Report: Nvidia plans faster Tegras for tablets and "super-phones"

Report: Nvidia plans faster Tegras for tablets and "super-phones"

Summary: The first tablets and smartphones based on the dual-core Tegra 2 aren't even shipping yet, but Nvidia is already working on a faster Tegra 2 for 3D gadgets and a quad-core Tegra 3.

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The first tablets and smartphones based on its Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip (SoC) haven't even reached stores yet, but Nvidia is already planning to release new versions including a faster Tegra 2 for mobile devices with 3D displays and a quad-core SoC. These faster, multi-core chips will further blur the lines between ARM designs and the X86 processors in tablets, netbooks and ultra-thin laptops.

The new details on the Tegra roadmap come from what appears to be a leaked slide posted on several sites including Bright Side of News and Hexus.net. The Tegra 2 3D, which is currently in production and due to ship this spring, is based on dual ARM Cortex-A9 cores running at 1.2GHz and should be 20 percent faster than the current Tegra 2. The two versions, the T25 and AP25, will also be designed to support tablets and smartphones, respectively, with 3D displays.

The Tegra 3 series, which is scheduled to ship this fall, will begin to draw a sharper line between the tablet and smartphone variations. The T30 will have up to four Cortex-A9 cores running at 1.5GHz, three times faster graphics than the Tegra 2 series, and support for displays with a resolutions up to 1,920 by 1,200 pixels. The slides also mention an Ultra Low Power CPU Mode, which most likely means that the devices will turn off some of the four cores when not needed to preserve battery life. The AP30 will be available in dual- or quad-core versions and will work with smartphones with displays up to 1,366 by 768 pixels.

Though the ramp of Tegra has been slower than expected, Nvidia is the first company to release a dual-core ARM processor for smartphones and tablets. Tegra 2 stole the show at CES earlier this month as several companies announced new mobile devices based on it including the LG Optimus 2X and Motorola Atrix 4G smartphones, as well as the Motorola Xoom, Dell Streak 7, Asus Eee Pad Slider and Transformer, and an as-of-yet unnamed Toshiba tablet.

I expect to hear a lot more news on these and other Tegra 2 products coming out of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month. Assuming the slides are accurate, Nvidia will most likely announce the 3D-optimized at Mobile World Congress. The formal Tegra 3 launch and the arrival of the first quad-core, full 1080p tablets probably will not come until CES in early 2012.

Nvidia may have a lead on multi-core processors for these devices, but the competition isn't far behind. Intel kept the focus on its Sandy Bridge laptop and desktop chips at CES, but odds are that at Mobile World Congress it will formally launch its revamped Atom platform for tablets, known as Oak Trail, and perhaps shed more light on its smartphone roadmap. Texas Instruments' OMAP4430, a SoC based on a 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 will make its debut in RIM's BlackBerry Playbook sometime this spring. Qualcomm is also pushing hard to get the dual-core version of its Snapdragon application processor out the door, and others such as Marvell and Freescale are vying for a piece of these rapidly-growing markets.

Combine these more powerful multi-core processors with Microsoft's support for ARM in the next version of Windows, and by the time CES rolls around next year, mobile devices ranging from tablets to netbooks and ultraportable laptops could start to look very different for the ones we use today.

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Processors, Tablets

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3 comments
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  • A quad-core all-in-one PC running ChromeOS would be great!

    NT.
    DonnieBoy
    • RE: Report: Nvidia plans faster Tegras for tablets and

      @DonnieBoy

      What would ChromeOS do with four cores? It barely does anything at all.
      CobraA1
  • Intel is looking pretty sad

    Microsoft is forced by market demand to divert major resources from its next generation x86 products to port Windows to ARM, and the infamous Wintel alliance which governed much of the computing industry for decades is near ruins.

    Apple was forced to buy an ARM chip company to get the low-cost, low-power chips it needs for mobile devices. Fortunately, when Apple built the first iPhone the ARM was already the industry standard for cell phones, so unlike Microsoft Apple did not have to do a major software rewrite, just spend major bucks.

    These major investments in engineering and money came about because Intel cannot get its act together and produce a suitable chip for mobile devices. Its folly has cost it some of its most important alliances. I don't know whether it's corporate bureaucracy or an inability to focus resources on new markets, but Intel is clearly on a path to lose its market leader status. If you don't make PCs, why believe Intel can deliver?
    wilback