Rumor: The iPhone's next GPU

The Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU, of any modern computing device is an important piece of hardware that offloads 3D graphics rendering from the main processor. At CES 2010 last week, chip manufacturer Imagination Technologies may have spilled the beans on the GPU for the next generation of iPhones.

Imagination unveiled the PowerVR SGX545 GPU core design at CES, which is the only mobile phone GPU capable of OpenGL 3.2 and DirectX 10 level effects. The SGX545 also includes OpenCL support, which means that unused processing cycles on the chip can be used to offload work from the main CPU. The SGX545 is also multithreading-aware, and can provide an additional speed jump when used with multi-core processor designs such as the ARM Cortex-A9.

Imagination noted that they have produced a test chip for an unnamed "lead partner," which could very well be Apple. The Cupertino Kids have used PowerVR graphics in every iPhone and iPod touch, and many industry pundits believe the next generation of devices could be powered by a variant of the ARM Cortex-A9. Apple is also an investor in Imagination, having purchased a 9.5% stake in the chip manufacturer in 2008 and 2009. So it's very possible that the SGX545 could be churning out pixels in the next handheld you buy from the Apple Store.