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Smartphones represent one of the fastest growing markets, providing significant hardware/software improvements every few months. However, supporting these capabilities reduces the operating time per battery charge. The CPU/GPU component is only left with a shrinking fraction of the power budget, since most of the energy is consumed by the screen and the antenna. In this paper, we focus on improving the energy efficiency of the GPU since graphical applications consist an important part of the existing market. Moreover, the trend towards better screens will inevitably lead to a higher demand for improved graphics rendering. We show that the main bottleneck for these applications is the texture cache and that traditional techniques for hiding memory latency (prefetching, multithreading) do not work well or come at a high energy cost. We thus propose the migration of GPU designs towards the decoupled access-execute concept. Furthermore, we significantly reduce bandwidth usage in the decoupled architecture by exploiting inter-core data sharing. Using commercial Android applications, we show that the end design can achieve 93% of the performance of a heavily multithreaded GPU while providing energy savings of 34%.
Date of Conference: 9-13 June 2012