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.
nVidia has been doing an OK job of releasing development kits for Tegra hardware, although sometimes they are a bit pricey for non-professionals.
But why not just use an iOS or Android phone or tablet? I know it's not as sexy as using something that calls itself a dev kit, but things have moved so fast it's easy to lose site of the fact that a cheap cellphone is now potentially a great brain for a robotics or other miscellaneous electronics project. Maybe packaging freedom is reduced because you don't have the bare board to wire into the enclosure of your choice, but these things are getting so tiny the form factor is easy to integrate into other projects, at least for prototyping. IO is a bit trickier, as you can't just wire stuff to a peripheral header on your phone, but there are products like BeagleBone and depending on the product you may be able to get access to a serial interface for communication between a phone and custom hardware.
Beyond consumer hardware, there are products like BeagleBoard, PandaBoard, Raspberry Pi and many professional OMAP and Tegra SO-DIMM SoC development kits that are roughly on par with mainstream phone hardware. There's a ton of stuff out there if you look, times are great for a hobbyist but sometimes you just have to wrap your head around the fact that you don't have to use something that has "developer" written all over it and a big price premium to get stuff done.
I gotta love the continued roll outs of multi-core graphics and general processing devices! I wonder if there is a plan for providing this device in a small demo board form factor for development efforts? I am thinking that this would make a great building block (graphics, processing power, wireless connectivity) for students working on college projects.
Awesome! 6X graphics improvement!! Now everyone can have retina display! I wonder how imagination's rogue GPU will stack up against this. In the last few rounds they totally destroyed Tegra 2/3 line.
BTW Watch out Intel!
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