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First Tegra K1 benchmarks appear, courtesy of the Lenovo ThinkVision 28

The first collection of benchmarks for Nvidia's new Tegra K1 SoC have appeared, but can the chip live up to the reputation of its Kepler GPU?
January 13, 2014
Tegra K1

Nvidia’s Tegra K1 SoC was one of the biggest hardware announcements from this year’s CES, and thanks to Tom’s Hardware we already have an idea of its rough performance level.

As a quick reminder, the Tegra K1 features a quad-core Cortex A15 CPU and 192 GPU cores based on Nvidia’s premium range of Kepler desktop GPUs. One of the first products to feature the Tegra K1 was also demoed at CES 2014, the Lenovo ThinkVision 28, which is the device being used for these benchmarks. The ThinkVision is a 4K resolution (3840×2160) 28” LCD monitor, but unlike a traditional monitor it comes packed with loads of tech inside.

The display houses a Tegra K1 clocked at 2Ghz, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 32GB of storage, a microSD slot, 3 USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, speakers, a microphone, webcam, 3 HDMI ports, and a range of connectivity options including WiFi and Bluetooth.

It’s very nice, but I’m more interested to see how the Tegra K1 performs and whether or not the graphics chip lives up to expectations.

Tom’s Hardware has kindly put together a collection of benchmark results, pitting the major competitors against each other. The first challenger comes from Android’s largest chip manufacturer, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 as found in the Nexus 5. Then there’s Apple’s A7 powered iPhone 5S, and a Tegra 4 EVGA Note 7 thrown in for generational comparisons.

The first test was conducting using 3DMark, which stresses both GPU and CPU performance.

Tegra K1 3DMark benchmark

The Tegra K1 clearly comes out on top in this test, producing an impressive 25% performance gain over its rivals in the graphics department. The CPU limited physics test produces a result much closer to the other chips, but this is to be expected as the K1 is based on the older Tegra 4 CPU design. Perhaps Nvidia’s upcoming Denver CPU will boost performance here.

Now for a test where the Tegra K1’s Kepler GPU should really shine, GFX Bench v2.7.

Tegra K1 GFXBench

In the off-screen test, conducted at 1920×1080, the K1’s Kepler GPU wipes the floor with the opposition, almost doubling the GPU performance of Apple’s impressive A7 chip. The on-screen test may appear to show a poor result for the K1, but remember that the Lenovo’s display has an Ultra HD resolution of 2160p whilst the other devices are 1080p or less. 4K rendering is beyond the scope of most fully fledged desktop GPUs. The K1, or any other mobile GPU, doesn’t stand a chance of pulling off a decent frame rate.

The Tegra K1 outshines the current generation of smartphone processors by a decent margin, at least in the graphics department. Of course the real competition starts when we can compare the K1 to the new Snapdragon 805.

Even though this is an impressive performance, Nvidia has a history of showing promise with its new chips, only to delay the actual products so long as to be overtaken by other manufacturers. The Tegra 3 and 4 were both behind the competition by the time they actually reached consumers. Also don’t forget the delayed introduction of LTE (Tegra 4i) which left the processors undesirable for top-of-the-line smartphones.

The K1 looks to be a great piece of technology on paper, but until there’s a tablet in my hand I’ll reserve my final judgement.