PowerVR Furian GPU crams more performance into less area


— 1:31 PM on March 8, 2017

Imagination Technology's last major GPU architecture revision was 2010's Rogue. The comapny has produced six iterations on the architecture in the meantime, and now it's time for something new. The upcoming Furian architecture promises to be the biggest departure in ImgTech GPU design since the earliest days of the present decade. Furian is designed to deliver improved performance in the mobile VR, AR, and machine intelligence applications with a reduced silicon and power consumption footprint.

The biggest architectural change is an increase in ALU width from 16 pipelines per cluster to 32. Each cluster also doubles up from four bilinear samples per clock to eight. Anandtech's Ryan Smith wrote a fairly detailed overview of the new architecture, which can be read here. Smith notes that while each cluster is substantially wider, the new design may be somewhat less flexible and that the increased capabilities per cluster may be offset somewhat by a decreased cluster count when Furian is integrated into SoCs. 

The design house says that when compared to Series 7XT Plus parts built on the same manufacturing process, Furian should be good for a 33% improvement in GFLOPS density, an 80% increase in fillrate density, and an improvement of at least 70% in what it called "gaming density," claiming that the performance improvement in real world applications is "better than the sum of the parts."

 

Furian is still based on the tile-based deferred rendering techniques PowerVR has been known for since the 3Dfx-era original Series 1 chips and the PowerVR2 chips used in the Sega Dreamcast. The last PowerVR products in the PC space was the Series 3 design incorporated into ST Microelectronics' Kyro II 3d accelerator chips. The company has focused on the mobile space in the intervening years, even as tile-based rendering has returned to the desktop.

Imagination claims "multi-dimensional scalability" with different designs for low-end and high-end cores. The company says Furian has been designed for streamlined integration into SoCs and is optimized for manufacture on sub-14-nm processes. Furian will be compatible with OpenCL, Vulkan, and other APIs, and boasts the features needed for PowerVR's real-time ray-tracing pet project.

Gamers won't find PowerVR Furian graphics chips in stores, but the architecture is sure to find a home in future high-end mobile SoCs found in upmarket smartphones, tablets, and mobile VR headsets.

The company isn't planning to retire Rogue any time soon. The older architecture will stick around for integration into less expensive SoCs. Imagination says it has already licensed Furian cores to partners and that GPU core variants will be introduced in products around the middle of this year.

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