Recent successes by mobile processor makers such a Qualcomm and the Taiwanese fab-less semiconductor company MediaTek seem to be putting pressure on the sales of NVIDIA’s latest ARM based processor the Tegra 4. Although NVIDIA has managed to attract some big clients for its new processor, it seems that the high price of the SoC is causing some of its partners to wait for the cheaper Tegra 4i which also has the benefit of the integrated i500 LTE modem.
According to upstream suppliers which have spoken to the Digitimes, shipment volumes of the Tegra 4 are limited. The Tegra 4, which was announced at the beginning of this year, is a quad-core Cortex-A15 design which, like the Tegra 3, also features a extra 5th companion core for use in ultra low power situations with the other cores shutdown. Running at a maximum speed of 1.9GHz the chip is manufactured by TSMC using a 28nm process.
Big wins for NVIDA so far include the Slate 21, HP’s Android-powered all-in-one computer with its massive 21.5 inch display; Toshiba’s Excite Pro and Excite Write tablets, both of which are 10.1-inch devices; and the new Transformer Pad Infinity from Asus, which features a 2,560 x 1,600 display.
These however are all high-end devices and have limited general consumer appeal. None of them are high volume 7 inch or 8 inch consumer level tablets. The previous generation of processor, the Tegra 3, was chosen by Google for use in its Nexus 7 tablet, but so far the rumors are that the next iteration of the Nexus 7 will use a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor instead.
Since the Tegra 4i, which is based on the Cortex A9 micro-architecture not the A15, is cheaper (but slower) and comes with an integrated i500 LTE modem, it is thought that device makers could use it in upcoming mobile phones, but since it is really just an overclocked Tegra 3 (running at 2.3GHz), it is only part of the Tegra 4 family by name alone. This means that Qualcomm could see its Snapdragon 800 flagship processor used instead of the Tegra 4 as it does include an integrated LTE modem.
Clearly the Tegra 4 is a fast processor and it can be used together with the i500 LTE modem, which is also available as a separate but complementary chipset. However, it seems that NVIDA has some work to do in convincing its OEMs about the processors benefits.