Imagination Launches Low-Power GPU for IoT, Wearables

At the MWC, the company introduces its PowerVR Series6EX graphics lineup for low-power devices that sport small screens.


Ever since it acquired MIPS for $100 million in 2013, Imagination Technologies has grabbed attention for its efforts to grow the low-power MIPS processor architecture into a rival of ARM and Intel.

But this week at Mobile World Congress 2015, the chip maker put the spotlight back on its graphics technologies.

Imagination introduced the PowerVR G6020, a new GPU designed to bring high-performance graphics capabilities to low-cost devices such as entry-level smartphones, wearable technologies and certain Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Imagination also introduced a new lineup of PowerVR video encoders to bring high-quality H.264 and H.265 encoding across multiple segments of the market while keeping tight reins on power consumption and bandwidth.

Imagination officials want to leverage the PowerVR G6020 to take advantage of a rapidly expanding market for embedded GPUs for space-constrained and cost-efficient systems that have smaller screens, according to Peter McGuinness, director of technical marketing at Imagination.

"Everybody wants a smartphone," McGuinness told eWEEK. "Nobody wants a feature phone."

The mobile device space continues to mature, as smartphones and tablets have established themselves and phablets are growing in maturity, he said. With this maturity comes a continued demand for high-end GUIs on devices, even low-cost entry-level products. At the same time, the number of camera and other vision-related apps is growing.

The PowerVR G6020 is designed to meet those needs, McGuinness said. The 28-nanometer chip is the smallest of the PowerVR Series6XE GPUs, with four cores and a silicon footprint of 2.2mm. It includes a highly-optimized universal shading cluster (USC) engine that is designed to enable the best feature set in small areas and power envelopes to enable a high UI experience.

The G6020—which supports Google's Android and Android Wear, Linux and ROS (real-time operating systems)—comes months after Imagination announced its Series 7 GPUs, which addressed much of the embedded GPU market but didn't touch the IoT and wearable spaces.

"What we're doing [with the G6020] is filling a gap here in the market," he said.

The GPU, which offers full OpenGL ES 3.0 capability, is available now for licensing.

The PowerVR Series5 video encoders bring H.264 and H.265 encoding into low-cost, low-power systems. The encoders offer a choice of resolution and bitrate support in markets from 720p at 30fps to 4K at 60fps. The new series t scales from wearable devices to prosumer systems and offer equivalent quality as the competition at a bitrate that is up to 30 percent less, according to McGuinness.

The result for device users includes the ability to record and store more video content while using less memory, reducing upload bandwidth and the power needed to access cloud-based video services. Another benefit is less bandwidth needed for video-conferencing and streaming on a mobile device.

The PowerVR E5800 is aimed at prosumer systems, while the E5505 is for such devices as tablets, mobile phones, home media gateways and security cameras. The E5300 targets wearables, IoT devices that come with cameras, entry-level mobile devices and some automotive applications.