Nvidia's next-generation Tegra mobile chip will offer five cores, which officials said will offer greater power efficiency and performance than competing two-core processors.
Nvidia has boasted that its upcoming next-generation Tegra chip-code-named "Kal-El
"-would be the first mobile
chip with four cores.
Nvidia officials said Sept. 20 that that wasn't entirely accurate: The chip for
smartphones and tablets actually will have five cores.
papers and a blog posting, Nvidia said Kal-El will feature a "companion core"
that will run at a lower frequency than the other four and will operate at
exceptionally low power. The fifth core will be used to run the Kal-El-powered
devices at low power while in standby mode, and also will run tasks that don't
need all the power of the other four cores.
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," Matt Wuebbling, director of product marketing for Nvidia's
Tegra business, said in a Sept. 20 posting on the company's corporate blog
. "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."
technology-which Nvidia calls its "Variable SMP architecture"-is transparent to
the operating system, which means that neither the OS nor applications need to
be redesigned to take advantage of the fifth core, Wuebbling said. The chip is
made via a special low-power silicon process, according to one of Nvidia's
white papers. The four primary cores are built using a standard silicon
process, enabling them to reach higher frequencies than the companion core.
All five are
built on ARM Holdings' Cortex-A9 design.
with other mobile chip makers like Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, already
offer dual-core chips for the booming smartphone and tablet markets. Nvidia
executives have been boasting that the 40-nanometer Kal-El chips will be the
first with four cores. Now, that number of cores has been pushed to five, and
despite the growing number of cores, officials said in a white paper
that because of the variable SMP
technology, the primary quad-core CPU architecture in Kal-El uses less power
and offers a higher performance-per-watt metric than single- and dual-core
chips from competitors.
"In order to
meet peak performance demands in a multitasking environment, a single core CPU
not only runs at higher clock frequencies and voltages than a multi-core CPU,
but also takes longer periods of time to complete a given task," Nvidia
officials wrote. "Multi-core CPUs are able to use symmetrical multiprocessing
and distribute workload across multiple CPU cores. Due to workload sharing,
each CPU core can run at lower frequency and voltage to complete a
multi-threaded task, or multiple tasks in a multi-tasking scenario."
In the same
vein, because of lower operating frequency and voltage, each core consumes less
power and offers higher performance per watt than single-core CPUs, they said.
In its other white paper
, Nvidia outlined the
technology in the companion core. Nvidia announced earlier this month that it
had begun shipping the next-generation Tegra chip, and expected devices powered
by the technology to hit the market later this year.
its name with its graphics technology for visually intensive games, but in
recent years has been making a push with its Tegra CPUs into the highly competitive
smartphone and tablet spaces. Nvidia, like Qualcomm, TI, Samsung and others, is
using designs from ARM to build their mobile chips.
conference call earlier this month to provide an update on the company's
financial outlook, Nvidia executives said they expect to see revenue for their
fiscal year 2013-which begins Jan. 30, 2012-at $4.7 billion to $5 billion, more
than analysts had predicted. President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said the strong
numbers are due to both its graphics and mobile chip offerings.
growth across our entire GPU and mobile-processor business," Huang said in
a statement. "The future for computing is visual and mobile, and we are
well-positioned to lead in this new era."
chip space is about to become even more competitive, as x86 chip vendors Intel
and Advanced Micro Devices look to muscle their way in. Intel is the more
aggressive of the two, already seeing its chips appear in tablets and expecting
Intel-powered smartphones to begin hitting the market in 2012.
Along with the
five-core Tegra chip, Project Kal-El also includes a new 12-core graphics
processor that will offer three times the graphics performance of Tegra 2. It
also will have more capabilities, though Nvidia officials offered no details on