NVidia has really put a lot of emphasis on their upcoming ARM Tegra system codenamed “Kal-El”, and has slowly been leaking technical details over the last few months. The latest tidbit came out earlier today: Details of the “fifth core” of the new design.
“Our next-generation Tegra processor, codenamed “Project Kal-El,” is widely known as the world’s first quad-core mobile chip. Today, we’re unveiling Kal-El’s little-known fifth core in two new whitepapers that detail its “Variable SMP” architecture.” said NVIDIA’s Matt Wuebbling on a blog post on the company’s website. “This extra core – which we call the “companion core” – runs at a lower frequency and operates at exceptionally low power. During less power-hungry tasks like web reading, music playback and video playback, Kal-El completely powers down its four performance-tuned cores and instead uses its fifth companion core. For higher performance tasks, Kal-El disables its companion core and turns on its four performance cores, one at a time, as the work load increases.”
So essentially they’ve added a 5th “idle” core to the system, one that operates at super-low power and has just enough horsepower to keep the system running and able to power up more powerful cores as needed. This will be great for systems with a high idle time (like their mentioned websurfing and email) where the overwhelming bulk of time is just spent waiting for the user to do something.
In an interesting move, NVidia just bought a little-known company named Icera. Icera is one of those companies you never hear of, but owns some of the more popular chipsets for 2G, 3G, and 4G data communications. For a sizable layout of $367 Million in cash, NVidia now has their own communications chip company.
Founded in 2002 and based in Bristol, England, Icera produces multi-protocol, ultra-low power wireless baseband processors with RF components, capable of working on 2G, 3G and 4G networks that use different protocols, such as HSPA, HSPA+ and LTE. “Because the baseband is software-based, manufacturers can develop multiple products from a common platform, reduce development costs, accelerate time to market and secure a route to support future baseband standards,” Nvidia said.
The goal is to integrate this chipset into the Tegra platform, and make it an even more attractive offering to developers. A uniform platform with GPU, CPU, and now Wireless Communications.
NVIDIA has just released details on Project Kal-El. What is Project Kal-El? Well, remember that NVIDIA has just released the Tegra 2 smartphone chip. This is being followed closely by the Tegra 2 3D. As you may surmise, the 3-D version is just a Tegra 2 with support for 3D content, and may some clock speeds being adjusted upwards. NVIDIA has also promised to release the Tegra 3 this year. Project Kal-El is the Tegra 3. In short, what NVIDIA did for the graphics cards with 6 month cycles, they now want to do for smartphones and tablets. Anandtech is reporting that tablets based on the Tegra 3 (aka Project Kal-el) are due to arrive in August 2011.
Whereas Tegra 2 is a two-core chip, Project Kal-el will be a quad-core chip. Personally, I wonder how long it will be before lawyers come after NVIDIA for using these names. Take a look at Anandtech’s article. They have some videos of the chip already running decoding full HD movies.
NVidia has today announced a new project codenamed “Project Denver” that looks to steal back a bit of the mojo Intel and AMD have packed into their Sandy Bridge and Fusion products. Combining their previous Tegra expertise with ARM processors, they’re looking to develop their own compute core that can work on anything from Mobile Phones to Supercomputers.
This new processor stems from a strategic partnership, also announced today, in which NVIDIA has obtained rights to develop its own high performance CPU cores based on ARM’s future processor architecture. In addition, NVIDIA licensed ARM’s current Cortex™-A15 processor for its future-generation Tegra® mobile processors.
It’s an ambition gamble, but they are sharing a mindset with Steve Jobs here: The future of computers isn’t in desktops, but rather in “the cloud”: High-speed access from small portable devices to bigger computational assets elsewhere.
Now, if they can just convince all those “clouds” to run ARM.. You know, the clouds made of lots of computers. hrm..
The Boxee Box is almost ready to come to market, and pre-orders are opening today at $229, just slightly over the “under $200″ mark they were originally shooting for. Surprisingly, however, they’ve made a last-minute hardware change and ditched the NVidia Tegra 2 and replaced it with the Intel Atom CE4100, the same chip powering the Google TV. That seems an odd decision, but Avner Ronen has a good explanation for it:
“The major problem we had with the Tegra 2 was support for high-profile HD playback,” he said. “You can do high-profile VC-1 with Tegra 2, but not H.264.” It was a problem of bitrate, he told us, and while NVIDIA’s dual-core Tegra T20 was apparently not up to the task, the team had internally tested Intel’s CE4100 decoding streams at up to 90 megabits per second. The newly revamped Boxee Box is now capable of 1080p H.264 playback at 60fps, and… well, that’s actually about it.
That’s a bit damning for NVidia and the Tegra system, being incapable of H.264 HD playback at high bitrates, and surely one NVidia is addressing as we speak.
NVidia has another ally in hitting their aggressive Tegra sales figures, this time in LG who plans to integrate the Tegra 2 chipsets into their upcoming Optimus dual-core CPU phones.
LG selected NVIDIA Tegra because it enables a new mobile experience and content capabilities. Tegra 2 features a number of mobile “firsts”: the first mobile dual-core CPU, the only ultra low-power NVIDIA GeForce？ GPU and the first 1080p HD mobile video processor. Taking full advantage of the two speedy 1 GHz processors sharing the workload in Tegra 2, consumers can experience up to 2x faster web browsing and up to 5x faster gaming performance over single core processors running at 1 GHz. NVIDIA’s leadership in graphics also delivers flawless 1080p HD video playback, console-quality gaming and amazing 3D capabilities.
These new phones are expected to hit the market in the 4th quarter (soon).
NVidia’s Tegra ‘system on a chip’ solution has been around for a while, but why haven’t we seen it in more devices? So far, the only ‘major’ distribution of the chip has been the Microsoft Zune and Windows Mobile smartphone.
Apple Inc. (AAPL) used its own chip to run the iPad. Dell Inc. (DELL) opted for a Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) chip for its Streak tablet, and Acer Inc. (2353.TW) plans to use Qualcomm chips for its upcoming hybrid PC-tablet and a smartphone. Asustek Computer Inc. (2357.TW) will use a chip from Intel Corp. (INTC) for its upcoming tablet. Meanwhile, Nintendo Co.’s (NTDOY) latest mobile-gaming device, the Nintendo 3DS, also opted for a Tegra rival, despite early speculation that Nvidia had nabbed the latest generation of the most popular mobile videogame system.
NVidia predicted that they would rake in $150Million per quarter, but they’re going to need to break into a major market to make this happen. They claim they’re still on track, having over 50 ‘design wins’ (agreements with manufacturers to use the device in in-development/future products), but nothing available yet.
Wow! This looks interesting! An Nvidia Tegra 2 tablet is being shown at Google I/O 2010.
Pleasant surprise at Google I/O to come across a brand new prototype from NVIDIA a Tegra 2 tablet. I tried to get do a device walk through on camera, but that was a no no, so you’ll have to settle for me telling you about the ports. This 8.9 inch tablet was running Android 2.1 with its 1Ghz Tegra 2 processor. It was also sporting a webcam & microphone and for connectivity on the left hand side of the device we have audio jacks, docking port connector and a microsd card slot. On the bottom we have some status LEDs for Power, Wifi and a lighting blot, not too sure what the lighting bolt LED was for, charging perhaps, hard to say. Moving around the device to the right we have two USB ports and the PSU all covered up with a silicon flap. On the top because it is Android after all we have back, menu and home we also have what appears to be a SIM card slot though it curiously looked a little bit too thin.
The unit measured around 1cm in thickness, but talking to Andrew from NVIDIA he did remind me that it is a protype and there are much thinner & lighter versions behind closed doors.
The game running was BackBreakers by NaturalMotion, it ran very smoothly which is a nice teaser to the beginning of the slew of Tegra 2 tablets we are expecting to see at Computex in two weeks.
We’ve talked about ARhrrr from the Graz University & Georgia Tech, but it seems they’ve recently made another live demonstration at the NVidia GTC, and revealed some of the details on how it works on the Nvidia Tegra hardware.
The ARhrrr pipeline is simple: the camera uses OpenMAX [multimedia acceleration API] to take in the image featuring AR Tracker. Second step is using the GPU for creating the 640×480 EGLImage Textures [OpenGL|ES 2.0 API] which are then further processed inside the GPU to downsize the images to 320×240 at 8bpp and then sent to the CPU for the AR system [NFT tracker] to make the transformation from camera to real world.
Third step is game engine calculating and sending the needed 3D game objects back to the GPU so that it creates the final rendered image combining the camera stream with the 3D game objects. As you can imagine, the amount of video processing is significant.
Still no work on when, or if, it will ever come to a playable device. I can hardly wait to start blasting some zombies.
NVidia’s Tegra chipset has gotten alot of press, but not alot of actual usage in recent months. Hexus talks to Mike Rayfield, general manager of NVidia’s mobile business unit, and finds out that NVidia has really staked the future of the company on the success of Tegra.
Graphics maker NVIDIA has so far spent $600 million on the development of its low-power chipset designed for use in smartphones and smartbooks.
When you consider that the total value of the company over the past year has only been around ten times that amount, and that there has yet to be a single device sold containing the chipset, it’s fair to say that NVIDIA has staked its future on Tegra.
Mobile devices are definately a quick-growing market and NVidia is seeing increased competition in the desktop space from Caustic, AMD, and Intel, so maybe it’s a good move from a business sense. I just hope that QuadroPlex and CUDA stick around.
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