It’s confirmed: Exynos 5 Octa uses an Imagination PowerVR GPU, not ARM Mali

March 12, 2013
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The Exynos 5 Octa (said to be powering the Galaxy S4) contains a PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU, instead of a Mali design from ARM. What does that mean for the user experience?

When Samsung unveiled the Exynos 5 Octa processor back at CES in January, the Korean corporation has been coy about the GPU that will accompany those eight CPU cores. In fact, Samsung said nothing about it, raising suspicions that something was going on in the GPU department.

Brian Klug from AnandTech said at that time that Samsung has ditched the ARM-designed Mali GPU in favor of a PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU from Imagination Technologies. This would be the first time Samsung has opted for a PowerVR GPU since the original Galaxy S.

You might know that one of the biggest proponents of the PowerVR GPU technology is Apple, which used various designs from Imagination in their “A” line of systems on a chip. In fact, Apple is a major stockholder in Imagination, owning about 10% of the British processor IP firm.

Imagination has recently confirmed that the Exynos 5 Octa is indeed using a PowerVR GPU. The SGX 544MP3 is a 3-core design clocked at 533MHz, and capable of achieving 51.1 GFLOPS, according to AnandTech.

So, how will the use of a PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU affect user experience? It’s not easy to compare chips, especially if you want to do an apples-to-apples comparison and to make it all easily digestible even by non-experts. Let’s just say that AnandTech puts the Exynos 5 Octa between the A5X that powers the iPad 3 and the A6X on the iPad 4, in terms of raw performance (assuming that the memory interface is the same).

Apple’s iPads and iPhones have consistently beaten competitors in benchmarks, a performance that is at least partially owed to the excellent PowerVR GPUs inside. So, from a Galaxy S4 user perspective, the news that Samsung has adopted a PowerVR design is great.

But why hasn’t Samsung stuck with the Mali design from ARM? Well, from what I understand, ARM has ceased developing the Mali-T604 (seen on the Nexus 10) and Mali-T658 GPUs, and is now pushing second generation Midgard designs like the Mali-T624. In this context, either Samsung wasn’t able to integrate T624 in the Exynos 5 Octa, or ARM hasn’t finalized the design.

Either way, unless you’re really passionate about ARM’s designs, the switch to Imagination isn’t likely to affect you, at least not in a meaningful negative way. Now we’ll just have to wait for the first graphics benchmark to see how the new Exynos 5 Octa on the Galaxy S4 does against competitors. It should be a beast.

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