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Next Gen Qualcomm Adreno Hardware has Unified Shaders, OpenGL ES 3.0 Compliant

Qualcomm Adreno

The competition in the field of mobile graphics is heating up. For an event held at the W Hotel in San Francisco, Qualcomm invited 30 top journalists and analysts to present the details about the upcoming quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor featuring next generation graphics – Adreno 320.

Qualcomm means business and the American telecommunications equipment giant selected San Francisco, at the very top of Silicon Valley to demonstrate their 2013 parts and show that they do have a say in the future of mobile industry. The presentation had even more importance than usual, since Qualcomm disappointed a lot of their partners (especially Hewlett-Packard, who canceled their 1st gen Windows RT tablets).

During the session, the company focused on benchmarking the performance of its Snapdragon processors, which is Qualcomm's custom take on ARM Cortex-A15 architecture codenamed "Krait", multimedia processors (Audio, Video, Camera processing etc.), Connectivity (Baseband, 3G, 4G etc.) and Adreno GPU. According to Qualcomm, even the current generation Adreno 200 Series GPUs supports Windows 8, Google Chrome and Jelly Bean (Android) operating systems. They also have support for DirectX 9.0c and OpenGL ES 2.0 APIs.

First off, to a great surprise, Qualcomm Adreno 320 is the first GPU with unified shaders, designed for advanced rendering modes. By looking at a architectural diagram (pictured below), Adreno's GPU architecture is starting to look more like the advanced graphics architectures from AMD and NVIDIA. True, Qualcomm is still a long way off from reaching the level of efficiency and performance especially from NVIDIA. GPGPU functionality is here with OpenCL and RenderScript Compute, while most of focus will go to OpenGL ES 3.0.

Codenamed Halti, OpenGL ES 3.0 is poised for introduction at the upcoming Siggraph 2012 conference, bringing new features which move graphics from the fixed pipeline into a fully programmable one.

According to a story detailing Qualcomm's benchmarking day,

"Tim Leland, who is the product manager responsible for Qualcomm's Adreno GPU group. He began to talk about the Adreno GPU regarding how the Snapdragon Adreno GPU is used primarily in three ways, with empasis being put on graphics rendering, composition and GPGPU compute. The real, new feature of Adreno 320 came in the form of Qualcomm's FlexRender which is Qualcomm's new technology which enables intelligent switching between tiled and direct rendering modes to maximize application performance and minimize power consumption.
FlexRender enables the GPU to intelligently switch between these two modes through an API that would tell the GPU to switch from tile based rendering to direct rendering as tile based rendering is the default for the GPU. Tim also stated that they were working on a tool to enable the GPU to analyze the situation frame by frame and to render each individual frame based upon the most power efficient method be it direct or tile based deffered rendering."

In any case, Qualcomm is becoming more aggressive. However, it seems that the company still isn't there (yet), given the rumored issues with Windows 8 drivers and the ongoing aggressive acquisition of new talent , Still, Qualcomm's Adreno 320 GPU and Snapdragon S4 Prime/Pro will give NVIDIA T40 (Tegra 4), as well as AMD's Temash (x86+ARM+DX11 GPU), Intel's Atom Valleyview, a good run for their money.

Once again, we remind unsuspecting readers that "Adreno" is a clever anagram for "Radeon".

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