GPU delegates for TensorFlow Lite

Using graphics processing units (GPUs) to run your machine learning (ML) models can dramatically improve the performance of your model and the user experience of your ML-enabled applications. TensorFlow Lite enables the use of GPUs and other specialized processors through hardware driver called delegates. Enabling use of GPUs with your TensorFlow Lite ML applications can provide the following benefits:

  • Speed - GPUs are built for high throughput of massively parallel workloads. This design makes them well-suited for deep neural nets, which consist of a huge number of operators, each working on input tensors that can be processed in parallel, which typically results in lower latency. In the best scenario, running your model on a GPU may run fast enough to enable real-time applications that were not previously possible.
  • Power efficiency - GPUs carry out ML computations in a very efficient and optimized manner, typically consuming less power and generating less heat than the same task running on CPUs.

This document provides an overview of GPUs support in TensorFlow Lite, and some advanced uses for GPU processors. For more specific information about implementing GPU support on specific platforms, see the following guides:

GPU ML operations support

There are some limitations to what TensorFlow ML operations, or ops, can be accelerated by the TensorFlow Lite GPU delegate. The delegate supports the following ops in 16-bit and 32-bit float precision:

  • ADD
  • CONV_2D
  • EXP
  • LSTM v2 (Basic LSTM only)
  • MUL
  • PAD
  • RELU
  • RELU6
  • SUB

By default, all ops are only supported at version 1. Enabling the quantization support enables the appropriate versions, for example, ADD v2.

Troubleshooting GPU support

If some of the ops are not supported by the GPU delegate, the framework will only run a part of the graph on the GPU and the remaining part on the CPU. Due to the high cost of CPU/GPU synchronization, a split execution mode like this often results in slower performance than when the whole network is run on the CPU alone. In this case, the application generates warning, such as:

WARNING: op code #42 cannot be handled by this delegate.

There is no callback for failures of this type, since this is not an actual run-time failure. When testing execution of your model with the GPU delegate, you should be alert for these warnings. A high number of these warnings can indicate that your model is not the best fit for use for GPU acceleration, and may require refactoring of the model.

Example models

The following example models are built to take advantage GPU acceleration with TensorFlow Lite and are provided for reference and testing:

Optimizing for GPUs

The following techniques can help you get better performance when running models on GPU hardware using the TensorFlow Lite GPU delegate:

  • Reshape operations - Some operations that are quick on a CPU may have a high cost for the GPU on mobile devices. Reshape operations are particularly expensive to run, including BATCH_TO_SPACE, SPACE_TO_BATCH, SPACE_TO_DEPTH, and so forth. You should closely examine use of reshape operations, and consider that may have been applied only for exploring data or for early iterations of your model. Removing them can significantly improve performance.

  • Image data channels - On GPU, tensor data is sliced into 4-channels, and so a computation on a tensor with the shape [B,H,W,5] performs about the same on a tensor of shape [B,H,W,8], but significantly worse than [B,H,W,4]. If the camera hardware you are using supports image frames in RGBA, feeding that 4-channel input is significantly faster, since it avoids a memory copy from 3-channel RGB to 4-channel RGBX.

  • Mobile-optimized models - For best performance, you should consider retraining your classifier with a mobile-optimized network architecture. Optimization for on-device inferencing can dramatically reduce latency and power consumption by taking advantage of mobile hardware features.

Advanced GPU support

You can use additional, advanced techniques with GPU processing to enable even better performance for your models, including quantization and serialization. The following sections describe these techniques in further detail.

Using quantized models

This section explains how the GPU delegate accelerates 8-bit quantized models, including the following:

To optimize performance, use models that have both floating-point input and output tensors.

How does this work?

Since the GPU backend only supports floating-point execution, we run quantized models by giving it a ‘floating-point view’ of the original model. At a high-level, this entails the following steps:

  • Constant tensors (such as weights/biases) are de-quantized once into the GPU memory. This operation happens when the delegate is enabled for TensorFlow Lite.

  • Inputs and outputs to the GPU program, if 8-bit quantized, are de-quantized and quantized (respectively) for each inference. This operation is done on the CPU using TensorFlow Lite’s optimized kernels.

  • Quantization simulators are inserted between operations to mimic quantized behavior. This approach is necessary for models where ops expect activations to follow bounds learnt during quantization.

For information about enabling this feature with the GPU delegate, see the following:

Reducing initialization time with serialization

The GPU delegate feature allows you to load from pre-compiled kernel code and model data serialized and saved on disk from previous runs. This approach avoids re-compilation and can reduce startup time by up to 90%. This improvement is achieved by exchanging disk space for time savings. You can enable this feature with a few configurations options, as shown in the following code examples:


    TfLiteGpuDelegateOptionsV2 options = TfLiteGpuDelegateOptionsV2Default();
    options.serialization_dir = kTmpDir;
    options.model_token = kModelToken;

    auto* delegate = TfLiteGpuDelegateV2Create(options);
    if (interpreter->ModifyGraphWithDelegate(delegate) != kTfLiteOk) return false;


    GpuDelegate delegate = new GpuDelegate(
      new GpuDelegate.Options().setSerializationParams(
        /* serializationDir= */ serializationDir,
        /* modelToken= */ modelToken));

    Interpreter.Options options = (new Interpreter.Options()).addDelegate(delegate);

When using the serialization feature, make sure your code complies with these implementation rules:

  • Store the serialization data in a directory that is not accessible to other apps. On Android devices, use getCodeCacheDir() which points to a location that is private to the current application.
  • The model token must be unique to the device for the specific model. You can compute a model token by generating a fingerprint from the model data using libraries such as farmhash::Fingerprint64.