Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 are the very first mobile devices to support OpenCL and OpenGL ES 3.0. While I don’t think we have drivers for the latter yet, as the GPU’s themselves haven’t been certified by Khronos (group behind OpenGL and OpenCL) yet, apparently we do know that they have drivers for OpenCL right now. But what is OpenCL anyway?
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OpenCL means Open Computing Language and it includes a C-like language that allows developers to write code for the GPU that can make it act like a CPU. This can give a big boost in performance to certain tasks, if the developers code in OpenCL for it. OpenCL has been widely adopted by all CPU and GPU makers in the PC world, and now it’s about to be adopted by mobile chip makers as well. All new GPU’s launching this year (with the exception of Tegra 4) should support OpenCL and OpenGL ES 3.0.
However, OpenCL hasn’t been used that much by software makers yet, because it’s not that easy to program for the GPU. When they do use OpenCL, they can make some pretty killer applications, such as much faster voice recognition, computational photography, it can handle anything that involves photos or videos faster and in a more efficient way, and it can also be used for better physics inside games, or help create more realistic graphics.
We probably won’t be able to see much of that yet, until a wide range of devices in the market support it, and it’s worth it for developers to use it. Until then we may see some phone or tablet manufacturers develop their own OpenCL software to take advantage of the “compute” power they have in their GPU’s, and to differentiate themselves from the competition with certain features.
Speaking of “compute” GPU’s, ARM has 2 GPU’s that are specifically designed to add more compute performance (twice as much actually) compared to the “regular” Mali GPU’s. These GPU’s are the Mali T658 and Mali T678, which we’ll probably only see in tablets this year.
The developer community can still start to take advantage of the OpenCL support in Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 right now, if only to test the waters, and be prepared for when more OpenCL-enabled devices will be available on the market next year.