The Next Big Thing: Quad-Core Tablets with NVIDIA Tegra 3
On any given day, the Android tablet marketplace is normally abuzz and busy. While every manufacturer tries to secure a larger share of the fast-growing Android tablet market, target buyers shop for their next big Android-run gadget.
Amidst this busy crowd, Digitimes and other industry sources recently dropped a news story so bombastic that all had to drop whatever they were doing and listened: ASUS plans to unleash a new beast running on the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 (codenamed “Kal-El”).
Why does news like that bring such a busy marketplace to a complete halt? The answer lies in the quad-core processor that ASUS intends to power its new tablet with–the NVIDIA Tegra 3. What’s with Tegra 3 and why the fuss about it?
If Tegra 2 is lightning-fast, Tegra 3 is faster. NVIDIA Tegra 2 currently provides ample horsepower for the tablet to perform a lot of functions and processes requiring high processing speed. Tegra 3 closely follows Qualcomm’s own ambition to see a 1.5-GHz quad-core design that would be more than twice as fast as Tegra 2. The fast processing power would definitely create a new playground for app developers to develop better, customized, and faster-performing apps.
Tegra 3 could potentially herald a new age in tablets. Apart from the faster processing speed, Tegra 3 also brings to the table many new capabilities and advancements that will make it the next hot property in the Android market. Major case in point: Blu-ray. The notion of Blu-ray drives in tablets is silly, but the chip’s support for it could mean that NVIDIA envisions the Tegra 3 as something that can also be used in ultraportable laptops, all-in-one desktops, or kiosks. Tegra 3 will have triple the graphics power onboard to decode Blu-Ray DVD. Tegra 3 will have a 12-core GPU with a capability to run flawless 3D stereo.
Tegra 3 keeps power consumption reasonable. Considering the faster speed and power-sapping features, you would expect Tegra 3 to draw more power than the Tegra 2. Surprisingly, it draws even lesser power. To keep the power draw reasonable, it would have a ULP (ultra low power) processor mode to cut down the clock speed or number of active cores–and this translates to longer battery life. As with earlier Tegras, NVIDIA would have both the full-power tablet version, the T30 optimized for 1920×1200 display, and a smartphone-optimized AP30 that would be limited to a 1366×768 main display but still have the quad-core option in a large design.
Test samples of the Tegra 3 have already started leaving the factory since the end of last year, but NVIDIA isn’t expected to ship the new components until fall this year. The timing is such that it’s more likely Tegra 3 won’t be in stores until early 2012 for most devices. Devices with Tegra 3 will be on the shelves sooner than later, driving prices for the current line downward. When Tegra 3 devices start sprouting everywhere, everybody wins–except, of course, if you just bought a non-Tegra 3.