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Redesigned graphics and imaging chips will dramatically improve smartphone gaming and camera capabilities, says Qualcomm.
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Qualcomm on Wednesday, Aug. 12, showed off a new series of graphics processing units and a new image signal processing unit that will boost the multimedia powers of smartphones. The Adreno 530 and 510 GPUs and the Spectra ISP will deliver rich functionality to the Snapdragon 820 processor, bound for handsets next year.
The Adreno 530 and 510 succeed the Adreno 4xx series GPUs, which are most often attached to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 808 and 810 processors. The Adreno 530 and 510 each deliver faster speeds at greater levels of efficiency than the previous-generation GPUs.
Qualcomm makes some significant claims as to the performance of the Adreno 5xx family. To start, these processors are 40% faster than the older chips and deliver a 40% drop in power consumption. They do this through better management of Qualcomm's EcoPix and TruPalette technology. In other words, they'll provide excellent graphics rendering and also conserve battery life.
The chips are compatible with most leading graphics and compute APIs, meaning the Adreno 5xx series offers developers plenty of opportunity. It supports OpenGL ES 3.1+AEP, Renderscript, and Google's new OpenCL 2.0 and Vulkan standards. Vulkan, announced earlier this week, minimizes CPU overhead and offers developers more choice for 3D rendering
The Adreno 5xx series also supports 64-bit virtual addressing, which lets the processors function more efficiently with 64-bit CPUs. They can push 4K video at up to 60 frames per second through HDMI 2.0 to Ultra HD displays and televisions.
Alongside the Adreno 5xx GPUs, Qualcomm introduced the next-generation Spectra ISP. This image signal processing unit will bring dSLR imaging powers to smartphones, according to the company.
The Spectra ISP has dual 14-bit units that can snap images with three cameras at the same time. It supports sensors up to 25 megapixels, and can capture such large files at 30 frames per second. The Spectra ISP is able to do this through a hybrid autofocus framework and new multi-sensor algorithms. The imaging processor has more power efficiency. It produces better skin tones and uses advanced compression techniques to reduce image noise.
Qualcomm plans to pair the Adreno 530 and Spectra ISP with the Snapdragon 820 processor. (The Adreno 510 will be paired with the Snapdragon 620/618.) Qualcomm said the combo won't hit store shelves until the first half of 2016, which means it will be a while before consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits these new chips promise to deliver.
The Snapdragon 820 is an important chip for Qualcomm. The Snapdragon 808 and 810 have seen limited adoption by smartphone makers due to heat and performance problems. In fact, Samsung dropped Qualcomm's chips this year for its flagship Galaxy S6 handset, which relies on Samsung's own Exynos-branded processor. The Galaxy Note 5, expected from Samsung later this week, will also use the Exynos chip. Qualcomm hopes the 820 will win back business from Samsung, which is still the world's biggest maker of smartphones.
Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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