the Khronos Group's OpenVX API.

These Plus GPUs also add hardware features necessary to support the OpenCL 2.0 API. Imagination Technologies says the improved shared virtual memory support in these GPUs means that SoCs with these GPUs on board can share pointers between the GPU and CPU, reducing redundancy in memory and also reducing latency. These GPUs also add support for dynamic parallelism, meaning that the graphics processor can manage its own threads without CPU interaction. Dynamic parallelism purports to simplify the GPU programming model and lessen CPU overhead. It could also reduce SoC power consumption and allow many GPU computing algorithms to execute more efficiently.

As an example of what this hardware can do, Imagination Technologies says that Chinese software and services company Baidu was able to accelerate one of its deep-neural-network applications using PowerVR GPUs in mobile devices. That application can perform image classification in real time using input from the device's camera to distinguish among various objects in a scene (a shirt and purse, for example).

According to Imagination, other applications that could benefit from the Plus-series chips' visual-computing features include face, body, and gesture tracking, smart video surveillance, HDR rendering, driver-assist systems in cars, object and scene reconstruction, augmented reality, visual inspection, and robotics.

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