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iPhone graphics chip designer adds more oomph to GPUs

LAS VEGAS—Imagination Technologies, which designs graphics chips used in the iPhone and other top mobile products, is promising “console quality graphics” with an updated GPU lineup announced on Monday.

The company creates chip designs that it licenses to other firms for manufacture. It’s the same model as that used by ARM Holdings, but while ARM is known for its CPUs, Imagination is strongest in graphics.

Imagination said its new PowerVR Series6XT GPU cores are up to 50 percent faster “clock for clock, cluster for cluster” than its Series6 predecessors. That should allow sharper video playback and more realistic graphics gaming. The architecture also supports so-called Ultra HD.

Imagination also announced new GPU designs for entry-level devices. It said the PowerVR Series6XE cores will bring the latest graphics APIs to lower-priced devices for the first time, including OpenGL ES 3.0.

“Have you ever looked at your $100 smartphone or tablet after watching Unity’s ‘The Chase’ demo and said to yourself: ‘I wish my devices could run cool OpenGL ES 3.0 content like that?’ The good news coming out of CES 2014 is that soon they will,” Imagination said in a blog post. Here's what ‘The Chase’ demo looks like:

Imagination doesn’t say much about its relationship with Apple, but it’s known to provide the GPU designs for Apple’s iPhone and iPads, as well as devices from Samsung and others. ARM is also stepping up its GPU efforts, and Qualcomm is another big rival.

The Series6XT designs are available for licensing now, which means they could show up in consumer products later this year or next. They can be used in iOS, Windows, and Android devices.

It should also ensure that lower-priced phones and tablets will be able to run the newest versions of Google’s Android OS, which increasingly requires OpenGL ES 3.0.

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