ASUS Unveils the Prime, the World's First Quad-Core Android Tablet

Subject: Mobile | November 9, 2011 - 01:00 AM |
Tagged: tegra 3, tegra, tablet, quad-core, kal-el, eee pad, asus, Android

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ASUS Eee Pad Prime

Rumors have been swirling around the ASUS Prime tablet and dock, successors to the popular ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, for months. Today, many of those rumors can rest, as ASUS has taken the wraps off the tablet's official specifications. 

The big story for enthusiasts is the tablet’s NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor. Provided that the product makes its anticipated December release (the exact date has yet to be announced), this will be the first tablet to hit the market with Tegra 3 as well as the first Android tablet to sport a quad-core.  You can read some more details that Ryan discussed about Tegra 3 and its five (5?!?) cores, by checking out this post from September.

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NVIDIA Kal-El / Tegra 3 Processor

As the follow-up to the Transformer, the Prime offers many of the same features including the keyboard dock. However, the Prime is improved across the board. The tablet is just 8.3 millimeters thin, making it the thinnest tablet on the market (the next thinnest is the 8.6mm Galaxy Tab 10.1, while the iPad 2 is 8.8mm). Weight has been reduced to 586 grams (1.29 lbs), down from 680. The rear-facing camera now sports an 8MP sensor, the battery in both the tablet and the optional dock is slightly larger, and base storage is now 32GB, with a 64GB model available as an optional upgrade. Even the display has been improved via a new brightness enhancement function that promises to make the tablet easier to use in sunlight.

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Even the design has been upgraded. Unlike the Transformer, which has a plastic back, the Prime has a “spun metallic” finish. It will be available in amethyst gray and champagne gold.  

The battery tests from ASUS put the Prime at 12 hours of life on its own and 18 hours with the keyboard dock while playing back 720p video with all ports enabled and the screen brightness at 60 nits. 

Despite all of these improvements, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer will not be going away. In fact, it will be remaining at its current price. Instead, the Prime is entering the market as a “premium” product built to compete directly with the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1. The base Prime model with 32GBs of storage is $499, while the 64GB model is $599. As with the original, purchasing the optional keyboard dock will set you back another $149.

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ASUS claims that the Prime will in fact ship with Android 3.2 in its initial release with an over-the-air updated to 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) as soon as it has been "optimized, tested and approved".  They weren't willing to put a date or time frame on that release but they are planning on using the 4.0 OS revision at the launch event coming in December; that seems to indicate to us we may have it in time for CES in January 2012. 

When PC Perspective reviewed the Transformer, I called it “the best Android tablet on the market today.” The thinner, lighter, more powerful Prime should be a significant improvement to an already excellent product. My only concerns were with the dock itself, which was sometimes finicky and added a fair amount of bulk. It’ll be interesting to see if the Prime can address those concerns.

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Source: ASUS
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA
Tagged: vsmp, tegra, nvidia, kal-el

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.

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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.  

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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. 

Keep reading for more on the 5-core quad-core Kal-El SoC from NVIDIA!!

AMD is out and ARM is in for several major notebook vendors

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 22, 2011 - 12:05 PM |
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.

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"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:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

NVIDIA’s Kal-El Enables Realistic Physics and Dynamic Lighting For Mobile Devices

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2011 - 12:26 AM |
Tagged: tegra, nvidia, mobile, cpu

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.”

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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.

Source: NVIDIA

Rumor: More details on Amazon tablets, yes: plural

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 18, 2011 - 05:05 PM |
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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Roadrunner Stew: Water, Roadrunner, Diced Apple 

According to a source from Boy Genius Report: Amazon will be releasing two tablets potentially as earlier as second-half 2011. Their entry-level model, “Coyote”, will contain an NVIDIA dual-core Tegra 2 which for those following the tablet space knows that is not an entry-level part. Their higher-up model, "Hollywood", is said to contain NVIDIA’s upcoming Kal-El, the quad-core successor to the Tegra 2 with an integrated GPU reportedly 5-fold faster than those found on the Tegra 2.
 
It should be noted that an entry-level tablet for Amazon does not necessarily suggest what price Amazon would be aiming for. Amazon could still have their Kindle line as their true entry-level product which would allow them to skip straight to the higher performing Tegra 2 and Kal-El parts for their actual tablet line as they could point to the Kindle for those who want less than a Tegra 2. So if you happen to be looking for an Android tablet and can wait a few months you might wish to hold off and see what wily Amazon is cooking up.
Source: PCMag