LONDON – Nvidia launched a quad-core Tegra 4 application processor based on the Cortex A15 for use in consumer gadgets from smartphones, tablet computers and games consoles at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It also announced the first system using it--Project Sheild, a hybrid mobile game player and streaming system from Nvidia.
The Tegra 4, codenamed "Wayne," comes with an optional Icera i500 chip that supports UE category 3 LTE cellular communications with a 100-Mbit per second downlink. Nvidia Corp. (Santa, Clara, Calif.) acquired soft-modem developer Icera Ltd. in 2011 for about $360 million.
Tegra 4 includes 72 GPU cores to provide approximately six times the graphics performance of the company's previous application processor, the Tegra 3. Web browsing is said to be 2.6 times faster than Tegra 3. Besides the quad-core Cortex A15, Tegra 4 includes a low-power Cortex A15 compatible core that performs background tasks to save power. This is thought to be a proprietary implementation of ARM's big-little technique similar to that implemented by Nvidia in Tegra 3.
While Tegra 3 was implemented in a 40-nm CMOS manufacturing process technology from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the Tegra 4 is said to be manufactured using a 28-nm process technology that yields a top clock frequency of about 1.9 GHz.
One aspect of the Tegra 4 is the deployment of "computational photography" by allowing the GPU and CPU sections to work together and also with an image signal processor intended for use with a camera.
A follow-on chip codenamed "Grey" is said to be in preparation for release later in 2013 that will include the baseband processor for the i500 soft modem.
“From the information that Nvidia showed, the Tegra 4 seems competitive with Qualcomm's quad-core (Krait) processor and the Samsung Exynos 5250,” said Kevin Krewell, senior analyst with the Linely Grpup (Mlountain Vioew, Calif.). However, Nvidia did not disclose key data such as the SoC’s clock frequency, power consumption, shipping dates or customers, he added.
“I expect Tegra 4 to be very competitive on gaming, video, photos, and multitasking,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal of Moor Insights and Strategy (Austin). “Their software-defined radio is a very high-risk, high-return proposition, but the fact that AT&T certified one flavor of the modem speaks to the reliability and quality, and that’s a good first step,” he added.