Nvidia has finally introduced the new Tegra 3 processor and the first products based on the new processor are not far behind.
There’s really not much to say about Tegra 3 that hasn’t already been leaked and confirmed ahead of the official launch, but here is a brief recap. Tegra 3, aka Kal El, is the first and only 40nm quad-core ARM chip, but it also features a fifth “companion” core that helps keep power consumption down, so one might call it 4.5-core.
Nvidia’s cunning plan is to use the companion core, clocked up to 500MHz, to handle less intensive tasks, including video playback, leaving the main four cores free to bask in the sun. The end result is that Tegra 3 is actually more power efficient than Tegra 2, despite the extra cores. Thanks to the new variable SMP architecture, Tegra 3 can push all four cores or just two cores to 1.3GHz, but in a single core scenario it clocks up to 1.4GHz.
Nvidia claims the new chip is much faster than its predecessor and in some benchmarks it can hold its ground against an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200, which sounds pretty impressive. In terms of sheer CPU power, the new chip is about two times faster than Tegra 2, while the graphics subsystem is about three times faster.
It all looks great on paper, but software development is simply not keeping up with the latest hardware. Basically there are few if any Android apps that can harness the immense power of the new chip and the Android platform still lacks games that can make use of the additional GPU muscle. Nvidia is hoping to change all this with the aid of its TWIMBP team and its considerable clout with game developers. Gaming should be Tegra’s main selling point and Nvidia claims it will have more than 40 Tegra Zone titles by the end of the year, with 15+ Tegra 3 games in the pipeline.
Other ARM designers are gearing up to introduce their first quad-core chips in 2012, once the new 28nm process becomes available. Nvidia will also jump the 28nm bandwagon next year, with Tegra 4, codenamed Wayne.