iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Interview with Imagination Technologies

<Q>: Hello! Thank you very much for spending your time answering our questions. We are glad that you managed to give us a few minutes. To start with, could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us in brief about your position in Imagination Technologies?
<A>: I'm David Harold and I'm the PR manager for Imagination Technologies and its divisions: Ensigma Technologies, VideoLogic Systems and PowerVR Technologies.
<Q>: Could you tell us in brief about Imagination Technologies?
<A>: Imagination Technologies Group plc is an international company that develops, licenses and supplies market-leading 2D/3D graphics, digital video, audio and speech technologies and products for consumer entertainment and PC Markets. Since it was founded in 1985, the company has introduced, via licensing arrangements or directly, a succession of innovative technologies, silicon chips and add-in boards, which have played a major role in the development of multimedia and computer-based entertainment systems. Indeed, the company has deployed and planned technologies for games consoles, PC's, arcade entertainment machines, digital set-top boxes, in car information/entertainment systems, and mobile devices. Our corporate headquarters is in the United Kingdom and we're publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange. More information is available on the Imagination Technologies web site at www.imgtec.com.
<Q>: So, it is not a secret that most of questions will be about the new chip generation named KYRO developed by Imagination Technologies. Also we know, STM is a manufacturer of KYRO. So, the questions are the following: could you describe the part of work made by Imagination Technologies? Did you only design architecture and software (SDK, DDK) or did you also design the chip?
<A>: It's a collaborative process. We designed the KYRO architecture and software. We worked together with ST on layout. ST does all the manufacturing and sales of KYRO.
<Q>: What do you think about future of tile rendering architectures? This architecture really reduces memory bandwidth, but will it be effective for applications with a million or more polygons per frame?
<A>: Tile based renderers will continue to be effective even with the potentially huge number of polygons per scene. We have been developing solutions to maintain the architectural benefits of our tile based renderer and have applied for a number of patents in this area.
<Q>: Who do you think to be the main competitors for KYRO based cards? What do you plan to offer to beat them or to increase your presence at the market?
<A>: NVIDIA products are out main competitors. We plan to offer much better feature sets, future-proofing and better price/performance.
<Q>: What is IMG going to do to attract customers (low prices, high quality or warranties and support)?
<A>: Well, our customers are very few - NEC, STMicroelectronics and the like. It's more accurate to call them partners. They then sell processors based on our technology and they have a lot of advantages doing so. They're huge companies, with massive resources and economies of scale and they are dealing with technology in PowerVR that is inherently very cost-effective, yet powerful too. This helps them to attract customers for PowerVR.
<Q>: Could you name any graphics card manufactures from first division interested in KYRO? Is it true that NVIDIA doesn't allow vendors to make cards based on chips different from their own?
<A>: I can't name any more manufacturers until they announce products themselves I'm afraid. I can't speak for NVIDIA either. Why not ask them what they think?
<Q>: A very popular question - how will be final (retail) cards clocked (chip/memory)?
<A>: 115 core and memory.
<Q>: We've heard that current KYRO design has some mistakes, so the clocking is low. Is it true? Do you plan to redesign the chip?
<A>: That's not the case at all.
<Q>: Will we see a special KYRO version to be integrated into mainboards?
<A>: I don't believe one is currently planned.
<Q>: Why doesn't Kyro have HW T&L?
<A>: T&L is good technology and we are already using it in out latest arcade solutions. However the applications just aren't there on the PC right now. At the minute T&L isn't as useful a benefit on a PC processor as Tile Based Rendering. Compare Dagoth Moor at 32bit 1024x768 on a KYRO Board and a GeForce II MX and you can see this.
<Q>: Do you plan to add HW T&L? When can we expect announcements?
<A>: We are using T&L now in arcade solutions. We'll bring it to other platforms when the applications are there to really use it.
<Q>: Does KYRO use HW polygon sorting? And what about next generation chipsets?
<A>: It depends what you mean by HW polygon sorting.
Two possibilities - depth sorting (aka hidden surface removal), which is done on KYRO.
KYRO's difference is that is does HSR entirely on chip and in parallel on a per pixel basis.


Translucent polygon sorting: This sorts translucent polygons from back to front order (again per pixel to do it right) before drawing to ensure the final image looks correct. No PC chips do this. It is done on Dreamcast though...
<Q>: Could you describe Frame Buffer Tile parameters?
<A>: As a scene based capture system we operate on a tile at a time and only the components in that tile are operated on at any time. These are the parameters and can be fetched from either the frame buffer or AGP space.
<Q>: As far as we know, PowerVR technology is easily scaled, e.g. we can place two KYRO chips in one PCB and we see a linear increase of performance. Is it true? Do you plan multichip cards for PCs? What is your opinion about multichip solutions?
<A>: PowerVR is indeed very scalable. We use multiprocessor boards now in the arcade. However we prefer in the PC to increase performance of single chip solutions rather than adding multiple processors, which we think has proven a competitive disadvantage to some of our competitors who were forced down the multi-chip route by bandwidth issues.
<Q>: What about DX8 support? Will we see announcement that KYRO is pure Hal device (in DX8 terms)?
<A>: I understand DX8 support in KYRO is impressive. Certainly independent testers like PowerVR Revolution have reported that that's the case.
<Q>: Is PVRSGL dead?
<A>: PVRSGL has been moved from our SDK to the DDK, but like the rest of the industry our focus is on OGL and DirectX.
<Q>: What do you think about the current situation on 3D market? What do you think of its evelotution?
<A>: 3D is an enormously difficult problem to crack, from a technical standpoint, and one that it's difficult to succeed in commercially. The fast pace of change has taken its toll on many graphics companies and more will fall in the near future. We're happy that we have an amazing technology to exploit, with lots of patents applying to it, and great partners in NEC and ST - huge companies who aren't susceptible to the whiles of the graphics industry. We have some great plans for future products and plan to make PowerVR a very significant presence in PC 3D graphics - at least on par with our success in arcade and console.
<Q>: Which parameters do you consider most important for modern graphics cards: performance, graphics quality, innovations or something else?
<A>: These features all need to be present in balance. KYRO offers a really good performance level at an affordable price. Its graphics quality is excellent, with ITC, EMBM and 8-layer multitexturing. It's truly innovative too in that it brings Tile Based Rendering to the PC mass market.
<Q>: What's your opinion on integrated graphics (into mainboard chipsets, for example)? Is it the only way for evolution?
<A>: Integration to the motherboard is useful for some solutions, particularly low-cost, but there will be add-in accelerators for a long time to come.
<Q>: Could we expect to see a new leader or a new player in 3D graphics market in the nearest future?
<A>: I think in the PC arena ST will be very successful using PowerVR Technology.

Thank you for answers!!!!

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