Lucid GameXtend conserves power with just-in-time frame delivery

We hadn't heard much from the folks at Lucid for a while, but they were back at CES 2014 with an intriguing new application for their suite of GPU virtualization technologies. Lucid found and VP of Business Development Offir Remez gave us a tour of their new product, dubbed GameXtend, which he called "a bit the other side of the same coin" compared to the firm's existing offerings. Rather than seeking to improve performance via smart control of virtualized GPUs, GameXtend attempts to reduce power consumption in cases where the GPU runs faster than needed for the display.

GameXtend runs on Android mobile devices, and it cuts SoC power consumption by ensuring that games don't render frames any faster than needed to supply a steady stream of updates to a 60Hz display. Unlike some of Lucid's other products, GameXtend is not stand-alone software; it hooks into Android at a low level, and device makers must integrate it into their products using Lucid's API and libraries. Lucid says it exposes "full control" over GameXtend tuning, so device manufacturers are free to tweak the software's behavior to fit their hardware.

We got a demo of GameXtend in action on a pair of smartphones. As pictured above, both phones were connected to multimeters showing power draw, and both were running Temple Run. The phone that had GameXtend enabled drew less power at the meter with no apparent effect on frame rates.

Evidently, Lucid is able to reduce SoC power consumption beyond what simple measures like vsync or a 60-FPS cap can achieve. Tuning for just-in-time frame delivery is a seemingly obvious new frontier in power optimization, with potential positive benefits for battery life and device thermals. Lucid claims GameXtend can reduce power draw by up to 25% and thus extend battery run times by 50%. The software could potentially even offer performance benefits if it can stave off the triggering of some of the extreme, not-entirely dynamic power-saving measures built into many mobile devices.

The prospect of this sort of no-penalty power savings has lured one very big fish into inking a deal to integrate Lucid's tech. Samsung has licensed GameXtend and deployed it in the Galaxy Note 3 and in the Galaxy Note 10.1. On the heels of that success, Lucid has been busy signing up other customers and says it expects "many more" devices with GameXtend to ship this quarter and next.

The technology behind GameXtend is applicable to any application that uses OpenGL ES for graphics, which in the mobile device world is pretty much everything. Lucid already has two other products in the works tuned for other usage scenarios. WebXtend targets web browsing, where smooth scrolling meets a mix of media types, and NavXtend aims at GPS navigation, where relatively low frame rates offer more opportunity for power savings. WebXtend is still in the early stages of development, and it doesn't provide entirely smooth scrolling in a browser just yet. As you can see from our shot of the demo, though, it already achieves measurably lower power use.

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