PowerVR is a division of Imagination Technologies (formerly VideoLogic) that develops hardware and software IP for 2D and 3D rendering, and for video encoding, decoding, and associated image processing. In the late 1990s they competed heavily with 3dfx in the 3D accelerator market for desktop PC's and game consoles, but both companies were forced from this market by the rise of OpenGL, Direct3D and the ATI and NVIDIA cards that better supported these technologies. Since then, the PowerVR technology has been aimed primarily at the low-power market and are now found inside many mobile devices such as palmtops and cellphones. PowerVR accelerators are not manufactured by PowerVR, but instead the IP is licensed to other companies such as NEC, Intel, TI, and Samsung.


Sega Dreamcast

The second generation PowerVR2 chip found a market in the Sega Dreamcast console between 1998 and 2001. As part of an internal competition at Sega to design the successor to the Saturn, the PowerVR2 was licensed to NEC and was chosen ahead of a rival design based on the 3dfx Voodoo 2. Thanks to the performance of the PowerVR2, several Dreamcast games such as Quake III Arena could rival their PC counterparts in quality and performance. However, the success of the Dreamcast meant that the PC variant, sold as Neon 250, appeared a year late to the market and was at that time mid-range at best.


In 2001, STMicroelectronics adopted the third generation PowerVR3 for their STG4000 "KYRO" and STG 4500 "KYRO II" (right) chips. The STM PowerVR3 KYRO II, released in 2001, was able to rival the costlier ATI Radeon DDR and NVIDIA GeForce 2 GTS in benchmarks of the time, despite not having hardware transform and lighting. Unfortunately, as games were optimised for hardware transform and lighting, the KYRO II lost its performance advantage and is not supported by most modern games.

STM's STG5000 chip was based upon the PowerVR4, which did include hardware T&L but it never came to commercial fruition.


The PowerVR chipset uses a unique approach to rendering a 3D scene, known as Tile-Based Deferred Rendering (often abbreviated as TBDR). As the polygon generating program feeds triangles to the PowerVR driver it stores them in memory in triangle strip format. Unlike other architectures, polygon rendering is not performed until all polygon information has been collated for the current frame – hence rendering is deferred.

In order to render, the display is split into rectangular sections in a grid pattern. Each section is known as a tile. With each tile is associated a list of the triangles that visibly overlap that tile. Each tile is rendered in turn to produce the final image.

Tiles are rendered using a process similar to ray-casting. Rays are cast onto the triangles associated with the tile and a pixel is rendered from the triangle closest to the camera. The PowerVR hardware typically calculates the depths associated with each polygon for one tile row in 1 cycle.

The advantage of this method is that, unlike with a more traditional z-buffered rendering pipeline, work is never done determining what a polygon looks like in an area where it is obscured by other geometry. It also allows for correct rendering of partially transparent polygons independent of the order in which they are processed by the polygon producing application. (This capability was only implemented in Series 1 and 2. It has been removed since for lack of API support and cost reasons.) More importantly, as the rendering is circumscribed to a tile at a time, the whole tile can be in fast onchip memory, which is flushed to video memory before passing on to render the next tile. Under normal circumstances, each tile is visited just once per frame.

PowerVR is not the only pioneer of tile based deferred rendering, but the only one to successfully bring a TBDR solution to market. Microsoft also conceptualised the idea with their abandoned "Talisman" project. Gigapixel, a company that developed IP for tile-based deferred 3D graphics, were bought by 3Dfx, who were subsequently bought by Nvidia. Nvidia has no official plans to pursue tile-based rendering at present.

Intel uses a similar concept in their integrated graphics solutions. However, their method, coined Zone Rendering, does not perform full hidden surface removal (HSR) and deferred texturing, therefore wasting fillrate and texture bandwidth on pixels that are not visible in the final image.

Recent advances in hierarchical z buffering have effectively incorporated ideas previously only used in deferred rendering, including the idea of being able to split a scene into tiles and of potentially being able to accept or reject tile sized pieces of polygon.

PowerVR chipsets

Places where PowerVR technology and its various iterations have been used are:

Series 1 (NEC)

Product Type Chip Name Clock Rate
Apocalypse 3d/3dx 3D PC add-in board PCX-1 and PCX-2 60 and 66 MHz
Matrox M3d 3D PC add-in board PCX-2 66 MHz

Series 2 (NEC)

Product Type Chip Name Clock Rate
Sega Dreamcast Console CLX2 100 MHz
Neon250 2D/3D PC Add-in Board PowerVR 250PC 125 MHz
Sega NAOMI Arcade Machine CLX2 100 MHz
Sega NAOMI2 Arcade Machine 2 CLX2s + ELAN (Transform and Lighting processor) 100 MHz

Series 3 (STMicro)

Product Type Chip Name Clock Rate
KYRO 2D/3D PC add-in board STG4000 115 MHz
KYRO II 2D/3D PC add-in board STG4500 175 MHz
KYRO IISE 2D/3D PC add-in board STG4800 200 MHz

Series 4 (cancelled)


With KYRO 3 (2D/3D AIB) products shelved due to STMicro closing its graphics division, PowerVR concentrated on the portable market with its next design, the low power PowerVR MBX. It, and its SGX successors, have become the de facto standards for mobile 3D, having been licensed by seven of the top ten semiconductor manufacturers including Intel, Texas Instruments, Samsung, NEC, NXP Semiconductors, Freescale, Renesas, and Sunplus, and in use in many high-end cellphones including the Apple iPhone, Nokia N95, Sony Ericsson P1, and Motorola RIZR Z8.

Products that have MBX on board, but do not necessarily use it:

Freescale i.MX31 -- MBX Lite + FPU (VFP11™) + ARM1136

  • Garz & Fricke Adelaide
  • TQ Components TQMa31

Freescale i.MX31C -- MBX Lite + FPU (VFP11™) + ARM1136

  • Cogent CSB733 (SOM)

Freescale MPC5121e -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + PowerPC e300

  • CherryPal cloud computer
  • LimePC range (UMPC, HandheldPC, PalmPC, LimePC HDTV set)
  • PhaedruS SystemS CSB781

Intel CE 2110 -- MBX Lite + XScale

  • ASUS set-top boxes
  • Chunghwa Telecom Multimedia on Demand set-top boxes
  • Digeo Moxi Multi-Room HD Digital Media Recorder
  • Digeo Moxi Mate
  • Digital Video Networks set-top boxes
  • OKI Next Generation Hybrid STB
  • ZTE set-top boxes

Marvell 2700G (was Intel 2700G) -- MBX Lite (as a companion to the Marvell (was Intel) XScale processor PXA27x)

NXP Nexperia PNX4008 -- MBX Lite + FPU + ARM926

NXP Nexperia PNX4009 -- MBX Lite + FPU + ARM926

  • Sony Ericsson G700 and G700c
  • Sony Ericsson G700 Business Edition
  • Sony Ericsson G900
  • Sony Ericsson P200

Renesas SH3707 -- MBX + VGP + FPU + SH-4

Renesas SH7770 (SH-Navi1) -- MBX + VGP + FPU + SH-4A, Renesas unidentified -- MBX + SuperH

  • Alpine Car Information Systems
  • Clarion MAX960HD
  • Clarion NAX963HD
  • Clarion NAX970HD
  • Clarion NAX973HD and MAX973HD
  • Clarion MAX9700DT
  • Clarion MAX9750DT
  • Mitsubishi HDD Navi H9000
  • Mitsubishi HDD Navi H9700
  • Pioneer Carrozzeria HDD CyberNavi AVIC-VH009
  • Pioneer Carrozzeria HDD CyberNavi AVIC-ZH900MD

Renesas SH7775 -- MBX + VGP + FPU + SH-4A

Renesas SH73180 (SH-Mobile3), Renesas SH73182 (SH-Mobile3+), Renesas SH73230 (SH-Mobile3A), Renesas SH73450 (SH-Mobile3A+) -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + SH4AL-DSP(SH-X)

  • Fujitsu F702iD
  • Fujitsu F901iC
  • Fujitsu F902i
  • Fujitsu F902iS
  • Helio Hero
  • Mitsubishi D702i
  • Mitsubishi D851iWM (MUSIC PORTER X)
  • Mitsubishi D901i
  • Mitsubishi D901iS
  • Mitsubishi D902i
  • Mitsubishi D902iS
  • Motorola MS550
  • Pantech PN-8300
  • SK Teletech (SKY) IM-8300

Renesas SH-Mobile G1 -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + SH4AL-DSP(SH-X)

  • Fujitsu F704i
  • Fujitsu Raku-Raku PHONE III (F882iES)
  • Fujitsu Raku-Raku PHONE Basic (F883i)
  • Fujitsu Raku-Raku PHONE IV (F883iES)
  • Fujitsu F903i
  • Fujitsu F903iX HIGH-SPEED
  • Fujitsu F904i
  • Mitsubishi D704i
  • Mitsubishi D903i
  • Mitsubishi D903iTV
  • Mitsubishi D904i

Renesas SH-Mobile G2 -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + SH4AL-DSP(SH-X)

  • Fujitsu F905i
  • Mitsubishi D905i
  • Sharp SH905i
  • Sony Ericsson SO905i
  • Sony Ericsson SO905iCS

Renesas SH-Mobile G3 -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + SH4AL-DSP(SH-X)

  • Fujitsu F906i
  • Fujitsu F706i
  • Sharp SH906i
  • Sharp SH906iTV
  • Sharp SH706i
  • Sharp SH706ie
  • Sharp SH706iw
  • Sony Ericsson SO906i
  • Sony Ericsson SO706i

Samsung S3C2460 -- MBX Lite + FPU + ARM926

Samsung S5L8900 -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + FPU (VFP11™) + ARM1176

SiRF SiRFprima -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + MVED1 + FPU + ARM11

Sunplus unidentified -- MBX

Texas Instruments OMAP 2420 -- MBX + VGP + FPU (VFP11™) + ARM1136

  • Motorola MOTO Q 9h
  • Motorola MOTO Q music 9m
  • Motorola MOTORIZR Z8
  • Motorola MOTORIZR Z10
  • NEC N902i
  • NEC N902iS
  • Nokia E90 Communicator
  • Nokia N82
  • Nokia N93
  • Nokia N93i
  • Nokia N95 (Classic, US, SoftBank X02NK Japanese, and 8 GB versions) (N95 RM-159 / 245 = TI OMAP DM290Z WV C-68A0KYW EI )
  • Nokia N800
  • Nokia N810
  • Nokia N810 Wimax edition
  • Panasonic P702iD
  • Panasonic P702iS
  • Panasonic P902i
  • Panasonic P902iS
  • Sharp SH702iD
  • Sharp SH702iS
  • Sharp SH902i
  • Sharp SH902iS
  • Sharp DOLCE SL (SH902iSL)
  • Sony Ericsson SO902i
  • Sony Ericsson SO902iWP+

Texas Instruments OMAP2430 -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + FPU + ARM1136

Texas Instruments OMAP2530 -- MBX Lite + VGP Lite + FPU + ARM1176

  • Thinkware iNAVI K2

PowerVR Video Cores(MVED/VXD)

Marvell PXA310 -- MVED

  • Garmin Nuvi (TBC)
  • Gigabyte GSmart MS808
  • HP iPaq 11x/21x
  • Samsung i780
  • Samsung i900 Omnia
  • Samsung i910 Omnia

SI Electronics unidentified -- VXD380

NEC unidentified -- VXD380

Series 5 (SGX)

  • PowerVR SGX (pixel, vertex, and geometry shader hardware)
    • next generation fully programmable universal scalable shader architecture
    • exceeding requirements of OpenGL 2.0 and up to DirectX 10.1 Shader Model 4.1
    • licensed to Intel, Renesas, NEC, TI (for OMAP 3), Samsung (for manufacturing), Sigma Designs, SigmaTel, Apple and others
    • 7 variants announced:
      • SGX510 (3 MPolys/sec)(withdrawn), SGX520 (7 MPolys/sec), and SGX530 (14 MPolys/sec) for the handheld mobile market
      • SGX535 and SGX540 (28 MPolys/sec) for handheld high end mobile, portable, MID, UMPC, consumer, and automotive devices
      • SGX540 (1000Mpix/s, 20-35MPolys/s), SGX545, SGX 550 (100 MPolys/sec) and SGX555 for advanced consumer devices, laptop, and desktop products

Products that include the SGX:

Apple unidentified -- SGX520 + VXD380

Apple unidentified -- SGX531 + VXD380

Apple unidentified -- SGX540 + VXD380

Intel CE 3100 -- SGX535(Intel GMA500) + Pentium M

Intel Sodaville -- SGX + x86

Intel System Controller Hub -- SGX535(Intel GMA500) + VXD370

  • abit (USI) MID-100
  • abit (USI) MID-150
  • abit (USI) MID-200
  • aigo MID P8860
  • aigo MID P8880
  • aigo MID P8888
  • Arbor Gladius G0710
  • ASUS R50A
  • ASUS R70A
  • Averatec (TriGem) MID
  • BenQ Aries2
  • BenQ S6
  • Clarion MiND
  • Compal jAX10
  • Digifriends WiMAX MID
  • EB mobile internet device
  • Fujitsu UMPC U2010
  • Fujitsu LifeBook U2020
  • Gigabyte M528
  • Hanbit Pepper Pad 3
  • Kohjinsha/Inventec S32
  • Kohjinsha/Inventec SC3
  • Kohjinsha W130
  • Kohjinsha/Inventec X5
  • Lenovo IdeaPad U8
  • LG XNote B831
  • NEXCOM MRC 2100
  • NEXCOM MTC 2100
  • NEXCOM MTC 2100-MD
  • NOVA SideArm2 SA2I
  • OQO mobile internet device
  • Panasonic Toughbook CF-U1
  • Quanta mobile internet device
  • TCS-003-01595 - Intel ATOM Rugged Tablet PC 8.4"
  • Toshiba mobile internet device
  • viliv (YuKyung) S5
  • viliv (YuKyung) S7
  • WiBrain i1
  • WiBrain M1
  • WILLCOM D4 (Sharp WS016SH)
  • Various system boards and Computer on Modules including:
    • Adlink Express-MLC
    • Advantech SOM-5775
    • Congatech conga-CA
    • Congatech-IVI Starterkit
    • CoreExpress-ECO
    • Eurotech Catalyst
    • Eurotech Isis
    • Eurotech Proteus
    • IBASE IB822
    • Inhand FireFly
    • Kontron nanoETXexpress-SP
    • Kontron microETXexpress-SP
    • Kontron KTUS15/miTX
    • LiPPERT CoreExpress-ECO COM
    • MEN Micro XM1
    • MSI MS-9A06
    • Portwell PEB-2736
    • Portwell PCS-8230
    • Portwell NANO-8044
    • RadiSys Procelerant Z500
    • Woodpecker Z5xx Micro COM Express
    • Xilinx XA Spartan-3E FPGA

Intel Moorestown -- Lincroft SoC (SGX + very low power x86)

NEC NaviEngine1 -- SGX535 + ARM11 MPCore (Quad)

  • Alpine Car Information Systems (Spring 2010)

Renesas SH-Mobile 4 (in development) -- SGX + SH-4

Texas Instruments OMAP3420 -- SGX530 + Cortex-A8

Texas Instruments OMAP3430 -- SGX530 + Cortex-A8

  • Nokia Internet Tablets

Texas Instruments OMAP3440 -- SGX530 + Cortex-A8

Texas Instruments OMAP3515 -- SGX530 + Cortex-A8

Texas Instruments OMAP3530 -- SGX530 + Cortex-A8

  • Beagle Board
  • Gumstix overo(TM)
  • Pandora (console)
  • Archos Internet Media Tablets - Archos 5, Archos 7, Archos 5g

Texas Instruments OMAP4XXX -- SGX540 + Cortex-A9


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