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Powered by the strongest GPU, Imagination embarks on a new journey

 Mobile, automotive, desktop graphics, cloud gaming!

IMG’s new B-series multi-core GPUs make a strong attack

Mobile phones, cars, games, digital TVs, desktop displays, cloud servers… In modern life, in order to achieve a better user experience, more and more application scenarios are pursuing more excellent graphics processing and Display effects. (GPU) has also become more and more critical. Moreover, in addition to providing powerful graphics processing functions, high-performance and multi-featured GPUs have also begun to play an important role in artificial intelligence applications by virtue of their ever-increasing computing capabilities. Therefore, many device, system and application manufacturers focus on GPUs as a hotspot. It is not difficult to understand.

In the field of GPU, Imagination is a company worthy of attention. The accumulation of more than 30 years of GPU R&D experience and the pioneering spirit of always pursuing technological leadership are the reasons why this company is deeply recognized by the industry. For Imagination, many people in the industry should know more about its profound influence in the field of mobile GPUs over the years. In fact, they have always been in the industry’s absolute leading position in the field of automotive GPUs, and as the company has undergone Chinese acquisitions and further invested heavily in R&D Since then, Imagination has continued to expand its application market in response to new market demands in order to pursue a broader growth space.

  The mobile GPU market continues its efforts

As mentioned earlier, Imagination’s GPU performance is unquestionable, and Apple being their customer for more than ten years is enough to prove their influence in this field. But as a company with 35 years of experience in graphics, Imagination isn’t resting on its laurels. In December 2019, it released its new architecture of the A-series GPUs. According to the description at the time, this series of products was Imagination’s most important GPU and IP release in 15 years.

A few days ago, Imagination brought a brand new B series, bringing the company’s GPU performance to a new level.

According to Kristof Beets, senior director of technical product management at Imagination, the new B-series GPUs offer the highest performance density, enabling lower power consumption and up to 35% lower bandwidth for a given performance target, making it a top-of-the-line design ideal solution. Compared to previous generations, the B-Series consumes up to 30% less power, 25% smaller area, and has a fill rate 2.5 times higher than competing IP cores.

Like the A series, the new generation of GPUs also has four series, namely IMG BXE, IMG BXM, IMG BXT and IMG BXS. Among them, the first three GPUs for mobile terminals will be an important focus of the B series.

Kristof Beets also pointed out in the conference that IMG BXE is a GPU core designed for entry-level games, which can process from 1 pixel to up to 16 pixels per clock cycle, thus supporting resolutions from 720p to 8K. “Compared with the previous generation core, BXE achieves up to 25% area reduction, while its fill rate density is as high as 2.5 times that of competing products,” Kristof Beets emphasized.

When it comes to IMG BXM, it is a series of high-performance cores launched by Imagination for markets such as mid-range mobile gaming and digital TV. According to reports, this series of GPUs can achieve the best balance of fill rate and computing power in a compact silicon area.

As for IMG BXT, it is a series of products for flagship mobile devices, servers and cloud platforms. As can be seen from the data provided by Imagination, the flagship B-series GPU is a quad-core part that can provide 6 TFLOPS of performance, can process 192 Gigapixels per second (one billion pixels), and has 24 TOPS (trillion calculations per second) ) of artificial intelligence (AI) computing power while delivering the industry’s highest performance density.

From the introduction of Kristof Beets, we know that the new B series has a multi-core architecture, which can bring higher performance. Chris Porthouse, Chief Product Officer, Imagination Technologies, added: “We have leveraged our best-of-breed high-performance, low-power cores in a multi-core architecture, combined with an innovative decentralized management approach to provide efficient scaling features and Compatible with industry trends such as chiplet architectures. This allows us to offer a range of performance levels and configurations that were not possible with previous GPU IP.”

From their introduction, we learned that Imagination’s new multi-core architecture has been optimized for each product series of BXT and BXM cores, and the multi-core expansion of GPU cores has been realized by using the expansion characteristics of multiple main cores. Thanks to the design of this multi-core architecture, these two series of GPUs combine the capabilities of all cores to provide maximum performance for a single application, or support different cores to run independent applications as needed.

The BXE cores, on the other hand, provide a primary-secondary scaling mode, an area-optimized solution that delivers high performance from a single GPU core while enabling multitasking with our HyperLane technology.

Imagination said that with this new series of GPUs, the company hopes to expand its market share in the Android market while continuing to license to Apple, thereby increasing the company’s market share in the mobile GPU market. According to the data provided by Imagination, its share of the GPU IP market has reached 35.5%, surpassing the Arm Mali series and Qualcomm Adreno series, and becoming the leader of mobile GPU IP.

Image via Imagination

 The strong attack of three new markets

With this new B-series GPU, Imagination hopes to break ground in multiple markets. Among them, the desktop and cloud markets have attracted more attention from companies.

First of all, look at the automotive GPU aspect. At the A-series conference last year, Imagination released the IMG AXT-32-1024 for automotive applications. It is understood that the performance of this series of IP is 1 TFLOP, 32 Gpixels and 4TOPS, which can provide strong support for automotive applications, and the company also has high expectations for automobiles. In May of this year, Imagination announced that it will join hands with BAIC to establish a joint venture Beijing Coreda Technology Co., Ltd., which will be dedicated to the research and development of application processors for autonomous driving and voice interaction chips for smart cockpits. To achieve this cooperation, Imagination’s strength in GPU is the key.

In the new B series, Imagination also brings its IMG BXS series GPUs for future cars. According to reports, the BXS series is an ISO 26262-compliant GPU and the most advanced automotive GPU IP core ever developed. BXS offers a complete product line, from entry-level to advanced products, providing solutions for next-generation Human Machine Interface (HMI), UI displays, infotainment systems, digital cockpit, surround view, to high computing power configuration, it can support autonomous driving and ADAS.

Kristof Beets told reporters that the BXS series uses Imagination’s original technology, allowing it to verify and ensure the normal execution and transmission of GPU data. In terms of hardware design, in addition to the lockstep mechanism of this series of GPUs, the X also includes hardware mechanisms to maximize performance while executing safety-critical workloads on computing and graphics processing functions. In addition, Imagination’s drive technology for automotive GPUs is also developed by itself, which is different from the way most competitors in the industry choose to cooperate with third parties, which further helps customers to better design their related products. At present, Imagination has won about 43% of the automotive GPU IP market.

Looking at the desktop and cloud GPU markets, this will also be the focus of Imagination in the future. From the perspective of technological development trends and international cooperation in the past two years, this is also a well-understood logic. Taking desktop as an example, the current mainstream suppliers of desktop GPUs are AMD, Intel and Nvidia, but all three of them are US suppliers. Considering the current Sino-US relationship, the future of these GPU suppliers is full of uncertainty. That gave UK-based Imagination an opportunity. It’s not really a new market for them.

According to the data, before entering the mobile market, Imagination had a strong influence in the PC GPU market. In the heyday of the 3dfx Voodoo series of graphics cards, Imagination can still compete with it in the 3D field. While not far behind its fierce competitors from ATI and Nvidia, Imagination turned its focus to the mobile market, where its low-power and powerful PowerVR series once dominated the mobile GPU IP market. After more than a decade of sneaking around, Imagination is back in the desktop GPU market.

Imagination’s strength in this field is obvious because it has advantages that no other manufacturer has. Kristof Beets also said that the 7nm desktop GPU with B-series multi-core design, with a frequency of up to 1.5 GHz, can help customers achieve the desktop GPU applications they want.

As for cloud GPUs, it’s also a market that can’t be ignored. In recent years, due to the increasingly high performance requirements of chips for terminal equipment applications, in order to improve the experience of consumers, many manufacturers have developed concepts such as “cloud games” and “cloud mobile phones”. Specifically, it is hoped to use the computing power of the cloud to improve the user experience of terminal devices. Imagination also wants to make a presence in this market.

It is understood that Innosilicon, a local manufacturer, has integrated the latest IMG B series BXT high-performance multi-core graphics processing unit (GPU) IP into its world premiere GPU discrete graphics products supporting desktop and data center applications. At the same time, the two parties are also exploring further long-term strategic cooperation, aiming to bring more powerful GPU graphics chips and solutions to the market.

Simon Beresford-Wylie, newly appointed CEO of Imagination Technologies, also said: “The IMG B-Series offers our customers more choice. It builds on the significant investment and technical advantages of the A-Series, while adding multi-core technology to A staggering 33 new configurations expand Imagination’s GPU portfolio. With the B-Series, we believe Imagination can provide the best GPU for everyone, no matter what their needs are.”

Strong technical accumulation is the foundation

The reason why Imagination has such huge ambitions in mobile GPUs and the emerging markets the company is targeting has a lot to do with the company’s strong technical background.

From the introduction of Imagination, we know that after years of accumulation, the company has developed IP for graphics processing, computing and connectivity. In terms of GPU alone, Imagination has accumulated more than 1,500 patents. According to statistics, so far, the cumulative shipments of chip products with Imagination IP have exceeded 11 billion.

In addition to laying a solid core technology foundation, Imagination has also made extensive investments in future-oriented technologies such as ray tracing, image compression, and RISC-V, enabling them to embrace the confidence of future technological changes.

First look at ray tracing, which is the technology used by GPU manufacturers in order to Display realistic effects. As an industry-leading supplier, Imagination has been investing in this area for more than 10 years, and since May 2019, Imagination has announced the licensing of its PowerVR ray tracing technology, enabling the use of optical modeling technology to achieve cutting-edge technology. Photorealistic rendering can be integrated into graphics processing units (GPUs) and used in mobile, automotive, server and server and other markets.

In September of this year, Imagination announced the Ray Tracing Rating System to help developers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) gain a clear understanding of the capabilities of ray tracing acceleration solutions available now and in the future. According to the official introduction, the ray tracing level system includes a total of 6 levels, and their functions and requirements are as follows:

Level 0: Legacy Solutions

Level 1: Software on Traditional GPUs

Level 2: Ray/Frame and Ray/Triangle Testers in Hardware

Level 3: Bounding Volume Hierarchy (BVH) processing capabilities in hardware

Level 4: BVH processing and consistency ordering functions in hardware

Level 5: Consistent BVH processing in hardware with Scene Hierarchy Generation (SHG)

According to Kristof Beets’ introduction at the press conference, only when it reaches Level 4, can the best user experience, higher computing power, lower bandwidth be achieved, and desktop-level efficient performance can be improved. And they will launch related technologies in the C series released next year.

The image compression technology IMGIC introduced in the B series is a technology introduced by Imagination in order to cope with the contradiction between the increasing size of image data and the limited bandwidth.

As the most advanced image compression technology on the market, IMGIC offers Imagination’s customers new options for saving bandwidth. It offers up to four compression levels: ranging from pixel-perfect lossless to bandwidth-saving modes that ensure 4:1 or better compression ratios. This provides SoC designers with more flexibility to optimize performance or reduce system cost, while maintaining a great user experience.

Imagination emphasized that IMGIC technology is compatible with all cores in the B series, which enables even the smallest cores to have industry-leading image compression technology advantages.

As for RISC-V, because of its unique open source features, this new instruction set architecture has aroused widespread interest in the world, and Imagination, as a manufacturer with rich experience in cooperation with CPU manufacturers, has also cooperated extensively with this ecosystem.

In May of last year, Imagination announced that the company had joined SiFive’s DesignShare ecosystem, giving system designers easy access to its leading PowerVR Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and Neural Network Accelerator (NNA) silicon intellectual property (IP) core; this September, Imagination launched a complete RISC-V computer architecture course.

Imagination’s actions show that they not only expect to break through the “Arm Cortex+Arm Mali” combination encirclement, but also believe that they also want to complete their unfinished business on MIPS on RISC-V.

In addition, Imagination has also invested heavily in AI in recent years. The AI ​​chip developed based on its 2NX NNA neural network accelerator IP has topped the AI ​​Benchmark list. In 2019, it launched 3NX NNA. Launched a new generation of neural network accelerator products this month. And will create a heterogeneous system that integrates GPUs and AI accelerators, which will provide developers with stronger performance.

In addition to leading technology, the current international trading environment is also a great opportunity for Imagination. As David Harold, the company’s chief marketing officer, said: “As a UK-based company, Imagination’s IP will not be subject to any restrictions in the US, which gives us a better opportunity”. “Especially in China, we will vigorously develop locally and seek a win-win situation,” stressed David Harold.