Nvidia goes for mobile 3D

A new line of 3D accelerators will bring the technology of the desktop graphics-processing giant to mobile phones

Nvidia, the dominant supplier of 3D graphics acceleration technology for desktop PCs, is to sell 3D acceleration hardware for mobile phones. It produces photorealistic images while using less power than rivals, the company claims.

Competitors Imagination and ATI have already adapted technology from gaming consoles and workstations to mobile phones. Imagination's core, the PowerVR MBX, was developed with mobile chip design giant ARM and has already found some licensees. ATI announced its Imageon 2300 in January.

Nvidia's entry is the AR10 core, available immediately for licensing to companies building system-on-chips (SoC) for mobiles, Nvidia said on Wednesday. A distinguishing feature is nPower, patent-pending technology that Nvidia claims can deliver 10 times the energy efficiency of a software-based solution.

NPower, which has no relationship to the British energy company, is also built into two multimedia acceleration processors Nvidia announced on Wednesday, the GoForce 4000 and GoForce 3000. It reduces power through techniques such as reducing processor usage when it is not needed, low-leakage transistor geometry and on-die video and display memory. The announcements were made at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France.

Nvidia also claims the AR10 is the first 3D acceleration processor for mobiles that supports shaders, pixel-by-pixel graphics programming that can dramatically increase the realism of animated images. The company says that shaders reduce system power consumption and storage needs, important factors on any battery-powered device.

"By offering the AR10 core for license into cell phone system-on-chips, Nvidia is enabling the end consumer to have access to this technology," said Nvidia's vice president of handheld products, Phil Carmack, in a statment.

The core supports the OpenGL ES and Direct3Dm programming interfaces, used for creating 3D software that is not dependent on a single software or hardware platform.

Nvidia said content developers are already working on AR10-compatible software.

The GoForce 4000 and 3000 are currently sampling and handsets using them will appear later this year, Nvidia said. Mitsubishi will be the first manufacturer using the chips.