Qualcomm: The mobile phone can be the [main] game console for many people

We enlisted the help of Will Brown, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Qualcomm to try and decipher how the company sees the future of mobile graphics.

We (miserably) failed however to find out more about the Adreno 330 GPU which is the company's next generation GPU.

Check out our recent interviews with Qualcomm VPs where we discussed about the core count race as well as what awaits Qualcomm in 2013.

What's the graphics and compute performance of the Adreno 330?

We have not disclosed this information. (ed : refer question #4)

Any more details about that GPU (Core Count etc)?

There really is no commonly accepted definition of a "Core" in a GPU. Some of our competitors like to talk about the number of "cores" they have, but they are not "cores" in the true sense of the word, like we have come to know when talking about CPUs. We have not yet disclosed what clock speeds will be available for Adreno 330. The important thing to measure is the experience that the GPU delivers – can it provide fluid, full featured graphics using the latest tools and APIs with low power consumption?

What DirectX feature level will the 330 support?

Snapdragon Adreno GPUs were the first to support Direct X on Windows Phone, and we continue to provide strong support. Adreno SDK and Adreno Profiler are some of the first DirectX tools for Windows RT that help directly take advantage of the underlying hardware. Adreno Profiler provides direct insights into GPU performance of any DirectX application. Our Direct X drivers support our unique FlexRender technology to dynamically switch between direct and deferred rendering.

Beyond what has been said at CES about the GPU capabilities of the Adreno 330, is there anything else that can be added?

The Adreno 320 GPU in S4 Prime and S4 Pro processors delivers more than three times the performance of its predecessor the Adreno 225. The Snapdragon 600 includes the speed-enhanced version of Adreno 320, which has around four times the graphics performance than Adreno 225.

As the first GPU in the Adreno 300 series, the Adreno 320 introduced support for new mobile and GPGPU compute APIs such as OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL and Renderscript Compute. The Adreno 330 in Snapdragon 800 provides roughly five times the graphics performance of the Adreno 225, and twice the compute performance than Adreno 320 (and around 1.5x better graphics performance than Adreno 320).

(ed: Anandtech quotes the Adreno 225 as reaching 12.8GFLOPS at 200MHz. The Adreno 330 is likely to exceed 64GFLOPS while the Adreno 320 should plateau at around 48GFLOPS; it is very unlikely Qualcomm’s comparisons are done at equal clock speeds).

As of 14 February, Qualcomm was the first mobile processor company to be certified by Khronos for conformance with the OpenGL ES 3.0 specifications. It’s the latest version of the most widely used high-level, cross-platform graphics API for games and sophisticated graphics programming.

Upcoming Snapdragon 600 and 800 powered devices with industry leading Adreno 300 series GPU will include support for OpenGL ES 3.0. In support of next-generation 3D graphics APIs like OpenGL ES 3.0, Adreno 320 enables more realistic 3D graphic effects through hardware acceleration of advanced rendering features like instancing, occlusion queries, superior texture compression formats, and multiple render targets.

Is Qualcomm on track to deliver the Adreno 420 GPU H2 2013 as mentioned at the 2011 IQ Event back?

Qualcomm did not mention this at the iQ event in Istanbul and we don’t comment on unannounced products (ed: Indeed, Qualcomm didn’t announce the Adreno 4xx in Istanbul. Instead, it mentioned an “up-to” 2.5GHz part (check out report here) that will support dual/quad next gen GPU. However, it’s worth pointing out that a leaked document that surfaced back in January 2013 – and was later pulled down at the request of Qualcomm – clearly mentions the Adreno 420, which appears to be a souped up version of the Adreno 330).

What are your thoughts about HSA and the future roles of the GPU sitting next to the CPU?

As a pioneer in the mobile heterogeneous computing space, Qualcomm is helping the HSA to establish new standards. This along with innovations in future Adreno GPU, Krait CPU, Hexagon DSP and system architecture will enable developers to deliver more innovative, power-efficient applications on future Snapdragon processors.

Would you say that the performance of the Adreno 330 is now on par with the Xbox 360 and the PS3?

This a difficult thing to compare due to the different design criteria. Game consoles don't care about power consumption are designed for essentially one purpose (they do not need to support phone calls or 4G wireless data, for example.) That said, mobile GPUs have come a long way very fast, and games like Reign of Amira and Infinity Blade running on a high-spec phone or tablet at 1080p are hard for most people to distinguish [quality wise] from a console.

With HDMI output (wired or wireless), wireless controllers, motion, gesture and voice control, the mobile phone can certainly be the [main] game console for many people. Mobile will continue to evolve at an ever increasing rate, so the gap will narrow again even faster, perhaps surpassing consoles before they can iterate again.