I spoke to Imagination Technologies – maker of the PowerVR chip that powers smartphones like the iPhone, Droid and many others – and they said, definitively, that you’ll have graphics comparable to the PlayStation 3 in three years.
They know this because these are the chips they’re designing right now. The way the development process works for phones is that Imagination comes up with a chip, which they licence, and that works its way through development cycles and people like Apple or HTC, which then incorporate them into their phones, which they in turn have to productise and bring to market. The whole thing takes three years. But in three years, says Imagination, you’re going to have a PS3 in your pocket. And that’s not just running at the 480×340 resolution that most phones have now, that’s PS3-esque graphics on 720p output via HDMI to a TV. Hell, some phones in three years will have a 720p display native.
But there are going to be some interesting things between now and then. Imagination is still working on support for the products out now – the chips in the iPhones and the Droids and the Nokias that use PowerVR. The two most interesting things are Flash acceleration in hardware and OpenCL support, which enables GPGPU computing.
Secondly, there’s OpenCL support, which allows devices to utilise the GPU – the graphics chip – to help out in general purpose computing. For a more in depth look on what this means, check out our feature on GPGPUs, but in essence it’s going to allow multi-threaded tasks to be executed faster than they would be otherwise.
I also asked Imagination about what’s going to be different about their chips that will hit the market one, two and three years from now, and they say one of the big things is going to be focused on multiprocessors. Theoretically you can get about three or four into a phone without going too crazy on power demands, which will help them pull off that PS3-equivalency we talked about earlier.
But if you’re looking forward to what’s coming one year from now, check out the screenshots in the post, taken from the demos they had running on sample hardware.