updated 12:00 pm EST, Sat January 9, 2010
PowerVR SGX545 handles OpenCL too
Imagination has used its time at CES to unveil a new PowerVR SGX graphics core that is likely to find its way into the next iPhone. The SGX545 is the only mobile phone video chip capable of both OpenGL 3.2 and DirectX 10 level visual effects, including their newer geometry and texturing features. OpenCL support is equally unique: unused processing cycles on the PowerVR chip can be used for general purpose computing and offload work from the main CPU.
Unlike some previous cores, the 545 is aware of multithreading and can see an additional speed boost when mated with multi-core processor designs like the ARM Cortex-A9.
The company doesn't say when it expects mass production but says it has already started licensing the SGX545 to companies and, notably, has already resulted in a test chip for an unnamed "lead partner."
Most expect this partner to be Apple. The electronics designer has used PowerVR graphics in every iPhone and iPod touch to date and has also been one of Imagination's most aggressive licensees, upgrading to the new technology in the iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch almost as soon as it was available. Apple is also commonly assumed to be using a variant of ARM Cortex-A9 to power future handhelds and could see an added benefit by moving to the SGX545.
Apple is one of the key architects behind OpenCL and already uses it in Snow Leopard, whose underpinnings are themselves likely to translate into iPhone OS 4.0.