NVidia unveils monster quad core mobile chipset

Allan Swann
January 7, 2013

NVidia has announced the Tegra 4 the next generation of its Tegra processor line which it boasts is the fastest mobile processor in the world.

The announcement, made at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas was expected, but the power on show from the chip looks impressive.

Tegra 4 uses ARMs Cortex-A15, but in a quad-core configuration (at up to 1.9GHz), and Nvidia’s custom Geforce GPU (graphics processing unit) – with a whopping 72 cores. Nvidia claims this makes it 6 times as fast as the Tegra 3, which was used in phones such as the HTC One X and the Google Nexus 7 tablet. NVidia wants to see the Tegra 4 in everything from smartphones and tablets, to full blown WIndows 8 PCs.

“Tegra 4 provides enormous processing power and efficiency to power smartphones and tablets, gaming devices, auto systems and PCs,” said Phil Carmack, senior vice president of the Tegra business at NVIDIA.

”Its new capabilities, particularly in the area of computational photography, will help improve a whole range of existing products and lead to the creation of exciting new ones.”

This kind of power in a smart phone was unthinkable just a year ago, and means that video games, movies and even the operating system itself should run silky smooth. However, the big question will come surrounding battery life – there aren’t really any know uses for quad-core phones (indeed, most apps are not written to take advantage of the extra cores), and the power drain from these extra cores is unknown.

NVidia claims the Tegra 4 has been designed from the ground up for maximum energy efficiency. Tegra 4 will include a battery saver core for low power during standard use, and include its own Prism 2 Display technology, which apparently reduces backlight power usage while maintaining visual quality. All up, NVidia says the Tegra 4 should consume up to 45% less power than its predecessor ‘in common use cases’.

Apparently this also equates to 14 hours of HD video playback on smartphones.

Tegra 4 also enables worldwide 4G LTE voice and data support through an optional add-on chipset, the fifth-generation NVidia Icera i500 processor. Nvidia similarly boasts of its efficiency and especially the size differential, which means the modem is 40% the size of competitors modems, while still offering four times the processing power of its predecessor.

What is also interesting is the tweaks to the architecture to help phone makers pull off better results. NVidia has added ‘Computational Photography Architecture’, which it says automatically delivers high dynamic range (HDR) photos and video by fusing together the processing power of the GPU, CPU and the camera’s image-signal processor. Given most phones now include HDR processing already through software, it is unclear how much this adds to the package.

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