Graphics And Video
A bit of poking around and combining sources led me to make a few comparisons that Intel itself didn’t want to discuss during its Moorestown briefing.
The Palm Pre and Apple iPhone 3GS both use a Texas Instruments OMAP3430 processor based on ARM’s Cortex A8 core and a PowerVR SGX GPU. Both are considered very strong on graphics, and are well-known for their lush 3D interfaces, right? The Snapdragon processor found in phones such as Google’s Nexus One, the HTC Incredible, and HTC’s EVO 4G has half the peak fill rate of the TI processor. Believe it or not, Menlow outperformed the OMAP3430 by 60 percent—you just never heard about it because battery life (or lack thereof) overshadowed everything else. But the kicker is that Moorestown, with its 400 MHz GPU, doubles Menlow’s fill rate, and Medfield, the successor to Moorestown, will double this rate yet again. To accommodate this bandwidth, Intel had to revamp the CPU-to-graphics bus, raising it to 6.4 GB/s on reads and 4.3 GB/s on writes, figures that Intel quipped were “ridiculously high.”
Intel builds plenty of standards support into its “Thalia” graphics core, including OpenVG 1.1, OpenGL 2.1, OpenGL ES 2.0, and DirectX 9.L. The emphasis on OpenGL no doubt explains why Intel loves to showcase Moorestown running a Doom 3 timedemo (at around 100 FPS), but this also pays off in accelerating vector graphics and supporting apps like Adobe Flash Player. This also plays a key part in making the Moblin/MeeGo 3D Clutter UI so compelling.
Just as the graphics support is very similar between Menlow and Moorestown (including their mutual support for SSE3 instructions), the same is true for video. Lincroft can handle simultaneous 1080p30 HD and SD decoding. If you’re willing to accept 480p, MPEG-2 quality, Lincroft can tackle up to half a dozen video streams at once. Such hefty capabilities are possible because of Intel’s integrated acceleration features. On the video side, Lincroft bakes in hardware acceleration for MPEG-2 and H.264/MPEG-4 encoding and decoding. Also tack on hardware decoding of WMV and VC-1 as well as software decoding for MPEG-1, Xvid, Real Video, and Adobe Flash Video. Photo buffs will appreciate that Lincroft adds hardware acceleration for JPEG encoding.
Video addicts will wonder about bit rates, so know that Moorestown can handle 20 Mb/s on every profile, from 720p baseline at 30 FPS to 1080p high profile at 30 FPS. No other phone platform available today can decode 1080p. Only a few can even touch 720p MP at 10 Mb/s. Intel mentioned that the Aava Mobile-produced Moorestown reference design has enough decode bandwidth to blast through 40 Mb/s, although you’d never likely encounter such content. More likely, you might want to decode two 20 Mb/s streams concurrently.
Intel may now own the video crown in this segment—whoever thought we’d use that phrase in print?—but competition is coming up fast. In early 2009, TI announced its OMAP 4 series based on ARM’s Cortex-A9. The A9 will reportedly deliver a 7x performance gain, enabling 1080p video recording, capture of 20-megapixel images (good luck affording the sensors for that), and battery runtime able to play back MP3s for one week straight. If it seems strange for Intel to be hinting strongly at Medfield before Moorestown even arrives, the A9 would be why.