Final Words

NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 is a significant step forward in both CPU and GPU performance. Although Tegra 3 was decent in both areas, Tegra 4 really moves things forward. ARM’s Cortex A15 is an excellent performer, although that performance comes at a high power cost. In a tablet, as we’ve already seen with Google’s Nexus 10, the power consumption associated with the Cortex A15 core is manageable. If NVIDIA’s data is to be believed however, Tegra 4 can get into a smartphone just by aggressively controlling frequencies. At reduced frequencies, Tegra 4 can draw less power than Tegra 3 but with no performance advantage. NVIDIA could then scale up performance (and power) to offer an improvement over Tegra 3. The real question at that point is whether or not Qualcomm’s Krait 300/400 designs offer better efficiency at these intermediate points on the performance/power curve. We’ll be able to find out for sure later this year when both Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 600/800 based devices are shipping.

Icera i500 looks like an interesting competitor in the modem space, which presently is dominated by Qualcomm. More competition is always good, and before the NVIDIA acquisition Icera was on the up and up with impressive performance and interesting SDR architecture. In addition the integration into NVIDIA's own SoC seems to have taken place pretty quickly, and we had the opportunity to see it in the flesh doing over 100 Mbps on a test box.

On the imaging side NVIDIA's Chimera ISP architecutre looks intriguing, though it is obvious that NVIDIA is trying to craft a compelling story for leveraging the GPU. What we did see of HDR video capture and assist looks better than some of the other solutions out there, and object tracking does make for a compelling demo even if it requires user training.

NVIDIA’s biggest advantage hasn’t been architecture, but rather being in the right design wins. Without a doubt, the Nexus 7 and Surface RT were significant wins for NVIDIA last year and they really helped ensure a successful year for NVIDIA’s Tegra business. Whether or not NVIDIA will be able to guarantee similarly key design wins with Tegra 4 remains to be seen. The architecture looks good enough on paper, now it’s just up to NVIDIA’s sales teams to get it into the right devices.

Hands on with the Phoenix, NVIDIA's FFRD
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  • tipoo - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    Under 500 in Sunspider, about twice as fast as anything else ARM. But then again, it's a few months newer than that, and actually still not shipping. And as usual with Nvidia they're early to each party (first to dual core, first to quad core), but not always the best performing. We'll see if other Cortex A15 designs beat it.

    I'd love to see four of those cores paired with SGXs upcoming 600/Rogue series.
    Reply
  • jeffkibuule - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    SunSpider is so software sensitive that a Tegra 3 @ 1.2 Ghz on Windows RT beats a Snapdraon S4 Pro @ 1.5Ghz on Nexus 4 using Chrome. It's a terrible benchmark because its so dependent on underlying kernel optimizations in the Android phone market. Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    True, other benchmarks are similarly impressive though. Reply
  • karasaj - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    Psh it has nothing on my desktop! 125ms on sunspider... Nvidia so behind.

    Anyways, still looks impressive. I really want to see some Krait 600/800 benchmarks.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    The fact that they're getting well below an order of magnitude slower than desktops is impressive in itself too. Even with iPad 2 level performance I still was reluctant to do most of my web browsing on a tablet for the performance. Maybe with Tegra 4 and beyond hardware speed that will change. Reply
  • Mumrik - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    As someone with heavily tabbed browsing habits, I don't think I'll ever make that jump (and I own a tablet). Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    Also true, that's my other thing. I like to open a bunch of background tabs and have them ready as I go through each one. Right now, tablets don't do background loading, as far as I know, and if they did they wouldn't be powerful enough to keep the main tab smooth while doing it. Reply
  • Tarwin - Monday, February 25, 2013 - link

    Tablets DO do background loading, as long as they're android. The only performance I've seen is from lack of RAM on my phone and lack of bandwidth on the phone and tablet but those things affect any computer as well. One observation to ne made, they do load in the background but things like audio and video playback will pause if you switch to another tab. Reply
  • von Krupp - Monday, February 25, 2013 - link

    Even Windows Phone 7.5 and 8 do background loading. I haven't used it, but I'd wager that RT does as well, if even the gimpy mobile OS can. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    As someone who had, until recently, over 40 tabs open on my chrome browser (Nexus 4), the critical problem has been memory. With enough memory, and good enough task management, these problems tend to go away.
    Of course, maybe you are than 0.00001% who has hundreds or thousands of tabs open in which case I pity any computer you are likely to own.
    Reply

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