Intel Considering Ivy Bridge GPU for Atom Processors

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Intel LogoIntel is reportedly considering using the GPU from its Ivy Bridge generation of CPUs in a future version of its Atom processor, which is used in smartphones, tablets, embedded devices, and netbooks.

Beginning with the “Westmere” generation of processors, Intel incorporated a graphics core on the CPU die. It improved upon that technology with “Sandy Bridge,” and “Ivy Bridge” will take the Sandy Bridge technology down from 32nm to 22nm.

Some of Intel’s Atom system-on-a-chip processors come with their own GPU, licensed from Imagination Technologies. The disclosure of a potential new GPU comes from someone in Intel’s graphics driver group who works with the open source community. Intel has had to submit graphics driver information in advance of the upcoming Linux 3.4 kernel.

“It’s part of our ongoing enabling work we do for Linux, but we aren’t discussing further detail about this architecture at this time,” said an Intel spokesman.

The future chip, codenamed Valley View, isn’t expected to launch until very late this year or early next year and succeed the Cedar Trail generation of Atom processors. Ivy Bridge is scheduled to ship before summer.

Both the Ivy Bridge GPU and the Imagination PowerVR GPU, codenamed “Rogue,” support DirectX 11.1. But beyond that, the Rogue uses a tile-based rendering architecture, while the Ivy Bridge GPU uses a traditional GPU architecture, meaning a total rewrite of the graphics drivers, according to Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research.

Intel Ivy Bridge“It’s not trivial or inexpensive to change IP. To switch out Imagination for Ivy Bridge cores would be quite an exercise,” said Peddie.

Not just that, but going to the Ivy Bridge technology would be a step back, said Peddie. The Ivy Bridge chip is not out for testing, but while it is reported to be a four-fold performance increase over Sandy Bridge, its performance still doesn’t compare to Rogue.

“The Rogue technology is really powerful. There’s hardly anything in the field that’s better than the Imagination Rogue processor. It’s really something special,” said Peddie. “It’s my belief that Rogue is a superior architecture, but I have no hard data to support that,” he adds.

So why would Intel do it? Other than a case of someone at Intel throwing a severe Not-Invented-Here fit – something all too frequent in the computer industry – there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to do it, Peddie added.

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