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Bitboys offers tiny mobile graphics chips

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Finnish company Bitboys, the one-time golden child of the graphics chip arena, today made its Acceleon mobile graphics chip design available to licensees.

The Acceleon line comprises three cores: the G10, G20 and G30. The G10 uses just 60,000 transistors - these are the smallest graphics chips around, Bitboys claims - to accelerate not only 2D and 3D raster graphics, as do almost all of today's graphics chips, but also vector graphics.

By 'vector graphics', Bitboys doesn't mean the old, Asteroids-style screens but the display equivalent of Adobe PostScript, were the image shown on the screen is stored as a complex set of display instructions which are used to render a final bitmap image.

Bitboys is touting the G10's suitability for "vector-based user interfaces". Perhaps the best-known example of said is Apple's Mac OS X. Its Quartz graphics engine uses PDF to vectorise the UI, which permits quite a few cute UI effects, but has slowed the Mac's Aqua UI down to below the performance achieved by the old Mac OS 9 UI.

Anyway, the G10 is capable of rendering this kind of modern, Bezier-based interface and anti-aliasing the results as it goes, a system which "provides no performance penalty when enabled", Bitboys claims.

The G10 offers fairly basic 3D rendering. The G20 expands on that to deliver "a complete feature set for 3D graphics rendering", which includes support for texture mapping, texture filtering, surface shading, sprite support, perspective correction and pixel colour processing.

The top-end G30 extends the G20's 3D graphics even further - to offer an 'even more complete feature set for 3D graphics rendering', presumably - with support for z-buffering, stencil buffering, specular shading, MIP mapping, texture compression, fog effects, and so on.

All three cores have been designed to consume very low quantities of power, though Bitboys declined to put a figure to that claim, presumably because it depends on clock frequency, and the Acceleon series is designed to be highly scalable when it comes to clock speeds. "The hardware has been optimized for very low power consumption but with a performance level exceeding that of games consoles such as the PS1," the company says.

If that doesn't sound too impressive, don't forget that the chips are targeted at mobile systems like PDAs and cellphones, rather than notebooks. It may also be why Bitboys hasn't been very forthcoming about performance statistics.

Bitboys also doesn't say whether its Acceleon cores feature embedded DRAM, one of the features the company originally touted when it first announced it was working on 3D graphics superchips back in the mid to late 1990s. The G10's small transistor count suggests there's little on-die memory included.

In the early days, Bitboys was feted as the next Nvidia, which itself had been lauded as the next 3dfx. Having failed to take on Nvidia with its Glaze3D design, Bitboys has spent the intervening years focusing on improving its technology and establishing a series of licensable graphics acceleration cores for third-parties.

The Acceleon cores include their own vector and 3D graphics libraries, but also supports the Java 2D and SVG 1.1 APIs. Early versions of the OpenGL ES - a version of the open 3D graphics standard for embedded system - and JSR-184, a 3D graphics API being developed for Java 2 Mobile Edition, are supported too. ®

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