Nvidia unveils Tegra 4, the “world’s fastest mobile processor”

Nvidia Tegra 4 announcementKicking CES 2013 off early with a Sunday evening press conference, Nvidia took over Rain at the Palms in Las Vegas for what is probably the nerdiest event that club has hosted in some time. A bunch of folks were there to learn about processors. Nvidia made sure the event was worthwhile for the attendees, though, by unveiling the Nvidia Tegra 4 chipset.

The latest in the line of Nvidia’s processors for mobile devices, the Nvidia will be trying to plant the processor on board as many tablets and phones as possible over the coming year. Known previously by the codename “Wayne,” presumably named after its creator Bruce Wayne (citation needed), the chipset aims to push the performance bar way up and keep competitor Qualcomm on its toes.

Nvidia tagged the processor as the “World’s Fastest Mobile Processor,” it doesn’t look like that’s just a name. The device is “flooded with GPU cores,” in the words of Nvidia president and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. 72 GPU cores running along with four A15 GPU cores are what power the “fastest mobile application processor in the world today.” That speed will feel even better with the new 4G LTE modem processor, something desperately lacking in previous models.

Those numbers for the Tegra 4 sound impressive, but it’s the demo that really displays the speed. Going head-to-head with the Nexus 10 and its Samsung Exynos processor in a race to load 25 web pages, the Tegra 4 cut the time in half, clocking in at twenty-seven seconds compared to fifty seconds for the Nexus 10. A chart comparing speeds to all other processors on the market, including the iPad 4’s Apple A6x, shows the Tegra 4 outpacing the competition.

Applying the Tegra 4 to other tasks, Nvidia also showed off how the processor improves photo capturing. Taking a trip to Tahiti (a makeshift bar on the side of the stage, occupied by a gamer girl), Jen-Hsun Huang displayed Tegra 4’s live HDR image capabilities. With a Windows tablet prototype in hand, the demo crew was able to compose a full image with a live preview of HDR as a guide, rather than snapping a shot and and seeing how it turned out. The computational photography abilities that the Tegra 4 can make possible include things like HDR includes HDR panoramas, reconstructing 3D scenes, object tracking, strobe motion, and more.

The final big reveal for the Tegra 4 was the inclusion of a Icera i500 modem using soft modem technology. It’s a programmable processor capable of 1.2 trillion operations per second, which is just a very large number. Jen-Hsun Huang promises, “it can achieve things that a fixed-function modem cannot,” as cores can be repurposed as needed. 

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