Driver overhead matters more on SoCs

There has been a lot of discussion about driver overhead in graphics and compute APIs recently. A lot of it has been centred around desktop-type scenarios with discrete GPUs. But just wanted to point out that driver overhead matters more on SoCs which integrate both CPU and GPU on the same chip.

The simple reason is SoCs have a fixed total power budget and modern SoCs dynamically distribute power budget between CPU and GPU. If there is a lot of driver overhead, which means CPU is doing a lot of work, then CPU eats a bigger part of the fixed power budget and thus the SoC may be forced to reduce the GPU frequency.  In addition to power, caches and memory bandwidth may also be shared.

I have done some benchmarking and tuning of OpenCL code for Intel’s Core chipsets and often getting the best performance out of the GPU required being more efficient on the CPU. I am pretty sure similar strategy is applicable on smartphone SoCs with the added constraint that smartphone CPUs are usually wimpy due to power constraints.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *