It was back in late May that we got our first glimpse at NVIDIA’s quad-core processor, codenamed Kal-El. The processor boasted some impressive capabilities that had never been seen on mobile devices today and we patiently awaited to see when we would see more of the powerhouse. Fast forward to today and NVIDIA has given the world a bigger preview of what is now called the Tegra 3.
The Tegra 3 is still the quad-core powerhouse with a 5th companion CPU core and 12-core GPU onboard, but now it just falls in line with the Tegra brand. The Tegra 3 brings unrivaled processing power and graphics performance but still manages to run at a lower power than its predecessor.
Four cores to rule them all
The Tegra 3 provides 5X faster processing power and 3X faster in graphics performance over the Tegra 2 thanks to its four main cores and 5th companion core. The main four cores, when needed, can all run at 1.3GHz, providing a very fast experience across the board. That said, unless you’re playing a graphics intensive game or a heavy multimedia application, all four cores likely won’t be active, as they turn on and off depending on the workload. If only one of the main cores is needed, single-core clock speeds can be bumped up to 1.4GHz.
Dual-core processors today increase performance throughout mobile devices today by processing pages, graphics, etc at a faster rate. Unfortunately, these processor also drain the power of mobile devices like no other. NVIDIA isn’t willing to completely accept this tradeoff and the Tegra 3, while significantly more powerful than it’s predecessor, also uses less power. To relieve the workload of the four main cores even further, a 5th, companion core is found within Tegra 3′s architecture that handles a good portion of general tasks.
Fifth core to lighten the load
Why would NVIDIA call Tegra 3 a quad-core processor if indeed it held five CPU cores within it? Well, you’ll never see all five cores running at the same time. The 5th core, or companion core is activated when non-intensive tasks are needed on a device. This includes (HD) video, music, and active standby. The core itself operates anywhere from 0MHz to 500MHz, which can not only perform the aforementioned tasks easily but helps save battery life.
When the companion core is active, all of the main (4) cores are completely off and vice versa. Say you’re loading a heavy web page with flash on it. Two of the main cores will be activated to load the pages as fast as possible and once the page has been fully loaded, the cores will turn off and the companion core takes on the task for navigating through the page and playing the flash video.
Because the companion core is low powered doesn’t mean it can’t push out HD video without hiccups. If comparing the Tegra 2 vs the Tegra 3, the latter can provide 12 hours of constant 720p HD playback, which is a 61% battery savings compared to the Tegra 2. This 5th core will definitely help with battery life on a tablet, especially if one only uses it lightly.
12-core GeForce GPU to kick graphics ass
One thing that has always been NVIDIA’s strong suit is the graphics arena and its latest SoC proves just that. The Tegra 3 features a brand new 12-core GeForce graphics processor that should give virtually any other mobile device a run for their money. Not only does the powerful GPU provide a more graphically rich experience for the user, but it also opens many doors that haven’t been opened until now to developers.
The new GPU provides dynamic lighting effects, more realism, physical effects, and high-resolution environments unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a mobile device. We caught a glimpse of the real-time dynamic lighting effects in the GlowBall demo a while back, but NVIDIA has another video to show off the Tegra 3′ graphics prowess with another GlowBall level. But this time it’s all underwater.
Right now there are more than 15 games in development for the Tegra 3, with 40+ Tegra Zone games expected to land by the end of 2011. Tegra Zone itself is also seeing some great growth. With over 1.2 million installs, the Tegra 3 will only further T-Zone’s reach.
So the Tegra 3 is just what the doctor ordered, right? Well, what is an amazing SoC like the Tegra 3 without some powerful hardware to go along with it? That’s where the Asus Transformer Prime comes in. The first Tegra 3 tablet is as sexy on the outside as it is powerful on the inside and we can’t wait to get our geeky paws all over the Android tablet. Head over to here to get more information about the Transformer Prime.