Apple patent filing involves ‘pro-active GPU hardware boot-up’

Apple has filed for a new patent (number 2019018037) for “pro-active GPU hardware boot-up” that shows the company wants its Macs to boot-up even faster when using internal and external GPUs [graphics processing units].

GPUs generally comprise multiple cores or processing elements designed for executing the same instruction on parallel data streams, making them more effective than general-purpose CPUs for algorithms in which processing of large blocks of data is done in parallel. In general, a CPU functions as the host and hands-off specialized parallel tasks to the GPUs. 

In order for a frame to be rendered on a display, the GPU and the CPU must work together. The number of frames displayed per second (FPS) is referred to as a frame rate. At lower frame rates, the human eyes can distinguish still frames displayed in rapid succession. However, at higher frame rates, individual frames are not perceptible to a human and instead appear as seamless motion. Therefore, everything else being equal (e.g. resolution), a display with a higher frame rate provides a higher graphic quality. 

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Sometimes the actual frequency by which a display is updated is capped by the display's refresh rate. To take full advantage of a display's high refresh rate, the frame rate provided by the GPU and CPU must be as high as the display's refresh rate permits. Otherwise, the display may be forced to render the same frame during multiple refresh periods, which may be perceived by a human as lower quality video. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “One disclosed embodiment includes a method of graphics processing. The method includes receiving an indication to update a current frame on a display. A plurality of graphics command are determined to be associated with a next frame that replaces the current frame. A power-up command is generated based on the received indication, configured to cause GPU hardware to begin an initialization operation. 

“The central processing unit processes the plurality of graphics command. Prior to completely process the plurality of graphics command, a power-up command is sent to a GPU firmware. The GPU firmware initializes the GPU hardware based on the power-up command. The processed plurality of graphics command is also transmitted to the GPU hardware. The GPU hardware executes the processed plurality of graphics command to render the next frame on the display.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.