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August 5, 2013

NVIDIA Shows Off Mobile Variant of Kepler GPU

Alex Woodie

NVIDIA used a recent graphics conference to demonstrate Project Logan, the low-power version of the Kepler GPU that it’s developing for smartphones and tablets. The GPU maker says that, when it ships, Project Logan will enable graphics capabilities for mobile devices that are on par with the most powerful desktop- and console-based gaming systems.

Using GPUs to maximize computing performance per watt is a critical aspect in HPC today. And as the HPC community marches toward exascale computing, the use of GPU and co-processor architectures will be critical to goosing performance while keeping the electricity bill manageable.

Likewise, power efficiency is also a big deal in the consumer gaming market, which faces similar trade-offs between processing power on the one hand and power and cooling demands on the other.

With Project Logan, NVIDIA says it’s taking the energy efficiency lessons it learned in the development of its HPC-focused Kepler GPU architecture and applying them to the booming consumer mobile space. 

As NVIDIA explains in this blog post, Project Logan is a Kepler GPU combined with “a new low-power inter-unit interconnect and extensive new optimizations” that are specifically designed for mobile devices.

This approach gives developers access to (almost) the same level of high-quality graphics rendering available in NVIDIA’s top-of-the-line GeForce GTX Titan GPU–including the utilization of tessellation, compute-based deferred rendering, advanced anti-aliasing, and post-processing algorithms–but at a fraction of the power consumption.

To demonstrate the graphics capability of Project Logan, the folks at NVIDIA showed how the low-power chip can render “Ira,” a fictional character that NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang first utilized to demonstrate the high-level rendering capabilities of Titan at a conference earlier this year. But instead of rendering Ira from a full desktop, NVIDIA rendered the head from a tablet during the demo at the Siggraph conference last month in Anaheim, California.


The amazing bit is that Logan is able to render Ira with almost all of the rendering techniques used in Titan, but while drawing only 2-3 watts instead of the full complement of 250 watts. NVIDIA says that Project Logan uses less than one-third the power of GPUs used in tablets such as the iPad 4, giving it lots of room to scale the graphics engine to deliver higher levels of detail.

Project Logan has only been running in the NVIDIA for several weeks, but the company is optimistic about the product’s future. “Having a Kepler core at the heart of Logan means we have both the programmability and performance to do high-end character rendering. This means game developers can develop awesome character for desktop or bring them to mobile,” NVIDIA says in the video.

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