ASUS' Transformer Prime: The First Tegra 3 Tablet

With Tegra 2, Motorola was the primary launch partner both for smartphones and tablets. Since then, ASUS has risen in the ranks and is now a serious competitor in the Android tablet space. It's no surprise that the first Tegra 3 tablet out of the gate is ASUS' Transformer Prime.

ASUS will launch the Transformer Prime in the US before the end of the year. The tablet's specs are below:

Tablet Specification Comparison
  ASUS Eee Pad Transformer ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime Apple iPad 2 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Dimensions 271mm x 175mm x 12.95mm 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8mm 256.6 x 172.9 x 8.6mm
Display 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 Super IPS+ 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 IPS 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 PLS
Weight 675g 586g 601g 565g
Processor 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9) 1.3GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (4 x Cortex A9) 1GHz Apple A5 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9)
Memory 1GB 1GB 512MB 1GB
Storage 16GB + microSD card 32GB/64GB + microSD slot 16GB 16GB
Pricing $399 $499/$599 $499 $499

Final Words

At a high level Tegra 3 doesn't surprise us much. The improved GeForce GPU should deliver tangible performance gains both through increased operating frequency and more pixel shader hardware. CPU performance should also be better than Tegra 2 based designs thanks to an increase in clock speed, the inclusion of MPE and the availability of more cores for threaded applications. In the move from one to two cores we saw significant performance increases across the board in Android. I don't expect that we'll see gains of a similar magnitude in moving from two to four cores, but there will be some benefit.

For the majority of use cases I believe NVIDIA has done the hardware homework necessary to extend battery life. Individual cores can now be power gated and the companion core should do most of the lifting while your device is locked or mostly idle, processing background tasks.

How much of an impact we'll actually see from all of this remains to be seen. We hope to have our hands on the first Tegra 3 hardware in the coming weeks, so before the year is up we'll hopefully have some answers.

The Tegra 3 GPU: 2x Pixel Shader Hardware of Tegra 2
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  • psychobriggsy - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    By using 40nm NVIDIA has achieved a first to market advantage in the high-end quad-core SoC for tablets. Obviously this comes at the cost of a larger die, higher power consumption and/or slower clock speeds.

    The larger die will add some cost to the product, but it's hardly a problem given that it is still quite small in the grand scheme of things. I believe it is smaller than the A5 for example. In addition mature yields on the 40nm process may allow NVIDIA to ship millions without worry rather than risk early 28nm yields.

    Tegra 3 was meant to clock to over 1.5GHz, and this hasn't been achieved, probably 1.3GHz was the better option for power consumption. 28nm will fix this for Tegra 3+ next year, hopefully.

    In addition the low power core gives NVIDIA an early entry into the low-power companion core market a year or two before the ARM Cortex A15 + ARM Cortex A7 combos arrive. This is another reason it is 40nm - TSMC don't have the ability to fab 28nm dies with a combination of processes (LP and HP) on the same die yet.

    So the die might costs a couple of dollers more to make vs Tegra 2, but I'm sure they can charge a premium for the product until the competitors arrive.
    Reply
  • Paulman - Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - link

    Wow, I'm amazed by the response times. It looks pretty seamless (i.e. the switching to and from the low-power transistor companion core). From a GUI perspective, there doesn't appear to be any stutter at all.

    Looks like a good job, NVIDIA :O

    P.S. Speaking of low-power transistors, that's ingenious to build an entire core out of low-power transistors on the same die as the four regular cores. I wonder if that's an idea that's been floating around in the field for awhile...
    Reply
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - link

    You think using LP transistors is something, see big.LITTLE coming from ARM in 2012-2013. ARM designed an entire core to be specifically low power (the Cortex A7) to fit perfectly with the more powerful Cortex A15, so that you get even greater performance with even greater power savings. Reply
  • Mugur - Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - link

    Yes, but Tegra 3 is already here... Reply
  • Draiko - Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - link

    It seems like nVidia and ARM co-developed this kind of Architecture. nVidia is implementing it in the Tegra 3 and ARM is making it available for license with bigLITTLE.

    I'm just blown away with how smooth the dynamic threading is on the Tegra 3. This is going to be an absolute game-changer.
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - link

    That's because it isn't loaded down with crapware like the Blockbuster app...yet. Reply
  • metafor - Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - link

    IIRC, Marvell's Sheeva processors uses this method (came out ~2010 I believe). Reply
  • jcompagner - Thursday, November 10, 2011 - link

    intel does this also for quite some time
    Was the SATA bug they had not a result of something like this?

    There also there was a wrong type of transistor used for that.
    Reply
  • Omega215D - Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - link

    Seeing that the architecture has a sound processor in it, is there any chance that nVidia could revive SoundStorm for the mobile platform? That would be great for things like the Transformer and other tablets as well as smart phones for multimedia purposes. Just a thought. Reply
  • ggathagan - Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - link

    Given the Tegra 3 already includes HD audio and 7.1 support, I'm not clear on what feature you think Soundstream would add. Reply

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