While Nvidia’s Tegra 3 is one of the most popular and desirable smartphone/tablet SoCs currently available (along with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4), it seems like the fourth generation of Tegra, expected to launch at the end of 2012, will sport a number of major improvements. Simply put, if the rumored specs that have recently surfaced turn out to be true, we might see Nvidia dethroning Qualcomm as the top SoC manufacturer.
Starting with the CPU, rumor has it that Nvidia will use the 28nm manufacturing process to deliver a quad-core ARM A15-based CPU inside the Tegra 4. This is definitely not surprising, as Qualcomm already uses the ARM A15 architecture (granted, only dual-core as of yet) inside the Snapdragon S4 Krait. Adopting the Cortex A15 architecture is the only logical move for all smartphone CPU manufacturers to make before 2013. Will Nvidia place a fifth companion core inside the Tegra 4, as it did with the Tegra 3? There is no answer to that question at this point.
Now for the most interesting detail that rumors have unveiled regarding the upcoming Tegra 4. As many spec-buffs already know, the GPU inside the Tegra 3 (a slightly improved version of the one inside the Tegra 2) is based on an eight year old architecture, one that was used in the GeForce 6000 and 7000 series as well as in the RSX featured by Sony’s PS3.
Despite the fact that it uses this outdated architecture, the Tegra 3 GPU still stands up well against any currently available tech from ARM, Qualcomm, and Imagination Technologies. It just goes to show how far ahead Nvidia are in the GPU race. As per the recent rumors, the recently unveiled Nvidia Kepler GPU architecture will make it into the next generation of Tegra.
Currently available only for desktop video cards and notebook GPUs, we knew that the Kepler architecture was coming to smartphones eventually, but had no idea how soon this will happen. While there is no info regarding the exact number of GPU cores, we should expect anywhere between 32 to 64 GPGPU-compliant (CUDA-compliant) Kepler cores to be found inside the Tegra 4.
The good news is that the Kepler architecture provides not only better performance than any other GPU architecture, but it also marks a major improvement in power consumption ratios. Although ARM is expected to release the Mali-T600 soon, while Imagination Technologies is bound to release the PowerVR SGX54x, both promising to drastically improve on the current tech, the Kepler-based smartphone GPU should blow every competitor out of the water. It’s as simple as that.
To finish it off, the Nvidia Tegra 4 is also rumored to feature an Icera baseband modem, and is expected to first hit the consumer market in late 2012. Following in the Tegra 3’s footsteps, wide availability of the Tegra 4 SoC is not expected until Q1 2013.
What’s your take on this? Will the Kepler-based smartphone GPU be the biggest fish around? If you have any hopes that Qualcomm’s Adreno 320 will not be leapfrogged by the Tegra 4 GPU, let us know in the comment section below!