Apple's Custom Mobile Chip Designs Gradually Expanding to Include Graphics Hardware

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Oct 26, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    [​IMG]


    After years of recruiting graphics architects, Apple has gradually shifted from licensing PowerVR graphics to designing its own custom GPUs for iPhones, according to David Kanter at Real World Technologies.

    The new graphics processor is said to have first shipped with the A8 chip in the iPhone 6, with successive versions built into in the A9 and A10 Fusion chips powering the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 lineups respectively.

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    For context, Kanter said a modern GPU has three major components that work together in harmony to render graphics:
    Apple previously relied on PowerVR chipmaker Imagination Technologies to supply fixed-function graphics hardware, shader cores, and drivers for older-generation iPhones, but Kanter said Apple has since replaced the programmable shader cores with its own more efficient and higher performance design, and developed its own driver and compiler to emit code for its architecture.

    While Apple's GPU architecture has never been publicly documented, Kanter contrasted information from WWDC 2016 sessions and frameworks against basic PowerVR compiler and optimization manuals, concluding that it is clear that the shader core in Apple's GPU is architecturally very different from the PowerVR line.

    Apple's custom GPUs still appear to use some of the PowerVR fixed-function graphics hardware, but it is clear the company's dependance on Imagination Technologies has decreased significantly in recent years. Kanter speculates that if Imagination Technologies were acquired, or fell behind from a technical standpoint, Apple could simply design its own fixed-function hardware.

    [​IMG]

    Apple was actually rumored to acquire Imagination Technologies earlier this year, but later said it did not plan to make an offer on the England-based company at the time. Nevertheless, in recent months, Apple has recruited at least two dozen employees from the chipmaker, including former COO John Metcalfe, and those graphics engineers may have played a role in developing Apple's custom GPUs.

    Kanter said Apple has in fact assembled a GPU design team and a graphics driver team that together implemented a large portion of the custom GPUs in the A8, A9, and A10 Fusion chips. In addition to former PowerVR engineers, this team likely includes recent hires from AMD, Google, Intel, and Nvidia.

    The transition towards custom GPUs has is said to have resulted in several strategic advantages for Apple beyond increased performance and efficiency, including tighter ecosystem control, better time-to-market and scheduling, reducing its reliance on its suppliers, and reducing bugs without its competitors benefiting.

    Full-Length Article: Look Inside Apple's Custom GPU for the iPhone

    Article Link: Apple's Custom Mobile Chip Designs Gradually Expanding to Include Graphics Hardware
     
  2. Quu macrumors 68030

    Quu

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    This is surprising. They've been making GPU's for their shipping phones for two years and we never found out.
     
  3. julesme macrumors regular

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    #3
    I think Apple's chip design will become a more critical differentiator vs. Google/Android and Microsoft/Windows as those two companies push more aggressively into building their own phones and computers and market an integrated hardware/software experience.
     
  4. Max Portakabin Suspended

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    #4
    It's once they build it out we'll hopefully see the true results. The main chips have been staggering performers so a fully-ramped Apple GPU chip is likely to blow us away.

    Credit where credit is due.
     
  5. djgamble macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    However, Macbook Pros, iMacs and Mac Minis all have rubbish integrated GPUs that can't do anything. Your only way to handle most games properly on a Mac is to get a Mac Pro (which is too expensive for most to justify purchasing).
     
  6. holmesf macrumors 6502a

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    This report contradicts reports from Anandtech that Apple used PowerVR designs for A8 and A9 chips. Anandtech is the best source for in-depth information on Apple's A system architectures, so it's pretty surprising if they were wrong. If true, Apple's move would not be surprising. What would be surprising is that it took people so long to notice.

     
  7. decafjava macrumors 68030

    decafjava

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  8. Markoth macrumors 6502

    Markoth

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    #8
    Buying a Mac Pro for gaming is stupid. Nobody who knows what they're buying does that. There is no Mac suitable for games. The Mac Pro is designed for professionals, who benefit from computers which can handle high parallelism. Games do not qualify.
     
  9. Omega Mac macrumors 6502

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    A dedicated high performance per watt GPU in future ARM'd macs. This will be the fruit of the ARM race.
     
  10. jdillings macrumors 68000

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    I expect eventually they'll cut ties with Intel and bring it all in house so they aren't so dependent on Intel and their product roadmap.
     
  11. djcerla macrumors 68000

    djcerla

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    #11
    In related news, there's a performance comparison video of Pixel vs iPhone. It's a bloodbath.

    Those ridicolous waiting times compound in minutes, hours, days of your life lost staring at a progress bar.
     
  12. QCassidy352 macrumors G4

    QCassidy352

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    #12
    iMacs with dedicated GPUs can handle most games just fine. They are by no means gaming computers, but they play modern titles just fine, especially at the higher end.
     
  13. decafjava macrumors 68030

    decafjava

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    #14
    For who? Do you have a link?
     
  14. 2457248 Suspended

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    #15
    imo, they're better at hardware than they are at software lately.
     
  15. Omega Mac macrumors 6502

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    #16
    Wow, watched this video here,

    I don't play games on my iPhone 6s but in that video they load up almost instantly compared to the pixel and this time the resolution of the devices is on par. (A previous criticism made against historic comparison videos.) The other tests are often on par or so close going to either device but the game loading speed is mind blowingly fast... Apple console ahoy???

    Beyond impressive... maybe Apples plan is to storm the mobile games market were it has historically lost in the PC gaming market.
     
  16. satchmo macrumors 68000

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    #17
    Well, it's not quite that bad.

    But I do hope tomorrow's MBP's give us a dGPU option for both the 13" and 15" models. Heck, even MS has it in their Surface Book announced today.
     
  17. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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  18. Mac Fly (film) macrumors 65816

    Mac Fly (film)

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    I knew you could do if MR.
     
  19. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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    #20
    wut?
     
  20. BornAgainMac macrumors 603

    BornAgainMac

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  21. NamE_O macrumors member

    NamE_O

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    #22
    Apple is doing an excellent job with CPU&GPU for iDevices. But is it time for Apple to reduce dependence on Intel for Mac yet? We all know Apple's A10 Fusion chip is about as good, if not better, as Intel's M series chips.
     
  22. holmesf macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    For iOS Apple has a technology called Bitcode that allows them to optimize apps for different CPU architectures after they have been submitted to the store. If Apple brought that technology to Mac it could allow them to have a large number of apps in the Mac App Store ready on day 1 for a new CPU architecture (whether that's ARM or something else). The fact that they have not yet done this leads me to believe that they don't have any immediate plans for non-Intel Macs.
     
  23. aeshaettr_ macrumors member

    aeshaettr_

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    #24
    I have no doubt that Apple will eventually build their own silicon for the mac line. The main problem they need to solve is software compatibility. Still, their engineers seem to know what their are doing. Kudos
     
  24. HJM.NL macrumors 68000

    HJM.NL

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    #25
    Wish they would shine in more areas but that's something from the past. I also hope they sustain shining here. But if history repeats, it won't last long.
     

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