We Have a Winner: Tegra 3 Blows Away the Competition in CPU Performance and Graphics Quality

November 9, 2011
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It’s really too bad that Tegra 3 was delayed for so long, when it was supposed to arrive in the first devices starting August this year. It’s now November, and we probably still won’t see it until December. That’s almost half a year delay – again. It was delayed almost as much as Tegra 2. At the very least, Nvidia should’ve given us a more realistic shipping schedule, rather than an what seems to have been an extremely optimistic one – twice. I know they want to build buzz around their chips early on, but they shouldn’t let their potential customers be disappointed either.

With that out of the way, it’s time for the impressive part about Tegra 3! Before it was even announced at MWC last year, I figured Nvidia would have a quad core chip next. That’s not because it was incredibly predictable. It wasn’t. But because I knew Nvidia was crazy enough to pull something like that off. I’ve noticed how they really want to take the market and their competitors by surprise when they announce something.

But even I didn’t expect the big.Little-like configuration (Nvidia calls it Variable SMP) with a lower-clocked Cortex A9 companion core. I bet that’s the part that caught their competitors off-guard the most. With that low-power core (20x less power than the other high-performance cores put together), Nvidia can significantly increase battery efficiency of a device, by letting the “low-end tasks” be handled by that core, and only use the other 4 cores for applications, games and browsing.

The GPU is also significantly more powerful than the Tegra 3 GPU, with up to 3x performance, while also adding other graphics features such as dynamic lighting, which they say no other current mobile GPU has that. Dynamic lighting makes for much more realistic environments and gaming experiences.

The game developers working on Tegra 3 games say that the 4 CPU’s help a lot with in-game damage effects, animated textures, weather effects and so on. So don’t be surprised if games made for Tegra 3 actually look better than other games made for other GPU’s, even if those GPU’s manage to get higher score in synthetic benchmarks (I’m looking at you A5/PowerVR SGX543Mp2).

Not to mention that Tegra 3 can be coupled with either DDR2-1066, or DDR3-1500, which should give it up to 3x more memory bandwidth, which has been a bottleneck for current GPU’s, including Apple’s A5, which even though has a GPU that is 7x faster than the one in iPhone 4 (SGX535), at least according to the benchmarks, it can still only deliver up to 2.3x improvement in performance because the bottleneck is the memory bandwidth. Tegra 3 should have no problem with that at all.

Because of the 4 CPU’s, Tegra 3 should also be unbeatable in browser performance at least until dual core 2.5 Ghz chips or other quad core chips arrive from competitors, although we’ll have to compare those with whatever Nvidia has on the market then, too (Kal-El+, Wayne ?).

Another reason why Tegra 3 is exciting is that we might actually see it in Google TV set top boxes soon. Since Intel has already stated that they are giving up the TV market (probably because everyone was already in the process of moving to ARM), we might see either by the end of the year, or early next year, some ARM-based set top boxes that will also act as mini-consoles.

If the price is right ($100, $150 at most), they could become very popular devices, especially the ones with Tegra 3 which would bring console quality games to Google TV. All you’ll need is a game controller, and both Google TV 2.0 and Tegra 3 have official support for them.

Even if those set top boxes aren’t coming, you can still hook up your Tegra 3 device via HDMI to your TV, and then plug-in the controller into the USB port of your tablet or phone, and play the game.

It seems to me there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Tegra 3 devices, including the upcoming Asus Transformer Prime, which by itself is very impressive, too.

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