When the Nvidia Tegra 3 platform was first announced, with its four (plus one) Cortex-A9 cores, it was unquestionably, the best SoC on the horizon. Since then, we've seen competitors such as Qualcomm pushing the limits of dual-core processors, as seen with benchmark comparisons of Tegra 3 vs Snapdragon S4.
But slowly, the once highly-acclaimed Tegra 3 processor begins to lose its luster. Adding to the problems for Nvidia, Samsung will likely use its Exynos quad-core processor (expected to be clocked at 1.8Ghz) paired with 2GB RAM, to power the most awaited Android device of the year, the Samsung Galaxy S3.
So it might already be time for Nvidia to look towards the future. And it seems that's exactly what the Santa Clara-based giant is doing, if a leak reported by VR-Zone is to be believed. Based on this leak and on the other rumors, here's a brief summary of what we know about the two upcoming powerhouses, the Nvidia Tegra 4 and the Samsung Exynos 4412.
If the above “leak” is trustworthy, and I'm not entirely sure it is, it seems that Nvidia is preparing to unleash its quad-core processors featuring ARM Cortex-A15 cores, clocked at 1.2 to 2.0 Ghz, and pegged to arrive as early as Q1 2013. This roadmap would be in line with remarks made by Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, that we should expect “a new Tegra every year.”
This move to Cortex-A15 cores is an overdue step in the right direction for Nvidia, with the A15 cores (used in Qualcomm's Krait designs that put the Tegra 3 to shame in benchmarks) being far superior to the A9 design found at the core of the Tegra 3 chip.
With the Exynos 4412 already clocking a rumored 1.8 Ghz, Nvidia's efforts to beef up the upcoming Tegra 4 chips might be (again, if the leaks and rumors are true) a case of too little too late.
The Exynos 4412, as presented at MWC, will be clocking an expected 1.5 Ghz, which would translate to 35-50% better performance compared to Samsung's previous chips, without compromising battery life. Moreover, rumors have surfaced that Samsung will be using an Exynos 4412 processor in the Samsung Galaxy S3, clocked at no less than 1.8Ghz, making it the most powerful Android phone to arrive to the market this season.
Current quad-core processors don't integrate LTE radio, forcing manufacturers to look for workarounds, as exemplified by the utilization of dual-core Snapdragon S4 processors for the US versions of the HTC One X (featuring Tegra 3 in the global version). With every major carrier moving to 4G LTE networks, it might be a while until US consumers get their hands on some quad-core delight. From the above “leak”, it looks like Nvidia is addressing this concern with the SP3X processor, which has in-built LTE capability (probably courtesy of radio tech from Icera, acquired by Nvidia a while ago). But with an expected (if the information is accurate) Q3 2013 release date, Nvidia's LTE-enabled SoCs are a very long time away.
There is no information on whether Samsung's future Exynos designs will have LTE radio functionality built-in, but if it does, and it's a big if, it could be a game-changer for Samsung in the US market.
Processor technology is evolving at a furious pace, with chips getting smaller and pushing out more power with every design iteration. It's too early to come up with definitive analyses on which company will come on top in the “processor wars” but it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.