NVidia’s Tegra 3, although quite ambitious, failed to challenge the market share of its competitors such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip. The main reason behind this was the lack of integrated LTE on the chip which resulted in poor battery life for the mobile devices that it powered.
Qualcomm’s processors all had integrated LTE because of which they were able to find their way into majority of mobile devices. NVidia’s latest venture into mobile processor development has been no secret. The Tegra 4 has been in the works and everyone knew that. So it was not really a surprise when NVidia announced the Tegra 4 at the Consumer Electronic Show 2013.
The Tegra 4 has been dubbed by NVidia as ‘world’s faster mobile processor’. The chip has 4 CPU cores and one additional low power core which helps cut back on battery consumption, just like in Tegra 3. The processor architecture, however, is all new and so is the manufacturing process.
Rumor has it that the new Tegra 4 has been manufactured using the 28 nm process, against the 40 nm manufacturing process used in the previous Tegra chip. NVidia has also advertised that the Tegra 4 chip has 72 CUDA cores, resulting in unprecedented speed and power.
During NVidia’s presentation at the CES, the chip was demonstrated on a prototype tablet running on Android. The Tegra 4 powered tablet was put up against the Nexus 10, which was heavily outperformed by the NVidia chip. In the browser test, Tegra 4 was almost twice as fast as the Nexus 10 tablet.
So there’s no doubt about the world’s fastest chip claim, but there’s indeed one issue that can hurt NVidia’s chances to capture the mobile processor market. The Tegra 4, just like the Tegra 3, lacks an integrated 4G LTE core in its processor. This creates the same problem that the previous version of Tegra processor had. Devices using this chip will have to have a separate LTE modem and that would mean extra consumption of power, and hence lower battery life.
Although the quad-core Snapdragon chips also lack this LTE core on their processors as of now, the next installment of Snapdragon chips, which are due this year, are expected to include it.
It is highly unlikely that NVidia will be able to release an updated version of Tegra so soon, and therefore all devices using the Tegra 4 will probably suffer from poor battery life. But on the positive side, with the increased firepower, the Tegra 4 is capable of amazing stuff.
For example, it will highly enhance the HDR capabilities of the device camera, enabling it to take two photos simultaneously. The device camera will be able to use the full power of the CPU, GPU and the image sensor to provide highly realistic results. Other than that, the 72 cores will give an immense boost to gaming performance on high resolution screens in mobile devices.
The Tegra 4 chip runs the latest NVidia project, called the NVidia Shield. Shield is a console quality handheld gaming device, with a 720p resolution touchscreen. The device can be connected to HD displays to experience a fully-fledged gaming experience. The device lasts 5-10 hours while playing games and 22 hours while playing videos.The operating system that runs the device is Android without any skin and includes a few Google apps like Gmail and Google Play.
Such a powerful device needed a powerful processor to function properly and the Tegra 4 is certainly good enough. However, it remains to be seen how well the processor performs on a Smartphone.