Friday, November 11, 2011

Is four the new two? Mobile quad core arrives right on time. Two, we hardly knew ya.


Putting some hot new dual-core chipset in that new smartphone you’re designing? Sorry to tell you this, but it looks like dual is like so five minutes ago.

It seems like it wasn’t more than a year ago when dual-core processors in handsets were the absolute cutting edge. A speed war was brewing among smartphone vendors. There was chest pounding of specs: “1 GHz dual-core.” But there wasn’t much talk of actual benefits. But just as the megapixel arms race morphed into a speed race, the core battle is now upon us.

The other day, NVIDIA officially announced its Tegra 3, a quad-core mobile processor with five cores! The Tegra 3 is based on ARM’s Cortex A9 CPU with each single core running up to 1.4 GHz, supports full HD 1080p video playback and 7.1 surround sound audio, and it runs a 12-core GeForce GPU for what NVIDIA says will lead to three times the video performance. When you start talking a dozen cores, you’re bound to get some early adopter interest.

Pay for four cores, get the fifth for free!
An interesting development with the Tegra 3 is the introduction of what NVIDIA calls the “Companion Core,” a fifth lower-power and slower (500 MHz) core to provide CPU support to for less-intensive tasks such as stand-by. This is a clever way to drive battery efficiency. In face, NVIDIA is claiming the Tegra 3 supports up to 12 hours ov video playback on the device, a 60% increase in battery performance over the Tegra 2.

We’ll soon be seeing some intense video, audio, and gaming experiences on tablets and smartphones thanks to chips like this.

So, is it a dual to the finish? And soon a finish to the dual?

1 comment:

Dipankar said...

To me it seems like a bit of an overkill. If you see their explanation of the architecture, only the 500 Mhz companion core is active during 1080p video playback, meaning that the graphics accelerator does the video decoding & post processing. I wonder what's the need for the 4 full-speed cores? Bragging rights, maybe.