Kal-El Tegra SoC to use 5 cores
Recent news from NVIDIA has unveiled some interesting new technical details about the upcoming Kal-El ARM-based Tegra SoC. While we have known for some time that this chip would include a quad-core processor and would likely be the first ARM-based quad-core part on the market, NVIDIA's Matt Wuebbling spilled the beans on a new technology called "Variable SMP" (vSMP) and a fifth core on the die.
An updated diagram shows the fifth "companion" core - Courtesy NVIDIA
This patented technology allows the upcoming Tegra processor to address a couple of key issues that affect smartphones and tablets: standby power consumption and manufacturing process deviations. Even though all five of the cores on Kal-El are going to be based on the ARM Cortex A9 design they will have very different power characteristics due to variations in the TSMC 40nm process technology that builds them. Typical of most foundries and process technologies, TSMC has both a "high performance" and a "low power" derivative of the 40nm technology usually aimed at different projects. The higher performing variation will run at faster clock speeds but will also have more transistor leakages thus increasing overall power consumption. The low power option does just the opposite: lowers the frequency ceiling while using less power at idle and usage states.
CPU power and performance curves - Courtesy NVIDIA
NVIDIA's answer to this dilemma is to have both - a single A9 core built on the low power transistors and quad A9s built on the higher performing transistors. The result is the diagram you saw at the top of this story with a quad-core SoC with a single ARM-based "companion." NVIDIA is calling this strategy Variable Symmetric Multiprocessing and using some integrated hardware tricks it is able to switch between operating on the lower power core OR one to four of the higher power cores. The low power process will support operating frequencies up to only 500 MHz while the high speed process transistors will be able to hit well above 1-1.2 GHz.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 22, 2011 - 12:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, amd, texas instruments, snapdragon, amazon, tegra
It is not just AMD which is forging a new relationship with ARM, which we saw evidence of during the AMD Fusion Developer Summit, several other manufacturers are making good on previous statements made while waiting for AMD, and are going to be selling ARM based notebooks. These companies are not on the fringe of the market, these are major vendors like ASUS which are releasing quad-core ARM based notebooks which will use SnapDragon, Tegra or TI for the graphics portion. DigiTimes has the scoop here, as well as news on a tablet which will be released by Amazon running an unspecified TI processor which we should see by August.
"Several vendors, including Samsung Electronics, Toshiba, Acer and Asustek Computer, plan to develop ARM architecture notebooks, with products possibly to be launched as early as the end of 2011, according to industry sources.
The sources pointed out that ARM-based systems using Android were already launched under the smartbook name two years ago with Toshiba and Lenovo both launching products in the retail channel. However, due to weaker than expected demand, the related products were soon phased out of the market.
Since ARM's CPU has already been upgraded from single-core two years ago to quad-core with a significant increase in performance, while the platform's storage capacity has also seen significant improvements, and an enhanced user interface, ARM is already capable of launching notebook products that are able to run for a long period of time, and if the price is attractive, there is a great chance for the products to create a brand new market segment in the IT industry.
Asustek has already made plans to launch a 13-inch ARM-based notebook adopting Nvidia's processor with Android.
The sources pointed out that there are already several brand vendors reportedly set to launch ARM-based notebooks with prices lower than US$299 to compete for market share and the vendors' processor choices include Nvidia's Tegra, Qualcomm's Snapdragon and processors from Texas Instruments."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Google Chrome extension detects dangerous websites @ The Register
- Programmers urged to code with their tootsies @ The Register
- The Linux Kernel Power Problems On Older Desktop Hardware @ Phoronix
- Making Airsoft guns far more potent @ Hack a Day
- AMD Rejects BAPCo's SYSmark 2012 - Should We? @ Techgage
NVIDIA recently unveiled a new four core CPU for mobile devices at Mobile World Congress which promises to power 2560x1600, 300 DPI displays as well as enable realistic dynamic lighting and physics in mobile games, features that until recently were only possible in the realm of gaming laptops and desktops.
The quad core ARM CPU has been paired with a new 12 core GeForce graphics processing unit. The CPU alone is able to outperform the older Tegra 2 chip by close to 2x. With the additional GPU cores; however, NVIDIA has even more performance, and the ability to implement great looking games for mobile tablets and so called “super phones.”
At a resolution of 1280x800 (according to Engadget), the new Kal-El graphics demo shows off a new game featuring a glowing ball that acts as a truly dynamic light source in addition to realistic cloth physics. Using all four processing cores of the CPU allowed NVIDIA to implement cloth that reacts to the changing gravity of the game in a dynamic- and very realistic looking- manner. The mobile chip saw approximately 80% usage across all cores during the game demo. When NVIDIA disabled two of the CPU cores, the game became nearly unplayable, with the two remaining cores maxed out, the demo’s frame rate dropped to below 15 frames per second.
The new “Tegra Super Chip” will certainly allow mobile game developers to design immersive and realistic looking worlds as well as enhancing consumers’ ability to watch 1080p HD video with ease. The only drawback of the chip seems to be that battery technology is much slower to advance than transistor technology; therefore, it will be interesting to see how the new NVIDIA chip performs in that regard.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 18, 2011 - 05:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tegra, nvidia, kal-el, amazon
At the beginning of the month we reported that Amazon seems to be moving into the tablet space with an order for hundreds of thousands of touchscreens per month. There is now more evidence that the Kindle manufacturer is looking specifically to do an Android tablet due to the processors rumored to be included. We think you will be smiling very soon.
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