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Mobile GPUs to be on-par with consoles in a couple of years? NVIDIA says it's possible

April 21, 2012

Once upon a time, mobile phones used to weigh a couple of pounds (literally), feature large antennas, and very basic designs, and were used primarily to make and receive voice calls. Today’s smartphones are as much gaming machines and music players as they are devices for managing calls. However, mobile gaming is still far off from the quality of console or PC games and you might think that things will stay that way for a long, long time.

If we are to believe NVIDIA’s claims, though, this situation could well change in the (very) near future, with mobile GPU (graphics processing unit) performance set to be on-par or even surpass console power by 2014. As you can see from the nice slide below, coming straight from NVIDIA, mobile GPU performance is currently way behind the performance of PCs and consoles. The chart is not very easy to read and might get a tad confusing, but, as far as I can tell, console performance equals nowadays mobile GPU power multiplied with four or five.

In other words, consoles are a solid four or five times faster than smartphones or tablets these days. But the race might get a lot tighter as soon as next year, and, if NVIDIA’s projections prove accurate, mobile GPUs might be as fast as console processing units by 2014. On the other hand, mobile processors are likely to remain significantly slower than PC chips over the next years, so the number one gaming platform should remain the same, at least for the near future.

If you’re confused by the graph, the solid lines are the estimated performance levels for each platform, while the dotted lines represent trends. The console line features two plateaus, representing the performance of the Xbox 1 and Xbox 360, while the mobile graph starts with Apple’s first iPhone and continue with NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 platforms.

This graph should be taken more like a marketing material than an accurate technical representation of the evolution of hardware. Then again, NVIDIA is not the only one predicting an important leap in performance for mobile GPUs. What do you guys think? Will the console of tomorrow fit snugly in your pocket?