NVIDIA’s Tegra SoC platform has always been interesting, but with the next generation 22-nm Tegra 4 boasting six times the graphical processing power as its quad core predecessor, it’s gone from interesting to exciting.
The Tegra 4 achieves this boost thanks to 72 custom GeForce GPU cores, which allow the chip to power higher-resolution displays at higher frame rates. It will be the first SoC to make use of ARM’s 1.9-GHz Cortex-A15 (Tegra 3 had a 1.7-GHz processor), which is the most advanced quad core CPU from ARM to date. The Tegra 4 also offers a fifth companion core, included to save power. The fifth core is another Cortex-A15.
One novel thing about the Tegra 4 is that it incorporates its own LTE radio. The optional Icera i500 chipset offers 100Mbps LTE (category 3) and should support 150-Mbps (category 4) in the not too distant future.
Where Will It Be?
There haven’t been any announcements regarding devices will use the SoC, but NVIDIA’s Project Shield portable gaming console is a likely candidate. Should Microsoft release a second-generation Surface, it might find its way in there, too. Other than that, as with its predecessor, the Tegra 4 is bound to find its way into lots of tablets and a smattering of smartphones.
Code-named “Kal-El,” the first-generation Tegra 4 offers a Quad ARM Cortex-A9 with a low-power companion core on 28-nm HPM architecture. It’s due out in the next couple of months. The next-generation chip, code-named “Logan,” is essentially the same but with an ARM Cortex-A15 MPCore and a low-power companion core.
At this stage, not much is known about the third version, code-named “Stark.” What details are available suggest that it will be a much more laptop-friendly platform. It will feature a 64-bit ARMv8, have a faster GPU core and offer a substantial speed improvement. Logan and Stark are rated at approximately 50 and 75 times the speed of Tegra 2, respectively.
What’s noteworthy here is that the Tegra 3 — which powers Google’s Nexus 7, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga and Asus’s Transformer Pad Infinity, among other devices — was already a strong platform. All of the Tegra 4’s extra graphical processing power should allow it to achieve interesting things, especially in mobile gaming. Other indications of its gaming potential are its dual-channel memory and support for DirectX 11+, OpenGL 4.X and PhysX.
A year ago, I would have scoffed at the thought of an ARM-based laptop. Now, that possibility is looking increasingly more likely.