Nvidia Looks To Tablets With New Tegra Chip


Nvidia unveiled its next-generation Tegra processor which it is targeting at the tablet PC and low-cost notebook space

Nvidia is going head to head with Intel’s Atom chip with its next-generation Tegra SoC (system-on-a-chip) offering, which is aimed at the tablet PC and low-cost notebook space.

Nvidia officials announced the new Tegra offering at the CES show, saying that the processor offers four times the performance of the previous Tegra product and 10 times the speed of chips currently used in smartphones.

The company is aiming the newest Tegra offering at such devices as low-cost notebooks and – in particular – tablet PCs.

Tablet PCs have been a big point of discussion at CES. A host of vendors – including Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo and Freescale Semiconductors – has talked about plans for the devices, and industry observers also expect Apple to come out with a tablet announcement later this month.


Nvidia officials say the characteristics of Tegra – including long battery life, 3D touchscreen user interfaces, resolution that is four to eight times better than a smartphone and screens ranging in size from five to 15 inches – play into this trend. Nvidia demonstrated Tegra on several new tablet PCs during CES.

“Consumers can now get the tablet experience they’ve always dreamed of and they can leave the power cord at home,” Michael Rayfield, general manager of Nvidia’s mobile business, said in a statement. “We’re driving tomorrow’s tablets today.”

Still, some analysts, while applauding the benefits of Tegra, say that Nvidia shouldn’t focus solely on tablets.

“Nvidia … believes that tablets are going to be a big thing in 2010 enabled with its new Tegra 40nm applications processor,” Hans Mosesmann, an analyst with Raymond James Equity Research, said in a research note. “The demos we saw with the new Tegra … were quite impressive, with capabilities in line with low to mainstream PCs. The rub for Nvidia is that the company seemed to de-emphasise ‘smartphones,’ where the real volume potential is for Tegra.”

The Tegra is based on dual-core Arm’s Cortex-A9 CPU design running up to 1GHz, and comes with eight independent cores in all, including a GeForce graphics cores. Other cores can handle web browsing, 3D gaming and encoding and decoding high-definition video, according to Nvidia.

Those cores also can be used together or independently to continually optimise power consumption, which leads to the long battery life. Nvidia said Tegra can run 16 hours of HD video or 140 hours of music on a single charge.

While the older Tegra has been used mostly in smaller mobile Internet Devices and the latest version is aimed at tablet PCs, Nvidia said the newest generation also can run on larger devices like low-end laptops, including netbooks, where Intel’s Atom processor dominates.

The new Tegra is in production now and application developers can get the Tegra Developer Kit here.

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