Tegra 4

NVIDIA has long been one of my favorite chip-making companies. Back in the PC days they were always leap-frogging ATI to see who could make the best video card on the market. NVIDIA has since moved into more than just graphics and has a fairly impressive presence in mobile technology, specifically SoCs.

The best NVIDIA SoC on the market today is their Tegra 3. Unfortunately, it’s starting to show its age. Not to worry, at this year’s CES, NVIDIA announced the Tegra 4!

Not unlike the Tegra 3, inside the Tegra 4 is a quad-core CPU with an extra “low-power core” to help extend battery life. Unlike the Tegra 3, NVIDIA’s new chip is based on the Cortex-A15. As far as the number of cores, it’s nothing new, and there are already other chips available today that are based on the A15.

The Tegra 4 is all about the graphics!

Where the Tegra 4 really stands out is the number of graphics processing cores that it’s got on-board: 72 of them! Since most users complain primarily about “lag” on their smartphones and tablets, and “lag” could be described as more visual than functional, perhaps NVIDIA is heading down the right path with this approach. If not, they still have the four A15 cores running at speeds up to 1.9GHz, which out-clocks most other mobile chips on the market.

One look at Project Shield and you can tell that NVIDIA’s initial target is gaming and high-end graphics. They’re not stopping there and have tablets in their cross-hairs. Visio’s new 7″ and 10″ tablets are powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 power-house and, based on their specs, they should out perform every other tablet on the market today.

With a faster clock-speed, we’re sure the Tegra 4 will be among the fastest processors on the market (and probably at the top of the list). The A15 architecture has remarkable battery management, but we’re curious just how much power those 72 graphics cores will suck down. Looking at the video for Project Shield, it looks like the device packs three “AA”-style battery cells, each potentially packing 2,600 mAh — for a total of 7,800 mAh.

Even more exciting is the fact that we haven’t heard much news from NVIDIA’s competition. Perhaps we will hear about the next generation Snapdragons, Exynos, and other SoCs as CES 2013 progresses. Even if we don’t hear any news until later, we can’t wait to see how the industry will react. No doubt we’ll see 1.9GHz processors across the rest of the playing field soon, but where this battle will be won or lost will be with graphics performance — and it looks like NVIDIA has a HUGE lead, at least for the time being.

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