The State Of Mobile Processors (Part 4)

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NVIDIA Catches Up And Pulls Ahead (In Theory)

With the exception of Texas Instruments who has turned its attention to embedded platforms instead, most of the app processor players that went up against Qualcomm in 2011 are still around today. Of course, Qualcomm have gone from strength to strength since then, and almost every mobile device today has a Snapdragon chip in it. Even Samsung, the largest Android OEM, and who has its own Exynos series of SoCs, offers Snapdragon processors in many of its products.


NVIDIA Catches Up And Pulls Ahead

For Intel, it hasn’t scored its mobile chip in any of Samsung’s tablets since the Atom Z2560 got under the hood of the 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab 3 in the middle of last year. But chipzilla should return stronger in 2014, as it tries to get its 22nm, Silvermont-based ‘Bay Trail’ Atom Z3700 and Z3600 series of SoCs (with an Ivy Bridge GPU architecture, no less!) into more tablets other than the Dell Venue 8 Pro and 11 Pro and Lenovo ThinkPad 8. On the phone side of things, as of this writing, Intel’s Merrifield platform is yet to be officially unveiled, and even when it does, it’d be a while before we see phones using it, not to mention these phones are unlikely to be flagship devices from the major Android OEMs.

Which leaves us with NVIDIA. In fact, with Qualcomm’s announcements of the Snapdragon 805 and 410 late last year, and Intel’s silence on its next-gen smartphone platform, NVIDIA was the one that stole all the SoC limelight at CES 2014 with its Tegra K1.


Tegra K1 mobile processors deliver exceptional graphics, powerful computing,
and truly unique features in a power-efficient package optimized for mobility

Like Apple and Qualcomm, NVIDIA is also customizing its own mobile CPU core, instead of purely licensing the microprocessor from ARM. The first NVIDIA SoC to gets this treatment is the 64-bit version of the Tegra K1, which uses NVIDIA’s own ARMv8 ‘Denver’ CPUs. A 32-bit version of the K1 will also be available, and similar to the Tegra 4, it’ll be using four off-the-shelf ARM Cortex-A15 cores, with a fifth battery saver core. Versus the Tegra 4, this Cortex-A15-based Tegra K1 should see better power efficiency and slightly better performance (clock speed goes up from 1.9 to 2.3GHz), which in all honesty, don’t sound particularly exciting.


Nvidia brings Kepler to mobile with Tegra K1

What’s more exciting is the 64-bit Denver option. Clocked up to 2.5GHz and with larger caches than the Cortex-A15- based K1, this dual-core (gasp!) chip boasts of a ‘7-way superscalar’ architecture, which we take to mean that it’s able to execute seven instructions per clock cycle. If true, this is an insanely fast CPU throughput. Furthermore, at CES, NVIDIA demoed a Denver-based Tegra K1 running Android 4.4 KitKat in 64-bit mode, which suggests a 64-bit version of Android is probably not as far off as we initially thought.


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