NVIDIA's Tegra X1
NVIDIA seems to like begin on a one year cycle with their latest Tegra products. Many years ago we were introduced to the Tegra 2, and the year after that the Tegra 3, and the year after that the Tegra 4. Well, NVIDIA did spice up their naming scheme to get away from the numbers (not to mention the potential stigma of how many of those products actually made an impact in the industry). Last year's entry was the Tegra K1 based on the Kepler graphics technology. These products were interesting due to the use of the very latest, cutting edge graphics technology in a mobile/low power format. The Tegra K1 64 bit variant used two “Denver” cores that were actually designed by NVIDIA.
While technically interesting, the Tegra K1 series have made about the same impact as the previous versions. The Nexus 9 was the biggest win for NVIDIA with these parts, and we have heard of a smattering of automotive companies using Tegra K1 in those applications. NVIDIA uses the Tegra K1 in their latest Shield tablet, but they do not typically release data regarding the number of products sold. The Tegra K1 looks to be the most successful product since the original Tegra 2, but the question of how well they actually sold looms over the entire brand.
So why the history lesson? Well, we have to see where NVIDIA has been to get a good idea of where they are heading next. Today, NVIDIA is introducing the latest Tegra product, and it is going in a slightly different direction than what many had expected.
The reference board with 4 GB of LPDDR4.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 12:41 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, tegra, press conference, nvidia, live stream, live, ces 2015, CES
Tonight at 8pm PT / 11pm ET NVIDIA will be hosting its annual press conference from CES 2015. While I fully expect the majority of the information to be on Tegra-related products, there is a chance they could slip in some GeForce products as well. I leave nothing past NVIDIA with a 2 hour window.
You can watch the live stream of the event right here and I am going to be live blogging from the event as well, pending Internet capability inside the conference room.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Mobile | November 18, 2014 - 03:40 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: tegra, shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid
In December of last year we took NVIDIA's GRID technology through some testing and discussed our experiences in text and video. At that point you were able to play 8 specific games under the guise of a beta program. The experience was pretty good and a definite improvement over my first attempt at streaming games (OnLive). Here is what I wrote last year:
Overall my experience with the first beta of GRID was very positive including both latency and image quality. Yes, there were definitely times when we got a lot of macro-blocking due to bandwidth hiccups, but they were infrequent. You could tell pretty much anytime there was motion on the screen that you were watching a video rather than native gameplay, but I think the effect is much less apparent now than it was when I first tried services like OnLive.
Input latency is also definitely seen, and was most evident in my testing with Street Fighter IV. You can even see some of it in our video embedded on this post. That is something that NVIDIA claims to have really optimized for with their integrated H.264 encoding on the server GPUs, but getting more servers in more locations will help tremendously moving forward.
Today, along with the official roll out of the Android 5.0 Lollipop software update for the SHIELD Tablet, the NVIDIA GRID service goes into official release. What exactly that means is up in the air, as the service is still set to be free to all SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet users through June 2015. What I can tell you is that the quality of the experience has been improved and the game selection has expanded quite a bit, with more to come.
Setup of GRID is much easier now, as long as you have the appropriate hardware to get GRID service up and running. That means a SHIELD Portable or SHIELD Tablet with SHIELD Controller. These are the items that stand out beyond that:
- Internet connection with at least a 10 Mbps download speed
- Home network with 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server
- NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router
I have asked for the location of the GRID servers geographically, as that will definitely be a factor in your ability to get the appropriate 60 ms or lower ping time. (UPDATE: NVIDIA tells me that the current locations are Oregon and Virginia.) The list of compatible routers has been growing over the last year as well including some from Netgear, D-Link, Buffalo and ASUS. If you don't already have one of these routers, you can still TRY to use the GRID service but it won't be officially supported by NVIDIA.
LEGO Batman 2
The games available to play on NVIDIA GRID has expanded as well.
- Alan Wake's American Nightmare
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Batman: Arkham City
- Borderlands 2
- Brutal Legend
- Darksiders 2
- Dead Island
- Dirt 2
- LEGO Batman 2
- LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
- Race Driver GRID
- Strike Suit Zero
- Saints Row: The Third
- Street Fighter X Tekken
- The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
- Trine 2
- Ultra Street Fighter IV
There are some great titles in here including Borderlands, Saint's Row, The Witcher 2, the Batman games, etc. and if you haven't played them before then getting access to them for free is awesome. Even better, NVIDIA has committed to adding one new game each week between now and June of next year. NVIDIA upgraded the login / account system to move away from being associated solely with the device and instead uses your Google account login information to register save data.
In terms of game quality and gaming experience, I would say that GRID continues to improve. I spent some time with DiRT 2, LEGO Batman 2, Street Fighter IV and The Witcher 2 and in all cases the games looked great, with very little macro-blocking or stutter. We tested on both our office connection (1.0 Gbps fiber) and my home connection (30 Mbps cable) and the results were pretty much the same.
For those concerned with latency of input, there is definitely still some there, most apparent in fighting game like Street Fighter IV. With Borderlands and Borderlands 2 being the only FPS games in the collection, you could likely assume that the twich-style actions of these types of shooters would be most affected. Titles like Street Fighter IV and DiRT 2, for those of us that don't consider ourselves experts, can be adjusted to; you can make your mind compensate for the added input differences of playing games locally.
With the SHIELD Tablet, another possible use for GRID is to play these streaming games on your TV. The tablet itself has an HDMI output and is capable of outputting 1080p to your big screen. With the SHIELD Controller you can get a true couch gaming experience with GRID; I am looking forward to showing this to my niece and nephews over the Thanksgiving holiday and getting some reactions and feedback.
The Witcher 2
The other big news today is the release of SHIELD Tablet software update 2.0 that includes Android 5.0 and Lollipop, updates for the new GRID release and an updated NVIDIA Dabbler V2.0 program. We'll have more thoughts on that software update very soon but you can get more details on the upgrades Lollipop provides for NVIDIA's tablet right here.
Subject: Mobile | October 15, 2014 - 05:10 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: tegra k1, tegra, nvidia, nexus 9, Nexus, google, Denver
Along with the announcement of the Google Nexus 6 phone, Google is also announcing a new tablet, the Nexus 9. Sporting an 8.9-in IPS screen with a 2048x1536 resolution (4:3 standing strong!), a 6700 mAh battery as well as the new Android Lollipop operating system, perhaps the most interesting specification is that it is built around NVIDIA's Tegra K1 SoC. Specifically, the 64-bit version based on the dual-core custom built Denver design, marking that architectures first release in shipping product.
UPDATE: Amazon.com has the Google Nexus 9 up for pre-order in both 16GB and 32GB capacities!
Tegra K1 using 64-bit Denver cores are unique in that it marks the first time NVIDIA has not used off-the-shelf cores from ARM in it's SoC designs. We also know, based on Tim's news post on PC Perspective in August, that the architecture is using a 7-way superscalar design and actually runs a custom instruction set that gets translated to ARMv8 in real-time.
A software layer and 128MB cache enhance the Dynamic Code Optimization technology by allowing the processor to examine and optimize the ARM code, convert it to the custom instruction set, and further cache the converted microcode of frequently used applications in a cache (which can be bypassed for infrequently processed code). Using the wider execution engine and Dynamic Code Optimization (which is transparent to ARM developers and does not require updated applications), NVIDIA touts the dual Denver core Tegra K1 as being at least as powerful as the quad and octo-core packing competition.
It is great news for NVIDIA that Google is using this version of the Tegra K1 (can we please just get a different name for this version of the chip) as it indicates Google's commitment to the architecture in Android going forward, opening doors for the parts integration with even more devices with other hardware vendors moving forward.
More than likely built by HTC, the Nexus 9 will ship in three different colors (black, white and beige) and has a lot of callbacks to the Nexus 7, one of if not THE most popular Android tablet on the market. The tablet has front-facing speakers which should make it good for headphone-free media consumption when necessary. You'll be able put the Nexus 9 into a working mode easily with a new magnetically attached keyboard dock, similar to the iPad accessories widely available.
The Nexus 9 weighs in at 425g (the iPad Air weighs 478g), will have 16GB and 32GB capacity options, going up for preorder on 10/17 and shipping by 11/03. Google will sell both a 32GB Wi-Fi and 32GB LTE model with the LTE version (as well as the Sand color) shipping "later this year." Pricing is set at $399 for the 16GB model, $479 for the 32GB model and $599 for the 32GB+LTE version. That is quite a price hike for LTE capability and the $80 gap between the 16GB and 32GB options is annoying as well.
|Screen||8.9" IPS LCD TFT 4:3 aspect ratio QXGA (2048x1536)|
|Size||153.68 mm x 228.25 mm x 7.95 mm|
|Weight||WiFi: 14.99 ounces (425g) LTE: 15.38 ounces (436g)|
|Camera||Rear Camera: 8MP, f/2.4, 29.2mm focal length (35mm equiv), Auto-focus, LED flash Front Camera: 1.6MP, f/2.4, 26.1mm focal length (35mm equiv), Fixed-focus, no flash|
|Audio||Front-facing stereo speakers, complete with HTC’s BoomSound™ technology|
|Memory||16, 32 GB eMMC 4.51 storage (actual formatted capacity will be less)|
|CPU||NVIDIA Tegra K1 - 64 bit; Dual Denver CPUs @ 2.3 GHz|
|GPU||Kepler 192-core GPU|
|Wireless|| Broadcom 802.11ac 2x2 (MIMO)
|Network||Quad-band GSM, CDMA, Penta-band HSPA, 4G LTE|
|Power**||6700 mAh Wifi Browsing: Up to 9.5 hours LTE Browsing: Up to 8.5 hours Video Playback: Up to 9.5 hours Wifi Standby: Up to 30 days LTE Standby: Up to 30 days|
|Sensors||GNSS support for GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou Bosch gyroscope and accelerometer AKM magnetometer & hall effect sensor Capella ambient light sensor|
|Ports & Connectors||Single micro-USB 2.0 for USB data/charging 3.5mm audio jack Dual front-facing speakers Dual microphones, top/bottom|
|OS||Android 5.0 Lollipop|
A Tablet and Controller Worth Using
An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks back, while I was standing on stage at our annual PC Perspective Hardware Workshop during Quakecon in Dallas, TX. When NVIDIA offered up a SHIELD (now called the SHIELD Portable) for raffle, the audience cheered. And not just a little bit, but more than they did for nearly any other hardware offered up during the show. That included motherboards, graphics card, monitors, even complete systems. It kind of took me aback - NVIDIA SHIELD was a popular brand, a name that was recognized, and apparently, a product that people wanted to own. You might not have guessed that based on the sales numbers that SHIELD has put forward though. Even though it appeared to have a significant mind share, market share was something that was lacking.
Today though, NVIDIA prepares the second product in the SHIELD lineup, the SHIELD Tablet, a device the company hopes improves on the idea of SHIELD to encourage other users to sign on. It's a tablet (not a tablet with a controller attached), it has a more powerful SoC that can utilize different APIs for unique games, it can be more easily used in a 10-ft console mode and the SHIELD specific features like Game Stream are included and enhanced.
The question of course though is easy to put forward: should you buy one? Let's explore.
The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet
At first glance, the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet looks like a tablet. That actually isn't a negative selling point though, as the SHIELD Tablet can and does act like a high end tablet in nearly every way: performance, function, looks. We originally went over the entirety of the tablet's specifications in our first preview last week but much of it bears repeating for this review.
The SHIELD Tablet is built around the NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, the first mobile silicon to implement the Kepler graphics architecture. That feature alone makes this tablet impressive because it offers graphics performance not seen in a form factor like this before. CPU performance is also improved over the Tegra 4 processor, but the graphics portion of the die sees the largest performance jump easily.
A 1920x1200 resolution 7.9-in IPS screen faces the user and brings the option of full 1080p content lacking with the first SHIELD portable. The screen is bright and crisp, easily viewable in bring lighting for gaming or use in lots of environments. Though the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 had a 2048x1536 resolution screen, the form factor of the SHIELD Tablet is much more in line with what NVIDIA built with the Tegra Note 7.
Subject: General Tech | July 24, 2014 - 04:58 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, nvidia, shield, shield tablet, tegra, tegra k1, WD, red, 6tb red, 4tb red pro, A88X-G45 Gaming, xiaomi, maxwell, amd, Intel
PC Perspective Podcast #310 - 07/24/2014
Join us this week as we discuss the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, WD 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro HDDs and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2014 - 05:58 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: twitch, tegra k1, tegra, shield tablet, shield controller, shield, nvidia, grid, gamestream
Shame on you if you skipped Ryan's review of the new Shield, for those that have and are looking for a second opinion you can check out The Tech Report and other links below the fold. To quickly recap the controller is now optional but you can connect up to 4 simultaneously for group gaming, the built in 8" IPS display is capable of 1920x1200 and you can output video to an external monitor at 1080p. The 192 shader processors on the Tegra K1 SoC inside should have no problems with fast paced action at these resolutions and at launch there are almost a dozen games optimized for the K1. The focus on gaming performance is obvious but the inclusion of DirectStylus 2 for those who want to use the tablet for creating art adds an interesting extra feature to this tablet, especially if it will work with NVIDIA's ShadowPlay streaming technology as live broadcasts of artists drawing has become quite popular in some crowds. It will be very interesting to see this tablet compete against consoles and the soon to arrive Steamboxes.
"Just under a year since the release of the Shield Portable, Nvidia has announced a second member of the Shield family. As expected, it's the Shield Tablet, an Android slate with an emphasis on gaming. Like the Shield Portable before it, the Shield Tablet will sell direct from Nvidia, not from a partner company. The Shield Tablet extends Nvidia's Android gaming focus to a new form factor, making it one of the first tablets anywhere with a fairly pure gaming mission."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Tegra K1 Gaming is Near: NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet & Controller Preview @ Techgage
- NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Preview @ Hardware Canucks
- Nvidia officially reveals the Shield tablet @ Kitguru
- A newer kind of web tracking is almost impossible to stop @ engadget
- Handheld device allows anyone to instantly test drinks for date rape drugs @ ExtremeTech
- Intel announces 'self encrypting' solid state drives to fight data breaches @ The Inquirer
- GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work? @ The Register
- Asus RP-AC52 Wireless Range Extender review @ Bjorn3D
SHIELD Tablet with new Features
It's odd how regular these events seem to come. Almost exactly one year ago today, NVIDIA launched the SHIELD gaming device, which is a portable Android tablet attached to a controller, all powered by the Tegra 4 SoC. It was a completely unique device that combined a 5-in touchscreen with a console-grade controller to build the best Android gaming machine you could buy. NVIDIA did its best to promote Android gaming as a secondary market to consoles and PCs, and the frequent software updates kept the SHIELD nearly-up-to-date with the latest Android software releases.
As we approach the one year anniversary of SHIELD, NVIDIA is preparing to release another product to add to the SHIELD family of products: the SHIELD Tablet. Chances are, you could guess what this device is already. It is a tablet powered by Tegra K1 and updated to support all SHIELD software. Of course, there are some new twists as well.
The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet is being targeted, as the slide above states, at being "the ultimate tablet for gamers." This is a fairly important point to keep in mind as you we walk through the details of the SHIELD tablet, and its accessories, as there are certain areas where NVIDIA's latest product won't quite appeal to you for general purpose tablet users.
Most obviously, this new SHIELD device is a tablet (and only a tablet). There is no permanently attached controller. Instead, the SHIELD controller will be an add-on accessory for buyers. NVIDIA has put a lot of processing power into the tablet as well as incredibly interesting new software capabilities to enable 10-ft use cases and even mobile Twitch streaming.
The First with the Tegra K1 Processor
Back in May a Chinese company announced what was then the first and only product based on NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 SoC, the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9. Since then we have had a couple of other products hit our news wire including Google’s own Project Tango development tablet. But the Xiaomi is the first to actually be released, selling through 50,000 units in four minutes according to some reports. I happened to find one on Aliexpress.com, a Chinese sell-through website, and after a few short days the DHL deliveryman dropped the Tegra K1 powered machine off at my door.
If you are like me, the Xiaomi name was a new one. A privately owned company from Beijing and has become one of China’s largest electronics companies, jumping into the smartphone market in 2011. The Mi Pad marks the company’s first attempt at a tablet device, and the partnership with NVIDIA to be an early seller of the Tegra K1 seems to be making waves.
The Tegra K1 Processor
The Tegra K1 SoC was first revealed at CES in January of 2014, and with it came a heavy burden of expectation from NVIDIA directly, as well as from investors and the media. The first SoC from the Tegra family to have a GPU built from the ground up by NVIDIA engineers, the Tegra K1 gets its name from the Kepler family of GPUs. It also happens to get the base of its architecture there as well.
The processor of the Tegra K1 look very familiar and include four ARM Cortex-A15 “r3” cores and 2MB of L2 cache with a fifth A15 core used for lower power situations. This 4+1 design is the same that was introduced with the Tegra 4 processor last year and allows NVIDIA to implement a style of “big.LITTLE” design that is unique. Some slight modifications to the cores are included with Tegra K1 that improve performance and efficiency, but not by much – the main CPU is very similar to the Tegra 4.
The focus on the Tegra K1 will be on the GPU, now powered by NVIDIA’s Kepler architecture. The K1 features 192 CUDA cores with a very similar design to a single SMX on today’s GeForce GTX 700-series graphics cards. This includes OpenGL ES3.0 support but much more importantly, OpenGL 4.4 and DirectX 11 integration. The ambition of bringing modern, quality PC gaming to mobile devices is going to be closer than you ever thought possible with this product and the demos I have seen running on reference designs are enough to leave your jaw on the floor.
By far the most impressive part of Tegra K1 is the implementation of a full Kepler SMX onto a chip that will be running well under 2 watts. While it has been the plan from NVIDIA to merge the primary GPU architectures between mobile and discrete, this choice did not come without some risk. When the company was building the first Tegra part it basically had to make a hedge on where the world of mobile technology would be in 2015. NVIDIA might have continued to evolve and change the initial GPU IP that was used in Tegra 1, adding feature support and increasing the required die area to improve overall GPU performance, but instead they opted to position a “merge point” with Kepler in 2014. The team at NVIDIA saw that they were within reach of the discontinuity point we are seeing today with Tegra K1, but in truth they had to suffer through the first iterations of Tegra GPU designs that they knew were inferior to the design coming with Kepler.
You can read much more on the technical detail of the Tegra K1 SoC by heading over to our launch article that goes into the updated CPU design, as well as giving you all the gore behind the Kepler integration.
By far the most interesting aspect of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 tablet is the decsion to integrate the Tegra K1 processor. Performance and battery life comparisons with other 7 to 8-in tablets will likely not impact how it sells in China, but the results may mean the world to NVIDIA as they implore other vendors to integrate the SoC.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 5, 2014 - 06:51 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tegra k1, tegra, project tango, nvidia, google, Android
Today, Google announced their "Project Tango" developer kit for tablets with spatial awareness. With a price tag of $1,024 USD, it is definitely aimed at developers. In fact, the form to be notified about the development kit has a required check box that is labeled, "I am a developer". Slightly above the form is another statement, "These development kits are not a consumer device and will be available in limited quantities".
So yes, you can only buy these if you are a developer.
The technology is the unique part. Project Tango is aimed at developers to make apps which understand the 3D world around the tablet. Two examples categories they have already experimented with are robotics and computer vision. Of course, this could also translate to alternate reality games and mapping.
While Google has not been too friendly with OpenCL in its Android platform, it makes sense that they would choose a flexible GPU with a wide (and deep) range of API support. While other SoCs are probably capable enough, the Kepler architecture in the Tegra K1 is about as feature-complete as you can get in a mobile chip, because it is basically a desktop chip.
Google's Project Tango is available to developers, exclusively, for $1,024 and ships later this month.
Also, that price is clearly a pun.