Samsung to Replace Mali GPU with PowerVR for Exynos 5 Octa?

January 14, 2013 - Written By Lucian Armasu

In what seems like a disappointing turn of events, Anandtech is reporting that the recently announced Samsung Exynos 5 Octa might do away with the Mali GPU it has been using for the past 2 generations of Galaxy S devices (with the exception of the original one), and switch back to Imagination’s PowerVR GPU’s.

The rumor says it will use the same PowerVR SGX554MP3 that the iPhone 5 is using, but it will be overclocked to 533 Mhz, which is almost twice as much as the clock speed of the GPU cores inside the iPhone 5. A GPU’s performance grows linearly when you increase the clock speed or the number of cores, so we can expect about twice the graphics performance of the iPhone 5. This may be why Samsung said it will have twice the GPU performance of “anything out there”. But then, they clearly meant only the iPhone, because the iPad 4’s A6X GPU is already more than twice as fast.

And this is why I have a problem with this switch. By the time Samsung switches to this GPU in their phones, it will already be obsolete. If they wanted to switch to PowerVR then they should’ve made the move worth it and actually try to surpass Apple in GPU performance. Instead they are adopting a last-gen GPU, that will not only be behind in graphics performance, but will also lack many features that even Mali T604 had, like OpenGL ES 3.0 and full OpenCL support (PowerVR 5x has partial support). In the mean time, Apple will more than likely switch to PowerVR Series 6 next year, probably starting with the spring refresh.

So Apple will now be ahead not only in performance, but also in features, which is something they could’ve at least had on Apple with the new Mali GPU’s. The new Mali T624, Mali T628 and Mali T678 should also be a lot more integrated with the big.Little architecture, and offer higher performance for GPGPU compute, which I think will be a rising trend in the near future, thanks to “applications” like real-time HDR, speech recognition, AR, Photo Spheres, and physics in games. Samsung’s move at this point to PowerVR, and to an old one, too, is certainly puzzling.