How fast can we compute 1D gradient?

Eric Bainville - Oct 2009

SSE instructions

16-bytes aligned moves can be handled efficiently with movaps at 0.5 cycles/float. This speed is reached by the memcpy function of the VS2008 C runtime (msvcr90). In the case of a one element shift, the output is no more aligned on 16-byte addresses. In this case, memcpy(out+1,in,(n-1)*sizeof(float)) runs at 1.1 cycles/float. memcpy calls the movs instruction.

We are manipulating 128-bit packed vectors of 4 single precision floating point numbers, corresponding to the "PS" (packed single) suffix for the SIMD instructions. To move floats around without modifying them, we can use the following instructions:


Copies an XMM register to another XMM register, or read/write 4 float between memory (at a 16-byte aligned address) and an XMM register.
The three variants of MOVAPS: memory to register, register to memory, register to register.

When loading float x[4] into an XMM register, x[0] is copied in bits 0-31, x[1] in bits 32-64, etc. In our diagrams, registers are represented with the MSB to the left (bit 127), the same convention is used in AMD and Intel reference manuals.


Unpacks the low or high half of two XMM registers into on XMM register.

Left: unpcklps xmm0,xmm1. Right: unpcklps xmm0,xmm0.
Left: unpckhps xmm0,xmm1. Right: unpckhps xmm0,xmm0.


Selects any two elements of the destination XMM register and move them in the lower half of it, and selects any two elements of the source XMM register and move them in the upper half of the destination.

Left: shufps xmm0,xmm1,i. Right: shufps xmm0,xmm0,i. i is a value in 0..255 and determines which value to pick for each of the four destination slots. The two low slots receive their values from the first operand, and the two high slots from the second operand.

We can now solve our first SSE puzzle: SSE vector right shift.