One of the biggest announcements from Huawei this year is that of its new GPU Turbo technology. The claims that it could provide more performance at less power, without a hardware change gave us quite a bit of pause. Internally, more than a few raised eyebrows appeared. As part of our discussions with Huawei this year at IFA, as well as some pretesting, we actually now have a base understanding of the technology, as well as additional insight into some of the marketing tactics – not all of which are the most honest representations of the new feature.

GPU Turbo: A Timeline

GPU Turbo is said to be a new mechanism that promised great performance and power improvements to new and existing devices. The new ‘technology’ was something that was first introduced in early June with the Chinese release of the Honor Play, and will be updated to a version ‘2.0’ with the launch of EMUI 9.0 later in the year.

Over the next few months Huawei plans to release the technology on all of its mainstream devices, as well as going back through its catalogue. Huawei promises that all devices, irrespective of hardware, will be able to benefit.

GPU Turbo Rollout
Huawei   Honor
Mate 10
Mate 10 Pro
Mate 10 Porsche Design
Mate RS Porsche Design
P20 Pro
Honor 10
Honor Play
Honor 9 lite
P20 lite
P smart
Nova 2i
Mate 10 lite
September Honor View 10
Honor 9
- October -
Mate 9
Mate 9 Pro
P10 Plus
November Honor 8 Pro
  December Honor 7x

From the weeks following the release of GPU Turbo on the first few devices, we saw quite a lot of hype and marketing efforts on Honor and Huawei’s side with the goal of promoting GPU Turbo. Over all the presentations, press releases promoted articles, and fuzzy press analysis, one important thing was consistently missing: we saw no technical explanation as to what GPU Turbo actually is and how it works. Everything was about results, but nothing was about details. At AnandTech, it’s the details that really resonate in our understanding, as to whether a new feature is genuine or not.

Huawei, to its credit, did try to reach out to us, but neither the company nor PR ever really responded when we asked for a more technical briefing on the new mechanism. We’re not sure what the reason was for this, as historically the company has often been open to technical discussions. On the plus side, at this year’s IFA, we finally had the chance to meet with a team of Huawei’s hardware and software engineers/managers.

Through these discussions, we developed some detailed explanations that finally made more sense of the past month’s marketing claims. The plus side of this is that we now have a better understanding of what GPU Turbo actually does (and it makes sense), although it also puts a chunk of the marketing slides on the ignore pile.

In this first piece on GPU Turbo, we’re going to go through the story of the feature in stages. First, we’ll look at Huawei’s initial claims about the technology: specifically the numbers. Second, we’ll go deeper into what GPU Turbo actually does. Third, we examine the devices we do have with the technology, to see what differences we can observe, and finally we address the marketing, which really needs to be scrutinized.

It should be noted that time permitting, and resources permitting, we want to go deeper into GPU Turbo. With the upcoming launch of the Mate 20 and the new Kirin 980 SoC inside, we will want to do a more detailed analysis with more data. This is only the beginning of the story into GPU Turbo.

The Claimed Benefits of GPU Turbo: Huawei’s Figures
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  • LiverpoolFC5903 - Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - link

    Very interesting to say the least. The improvements from this, although not as much as promised, are still tangible and will make a difference in supported games.

    Also, alarming to see the quality difference between an Adreno unit and a Mali unit, especially considering they are supposed to be close competitors. I have an S9 with the Mali g72mp18 unit and going by the results on PUBG, it performs much worse than its Adreno counterpart, both in render quality and framerate.

    Hisilicon and Samsung should consider using Powervr gpus again, given the clear inability of the Mali to keep up. I have noticed this in the real world as well, with my LG V20 with a Snapdragon 820 lasting MUCH longer than my S9 while running emulators (PSP and Neo Geo), despite being years old.
  • Manch - Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - link

    Maybe its my screen but the Honor Play and the S9 pics make it look like the dude got no undies. LOL
  • umano - Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - link

    Amazing article, thank you. Having a P20 pro ( I don't play games on phone ) that was particularly interesting and I really liked the "ethic" behind words, supporting both customers and the company, asking the latter to do the right thing. I think this is the way professional journalism has to be done.
  • AshokGupta - Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - link

    Hundreds of Huawei's competaters have tried round and round to prove GPU Turbo is a fake junk, and all of them failed. Now you take over their job. Good Luck, Man!
  • GreenReaper - Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - link

    Fake? No. But the reality doesn't exactly match up to the marketing.
  • s.yu - Friday, September 7, 2018 - link

    The reality doesn't match up to the marketing, AT ALL. Good as fake.
    Huawei in all practicality was trying to sell this off as a *universal* performance and efficiency gain of 60%, 30% respectively while in fact it only works on *a handful* of games for about *10%* each. When you're exaggerating your claims by 3x, 6x, it's lying, it's fake.
  • AshokGupta - Saturday, September 8, 2018 - link

    If you read the Chinese media, what happens here is just repetition of what happened exactly right after the technology was launched in CHINA. Including this stupid guess of saying it only covers few games. Then approved by many independent tech media it's applicable for all. Your name indicates you are most probably from China. I suppose you should know it. Don't understand why you come here again giving the approved fake comments.
  • s.yu - Monday, September 10, 2018 - link

    Because of the opaque operation of Chinese media. Obviously you're also from China, don't tell me you don't know about the fuss Huawei created buying ads on international sites and then buying fake journalism back in China.
    This article was widely spread as legit news but the international content cited was intentionally twisted, it's highly misleading.
    When Huawei buys western ads at least the hosts declare bought articles, in China there's no way of telling real journalism from Huawei's smokescreen, so I put off reaching a conclusion until global availability of the technology.
    Now from Anandtech's analysis and *interview* it's obviously certain that the tech only works on a handful of games, Huawei even admitted that each profile is trained separately then pushed to devices.
    I know a Huawei troll when I see one, I'll be keeping an eye on you in the future.
  • ET - Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - link

    What's with the annoying 'Buy the Right CPU' autoplaying video?
  • psychobriggsy - Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - link

    It's really annoying, and on every article, on every page, and it doesn't remember if you pause it on one page then go to the next.

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