GDC 2012: Intel GPA 2012 Expanded to Support Smartphones, Tablets, Ultrabooks

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Intel LogoIntel announced yesterday at GDC that it would be releasing an updated version of its Graphics Performance Analyzers, GPA 2012, to the public. The GPA is a tool suite meant to help developers optimize their game or app performance on Intel processor-based platforms, and was previously only available for PC. GPA 2012 features newly added support for mobile applications for Ultrabooks as well as Android-based smartphones and tablets.

“GPA 2012 provides you with a high level of understanding of your game on a particular device,” said Joshua Doss, a graphics performance tools product manager for Intel who was on hand at GDC to briefly show me the tool kit in action with an Android app.

GPA 2012The GPA was originally introduced by Intel back when integrated graphics chips generally underperformed and developers had issues getting their software to run on the less powerful hardware. The tool suite was meant to help them optimize their games’ performance so they could run smoothly, even on the weaker integrated graphics chips.

There are three parts to the GPA tool suite, which include the System Analyzer, the Frame Analyzer, and the Platform Analyzer. Put simply, the System Analyzer shows how the app is affecting the system. By analyzing the game performance, developers can find where bottlenecks are occurring and slowing down the game or affecting graphics. This latest version of GPA supports a standalone mode in which developers can watch real-time analysis (or, as I saw in a demonstration, can have it forwarded to a document for later viewing) of app performance on smartphones, tablets, and Ultrabooks. GPA 2012 also adds power metrics so it doesn’t just measure performance, but also power efficiency, a crucial aspect when programming for portable devices.

GPA 2012 wireframes onThe Frame Analyzer, meanwhile, offers “deep frame analysis” of individual facets of the app, including shaders, textures, and pixel history. With this tool, developers can see all lower level components of a frame and how each draw call is being put together, and with this, they can determine valuable information like what the most expensive part of a frame is. So Doss was actually able to show me, in real time, how each individual element of the visuals impacted performance without affecting the app’s source code. For example, he was able to switch the game’s visuals on the Android phone to wireframes on the fly, and we watched in the GPA suite on his PC as the Frame Analyzer reflected the results.

Finally, there is the Platform Analyzer, which shows how the CPU and the GPU interact while running the app, as well as how the CPUs interact with each other in the case of a multi-core system. With the update, GPA 2012 now offers additional data to provide more system behavior information, and can now handle large volumes of data “to emulate application performance on an extended run.”

For developers that are interested, the GPA 2012 is available now as a free download from www.intel.com/software/gpa, but the tool kit will only work with devices that run on Atom-based processors. Support for Android devices expected to be publically released this year.

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