Nvidia Demos Quad-Core Tegra Mobile Chip

As the Computex show kicked off in Taipei, Nvidia showed off its upcoming "Kal-El" quad-core Tegra chip for mobile devices, including tablets.

Nvidia is using the Computex 2011 show in Taipei, Taiwan, to show off its upcoming quad-core Tegra mobile chip, code-named "Kal-El."

Nvidia officials were at the show May 30 demonstrating a prototype tablet running the chip, which they first announced at the Mobile World Congress show in February. Kal-El offers four Cortex-A9 computing cores and a 12-core GeForce graphics engine, and represents the next step in an aggressive road map Nvidia is pushing that will include chips by 2014 that will offer 100 times the processing power of the current dual-core Tegra 2.

The day before Nvidia officials spoke with reporters in Taiwan, the company also posted a demonstration online about the capabilities of Kal-El.

"Given that dual-core processors are already on market, you might be wondering how Project Kal-El's quad-core technology will improve the mobile experience," Nvidia blogger Matt Wuebbling said in a post May 29. "Rather than try to explain it, we've put together a hands-on demo to give you a sneak peek at the new capabilities coming to superphones and tablets later this year."

The "Glowball" demonstration is designed to show off the computing and graphics capabilities of the quad-core Tegra chip to offer a greater user experience, according to Wuebbling.

"Notice how the visual quality degrades when only two CPU cores are used," he wrote. "It's clear that the quad-core processor in Project Kal-El is required for this level of realism."

According to reports, at the Computex show, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said products running the new chips will hit the market in September. He also said that the Tegra 2, which is found in such devices as Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablet, will hit the 10-million-sold mark by the end of June.

Nvidia officials said the Kal-El chip will improve applications and graphics performance over the Tegra 2, and will be more energy-efficient.

Nvidia is among a number of chip makers-including Samsung, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments-that use designs from ARM Holdings for their products. It comes at a time when Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are looking to expand beyond their server and PC roots and into the mobile device space. Those two have to continue making strides to bring down the power consumption of their x86-based processors before they can challenge ARM's chip designs, but both are rapidly moving in that direction.

Given that, ARM and its partners need to continue to innovate as they try to stay ahead of Intel and AMD. Nvidia and Qualcomm in February both unveiled plans for quad-core mobile chips. Qualcomm officials said before the Mobile World Congress show that the next version of its Snapdragon will come in one-, two- and four-core models; run at speeds up to 2.5GHz; offer up to 150 percent more performance than current CPU cores running on ARM designs; and consume 65 percent less power.

ARM chips also will get a boost when Microsoft rolls out the next version of Windows, which executives said will support SoC (system-on-a-chip) architectures, including those based on ARM designs.