LAS VEGAS--Nvidia took the wraps off its long-awaited Tegra 4 application processor for mobile devices, with CEO Jen-Hsun Huang calling it the "fastest mobile application processor in the world today," and boasting of its performance capabilities. Speaking at a press conference at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show here, Huang called Tegra 4 "nearly the worst kept secret," referring to recent reports that the new silicon was coming.
Like the company's previous high-powered mobile chipset, Tegra 3, the Tegra 4 chip is a quad-core processor with a fifth companion core. However, the design is based on a new chipset architecture, and uses ARM Holdings Coretex A-15 CPU cores to deliver faster performance than the Tegra 3, which used Coretex A-9 CPUs. The chipset also uses 72 Nvidia GPU cores for graphics. Nvidia did not announce when the Tegra 4 chipset will be available in commercial products.
The chip does make use of Nvidia's LTE technology, which the company gained by purchasing Icera in 2011. However, the Tegra 4 chip does not integrate the LTE modem with the application processor into a single chip, which may reduce device battery life and leave Nvidia behind rival Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). Qualcomm has proven that it can better integrate LTE modem technology into its high-end application processors. Nvidia said Tegra 4 consumes up to 45 percent less power than Tegra 3 in common use cases.
Still, Huang said Tegra 4 will deliver performance above and beyond what exists in smartphones and tablets today. He said that Tegra 4 allows users to load Web pages as much as 3.5 times faster than competing chipsets. He also said the new chip will improve imaging capabilities on phones by allowing users to take high-quality HDR images faster.
In addition to its Tegra 4 demonstration, Nvidia also announced Project Shield, an Android-powered gaming controller and portable console running Tegra 4. The gadget features a 5-inch 720p display and promises console-quality gaming while still delivering a mobile experience. Nvidia said the gadget will be coming to the United States and Canada in the second quarter of this year but did not announce a price.
Nvidia will need to push hard this year to grab market share in the competitive mobile application processor market. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, Qualcomm led the smartphone application processor market in both unit and revenue terms in the first half of 2012. Samsung, MediaTek, Broadcom and Texas Instruments, in that order, took the rest of the top five rankings.
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