Why Tegra 2 is Significant: Android Superphones in 2011

January 18, 2011

A few years ago, most people were reasonably happy to check simple versions of sites, receive their email on the go, and be able to stay connected at all times. My, how things have changed since then. 2011 is undoubtedly the year of the Superphone – and the rapid developments occurring in mobile technology aren’t going to stop, nor are they going to slow down or go away. Today, people are demanding a lot from their mobile devices, and they have every reason to. It’s hard to say what the average user is looking for, but I would say that most users want great battery life, an extremely responsive touchscreen, good picture and video taking capabilities, and have the option to connect to their monitor or HDTV to show off their latest media. And let’s not forget great games.

And that of course brings me to this. Nvidia is staged to become a huge player in the mobile world. Very few companies have their impressive track record, and many of 2011’s Superphones have already enlisted their hardware’s help in creating beautiful pieces of technological mastery.

Nvidia’s Tegra 2 has shown that it can be much more than a simple, fast gaming processor. It has proven itself in all the important areas, namely battery life, web browsing, and media.

Why Tegra 2 is Significant:

According to NVIDIA, Tegra-equipped phones will be able to browse the web much faster than established (but also older) competitors out there. Check out the cool infographic above for some idea of how significant the improvement is.

Tegra 2 is a multi-core beast. Thankfully, web browsing is something that can be made to be multi-core friendly. Other multi-core architecture should exhibit similar improvements.

The Tegra 2 SoC (Solution on a Chip) has eight cores. Eight cores! Each core has a highly specialized task, so it will be incredibly power efficient. There are two ARM Cortex A9 cores, an audio core, a video encode core, and a video decode core.  The next processor is used for image signal processing. In other words it’s the core that drives a still/video camera in a Tegra handset. The processor supports up to 12MP sensors, auto whitebalance, auto focus and general video processing on either a still picture or a video stream. The output can be routed to the next core: Tegra 2′s GeForce GPU.

“I’d bet that CES 2011 will usher in the year that fully fledged superphones hit the market and really take off, building on the first stirrings of the concept that Google introduced with its phone,” said Mike Rayfield, GM of Nvidia’s Mobile Business Unit. “The term superphone began to simmer earlier this year.”

It’s been a long time in the making, but Tegra is now looking like the real deal. As the design-wins come in, NVIDIA will apply even more pressure to improve on every single metric that it has set for this line of product. With this influx of competition, you can expect a ferocious competition among chipmakers, and the end result for all of us is ever faster device — within the same power envelope.

Nvidia is going to face some stiff competition going forward, but again, we are the beneficiaries of this.

Flash is Going to Rock!

Adobe Flash performance has been understood to be a power hog, in nearly every instance. Even Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, has said that Flash is a power hog. On your PC, Adobe, Intel, and many companies like AMD or NVIDIA have worked together to get Flash player code (or low-level portions) to make it what it is today. In the mobile world, this has not happened yet – until now. If a company isn’t capable of optimizing Flash itself, it’s just not going to happen – that’s the bottom-line. With Tegra, NVIDIA has managed to accelerate the whole Flash pipeline in hardware. Years of working with Adobe Flash on the “PC” side is paying dividends here.

Flash will be incredibly zippy, responsive, and most importantly, won’t zap your precious battery life! Tegra 2 is going to be a really big deal for today’s next generation Superphones and Tablets.

Tegra Zone for Android

To help foster great game and app development Nvidia is also launching something called the Tegra Zone for Android. It will distribute special applications and games that will take full advantage of the powerful Tegra 2 hardware that the new wave of Android smartphones will be shipping with this year.

The Tegra Zone app will have applications that go beyond the Android Market’s strict size limit. This means developers no longer have to bother with the size restriction while coming up with great games. The Tegra Zone app will also offer professional game reviews, high-res screenshots, HD video trailers, gameplay videos and behind-the-scenes footage. The Tegra Zone app will be available once Android phones with Tegra 2 start shipping.

Superphones with Tegra 2 in 2011:

You can read our full review on the latest and greatest dual core Android Superphones here.

  • LG Optimus 2X
  • Motorola Atrix
  • Motorola Droid Bionic


Here’s the Tegra 2 Spec Rundown:

  • Dual-core ARM Cortex -A9 MPCore Processor
    • Symmetric Multi-Processing support for blazing fast web browsing performance, improving load times and rendering of complex pages
    • Processing efficiency of Cortex-A9 provides industry leading performance in lowest power envelope
  • Ultra Low Power NVIDIA Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
    • Enhanced NVIDIA graphics technology, enabling full Flash acceleration for an uncompromised HD web browsing experience
    • Next generation 3D rendering performance for the most compelling user interfaces and advanced mobile games
  • Full High Definition Multimedia
    • Up to 1080p video encode/decode and support for HD Web streaming formats, such as YouTube HD
    • Complete HW accelerated HD multimedia engine for visually stunning movie playback at lowest possible power
  • NVIDIA Low Power Management Architecture
    • Effective power management techniques, such as dynamic voltage and frequency scaling, for ultra-efficient power consumption across all use cases
    • Low-power design delivers over 140 hours audio and over 16 hours of HD video playback

Tegra 2 specs include:

  • Processor and Memory Subsystem
    • Dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor, up to 1.0 GHz
    • 32-bit LP-DDR2, DDR2
  • Ultra Low Power NVIDIA Graphics
    • OpenGL ES 2.0
    • Programmable pixel shader
    • Programmable vertex and lighting
    • 2x 3D graphics performance of previous generation Tegra
  • Full High Definition Multimedia
    • 1080p H.264/VC-1/MPEG-4 Video Decode
    • 1080p H.264 Video Encode
    • Supports multi-standard audio formats, including AAC, AMR, WMA, and MP3
    • Upgraded JPEG encode and decode acceleration
  • Integrated Image Signal Processing
    • Up to 12 megapixel camera sensor support
    • Advanced imaging features (AWB, AF, AE, etc.)
  • Display Subsystem
    • True dual-display support
    • Maximum display resolutions supported:
      • 1080p (1920×1080) HDMI 1.3
      • WSXGA+ (1680×1050) LCD
      • UXGA (1600×1200) CRT
      • NTSC/PAL TV output

Exciting stuff! We will keep you posted with all the latest developments on everything related to Android!

Comments

  • Dave

    Is this a paid add?

    Lots of marketing bullets and no proof points or comparisons to back up the claims. I’ve heard Flash will be faster than ever on ARM and Mobile since 2002 – still waiting to see if for myself. The only thing I see is all ARM CPU’s are getting faster to compensate for poorly written software.

    Same old news, hardware is getting faster and battery life is getting shorter.

    What happens with today’s Multi-media based UI seen on every fancy tablet that needs to render text, 2D @ 3D graphics, Video and audio on the same screen?

    What happens, I’ll tell ya what happens – you fire up all eight cores and such the life out of your battery :-)

  • http://twitter.com/johannsmith Johann Smith

    Is this the reason Intel is now after Nvidia? The 5 year deal I mean. Will be awesome to see this in your hands and play with them…thanks for the article