New PowerVR H.265 encoders promise big efficiency gains

Imagination Technologies is unveiling new products at the Mobile World Congress this week. Among them: the PowerVR Series5 family of video encoders, which are designed for 4K H.265 encoding and promise higher efficiency than the competition.

Three different encoder IP products make up the PowerVR Series5 lineup. They target prosumer applications, the "sweet spot" of the market, and low-end or "area-optimized" applications:

  • PowerVR E5800: This prosumer-level encoder is designed to enable 4K @ 60fps, and features enhanced color depth with 10 bits of precision, enabling video stream compliance with ITU-R rec BT.2020
  • PowerVR E5505: This high-performance encoder is targeted at products including tablets, mobile phones, home media gateways and security cameras; it is designed to enable 4K @ 30fps
  • PowerVR E5300: This area- and power-optimized encoder is ideal for wearables, camera-equipped IoT devices, entry-level mobile devices and automotive applications such as ADAS, and is designed to enable 1080p @ 60fps

According Imagination Technologies' own numbers, the prosumer-focused PowerVR E5800 encoder can achieve the same H.265 quality at up to half the bitrate of competing solutions:

Source: Imagination Technologies.

More typically, the bitrate difference at equivalent quality levels would be 30%, the company says. That's still nothing to scoff at.

Imagination attributes this efficiency disparity to the fact that it's using a fuller implementation of the H.265 toolset than its rivals. The Series5 press release also mentions "advanced search algorithms" and "optimized rate control algorithms." Whatever tricks Imagination is up to, the advantages are obvious: recorded videos can take up less storage space, and they can be uploaded and shared more quickly.

Not only that, but Series5 encoders are also "tightly integrated" with the rest of Imagination's PowerVR IP portfolio. In the company's own words:

Since we own all the blocks of IP within the multimedia subsystem, we've worked over the last few years to make sure that they all operate together with maximum efficiency, by doing things like creating a common compressed memory format that they can all share, allowing the GPU to operate on YUV frame buffers so that the output of the GPU can be used directly by the video encoder, by creating various hardware paths between these blocks so that we can have streaming solutions which avoid the use of main memory and therefore create a low-power mode of operation. So, basically, if you put the IP blocks together from Imagination, you get a multimedia system that is more than the sum of its parts.

Imagination says PowerVR Series5 encoders are available for licensing right now. The first products based on them are expected to turn up within 10-12 months, we're told.

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