A few weeks ago I was working on this blog article, trying to figure out how to best represent our products visually. After I completed the work and was on my lunch break, a question came to mind: if I were building my own mobile application processor, what it would look like? The answer lies in the diagram below; please read on for the reasoning behind my choices.

Mobile computing - Apps processor for high end mobile devicesMy ideal high-end mobile apps processor

I started thinking about the devices I use and what I look for in a smartphone or tablet. I usually prefer buying high-performance, reasonably priced devices; however, the make or break factor for me has always been battery life.

And I am not alone – according to a recent study from IDC, battery life is the number one purchasing driver for most consumers across all mobile operating systems. The other two things that matter to me are:

  • superior overall performance in credible CPU and GPU benchmarks: this usually sets my expectations for how my device would perform in real-world applications
  • a high quality camera for still images and video: whenever I read device reviews, studying camera samples is where I usually spend the most amount of time.

Selecting a CPU for general purpose processing

Given that choosing the CPU can be a rather complicated matter, I decided to have a chat with my colleagues who are designing our latest MIPS Warrior family. I want my device to be the ultimate performer so my preferred CPU configuration would include a cluster of six MIPS P-class P5600 processors: four of them working in a high-frequency, high-performance mode for fast gaming, web browsing or 3D navigation while the other two would run less demanding tasks like email, video and music playback.

MIPS vs competition - areaMIPS P5600 CPUs are significantly smaller than competing designs

Since the P5600 core is significantly more power and area efficient than competing designs, I won’t have to worry about my device getting too hot – a problem among flagship devices. Additionally, each of those four high-performance CPUs provides the highest CoreMark score available for a CPU IP processor, offering a superior performance boost that would ensure my device can run the latest and greatest apps with ease.

  MIPS P5600 vs. competition - performance CoreMark per MHz MIPS P5600 vs. competition - performance power CoreMark per mWMIPS P5600 vs. competition - performance area CoreMark per mm2MIPS P5600 CPUs deliver significantly better performance at lower power and smaller area than competing designs

Adding a MIPS P5600 CPU saves me significant area too; it is up to 40% smaller than similar competing processor and includes cutting-edge features like MSA (MIPS SIMD Architecture) and hardware virtualization.

Selecting a GPU for graphics and compute, VPUs for video decode and encode and an ISP for imaging

After saving significant area with my CPU choice, I can use that extra die space to include PowerVR GX6650, the fastest mobile GPU available today. GX6650 is a six-cluster, 192 ALU core performance monster that comes with all the features needed for a high-end design: unmatched FP32 performance, deep color support for Ultra HD resolution gaming, and the best pixel throughput of current generation graphics IP.

PowerVR GPU_PowerVR GX6650PowerVR GX6650 is our ultimate high performance mobile GPU to date

Additionally, PowerVR GX6650 includes a number of unique features that help my SoC reduce power consumption dramatically:

  • An FP16 mode, which provides similar performance in graphics and compute applications yet consumes less power
  • PVR3C, which reduces memory traffic by up to 50% for gaming, user interfaces or web browsers
  • PowerGearing G6XT, which automatically switches part of the GPU on or off according to the complexity of any given graphics or compute tasks

PowerVR Rogue GPUs already top the charts when it comes to performance; but more importantly, all Rogue graphics processors are based on a very efficient architecture which can maintain performance under sustained workloads. In the example below, we have used the Long term performance mode from the latest version of GFXBench 3.0 to compare four devices. Our high-end PowerVR Rogue and SGX GPUs were able to deliver the same performance between the 1st and 30th run, while competing processors had to drop throughput due to thermal throttling.

PowerVR Rogue and SGX vs competition - GFXBench 3.0 KishontiNot only do PowerVR Rogue GPUs offer better overall performance, but they are able to comfortably sustain it over long periods of time

Working in technology PR means I do a lot of traveling; in-flight entertainment isn’t usually my cup of tea therefore I spend a lot of time watching movies from my DVD collection. When you’re flying for 12 hours across continents and oceans, having a hardware video decoder such as PowerVR D5500 can make the difference between enjoying four David Lynch films in a row and staring at the seat in front of you for a few good hours. Since PowerVR D5500 supports H.265, I can cram twice as many videos on my SD card without sacrificing quality.

The section below brings me back to one of the points I made earlier: a very good, fully-featured camera is among my top reasons for buying a mobile device.

Including our PowerVR V2500 imaging processor, PowerVR E4500 video encoder and PowerVR E5010 JPEG encoder results in an advanced, feature rich vision sub-system that offers many unique advantages when it comes to image and video processing:

  • our PowerVR GPUs, VPUs and ISPs have optimized data paths so these processors can communicate between each other more efficiently, enabling better performance and lower power consumption for common tasks like video recording or image pre-/post-processing.
  • by combining the latest generation PowerVR GPU, VPUs and imaging processor on the same chip, the resulting multimedia subsystem maintains a high-fidelity, fast 10-bit processing pipeline from capture to display, which greatly improves image quality for a range of applications.

Selecting a radio processing unit for combo connectivity

Low power all-round connectivity is another important aspect for me. I need my mobile device to be always connected to the Internet – you wouldn’t believe the amount of email I get every day. On top of that, I manage our social media accounts and frequently write for the blog so embedding a power-sipping Ensigma RPU makes perfect sense.

Ensigma Series4 Explorer RPU - Wi-Fi Bluetooth FM Combo IPEnsigma Series4 RPUs support 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth Smart, digital/FM radio and many other broadcast standards

Our high-end Ensigma C4531 radio processor offers high-speed Wi-Fi (up to 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO), the latest Bluetooth Classic standard and digital/FM radio too.

But connectivity also means LTE – and our I-class MIPS CPUs are ideal for cellular modems. MIPS I-class processors implement multithreading, which has been shown to improve performance by up to 45% and also reduces power consumption.

Conclusion

Working for Imagination gives me the opportunity to always be in the know on the absolutely amazing breadth of technologies we design. This was a fun experiment and I’m sure opinions on this topic can differ.

What do you think of my mobile SoC blueprint? What would yours look like? Please leave us a comment in the box below.

For more news and announcements from Imagination, follow us on (@ImaginationPR, @PowerVRInsider, @MIPSGuru), Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

* Targets based on preliminary implementation details in 28HPM technology from TSMC, subject to change based on final RTL.

Comments

  • Technofoxx

    Well that’s nice but as an investor I’d like to see these dreams come to fruition.

  • monstercameron

    this looks cool but what about linux?

    • Hi,

      MIPS is the perfect CPU for Linux, it was designed with this operating system in mind.

      More recently, Imagination and our partners have started adding more and more patches to the kernel to support the feature set of the latest MIPS 32- and 64-bit processors:
      http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTcxNTg

      We also founded prpl, a foundation focused on optimizing Linux-based operating systems for MIPS in areas like datacenter, networking and storage, mobile, wearables, home entertainment, embedded, IoT and more:
      http://prplfoundation.org/

      Best regards,
      Alex.

  • Reason

    Actually, watching the seat in front of me would be vastly preferable to four David Lynch movies in a row…

  • Luca

    Hi Alex,

    Am I right to say that the PowerVr GX6650 seems even faster than the gpu of the Tegra K1, according to your bench?
    Great article, by the way!!
    Cheers
    L

    • The benchmark compares two current-generation smartphones that have PowerVR SGX and Rogue GPUs with similar devices with competing GPUs – the colors offer you a clue as to which GPUs we’re comparing against.

      Speaking of GX6650, we offer higher performance (up to 2x low power FP16 and up to 3x pixel throughput) and better power consumption than the GPU you’ve mentioned.

      Best regards,
      Alex.

      • Luca

        Thanks Alex…and woow for the performance!!

        Best regards,
        L

  • Sean Lumly

    This was a really fun read! I immediately thought of suggesting doing a secondary article for a tablet-grade SoC, then I noticed the positively beastly GX6650! Is this fictitious chip-design targeted for a smartphone/tablet, and is it planned for a 28nm process? If so, I’m extremely impressed that the 6-cluster monster would fit the thermals of a smartphone device at today’s process — I can’t even fathom the levels of insanity that Samsung/Globalfoundies 16nm FinFET will bring…

    And I’m really excited for your MIPS core to enter the competitive landscape, especially given the guaranteed compatibility and significant boost in performance of Android’s new runtime. Were I a chip manufacturer, I would take a long hard look at ImgTec, as it seems that your IP covers almost everything that a top-tier modern SoC needs, and I’m guessing that with little customization, time-to-production would be very, very fast.

    • This is actually designed to be a high-end part so I would expect companies to move to smaller nodes. It’s not just Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES who are moving to 16nm; TSMC and Intel are also ramping up volume production of sub-20nm chips.

      However, there is no reason why this can’t be a 28nm design. GX6650 includes so many power-saving technologies that it could still comfortably fit into a high-end tablet SoC clocked at a reasonable frequency.

      We have also seen a lot of interest for MIPS in mobile. Hopefully we will talk more about MIPS and Android ART soon.

      Best regards,
      Alex.