The NVIDIA Tegra - Is This The End For The Intel Atom?
It's official. The NVIDIA Tegra isn't just a figment of Intel's worst nightmare. It is now reality. Just a few hours ago, NVIDIA launched the Tegra at the trendy Bando 8 restaurant in the fantastically-corpulent Hsin Kong Mitsukoshi shopping mall.
The Tegra is an entirely new product for NVIDIA, a complete system-on-a-chip (SoC) for miniaturized computers called Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). This sets the stage for a direct showdown between Intel, the CPU giant, and NVIDIA, the GPU giant; as Intel had already revealed a similar product called the Intel Atom (which we had earlier covered in our Intel Atom Tech Report).
While many may think of this as a David versus Goliath duel, we should really give NVIDIA a little more credit. While Intel has decades of experience in CPU design and fabrication, NVIDIA is the undisputed leader in 3D graphics. It would be more fitting to think of the NVIDIA Tegra as Freddy Krueger coming alive to eat the Intel Atom. Of course, Freddy ultimately loses in the movies, but since he never actually dies, it becomes an ongoing feud. You get the picture.
NVIDIA themselves have little doubt about the superiority of their solution. Derek Perez, NVIDIA's PR Director, told me in no uncertain terms that there was no reason for anyone to buy the Intel Atom when you can buy the much better NVIDIA Tegra. The other NVIDIA representatives pulled no punches either during the presentations.
I wonder what will Intel say about that. It would be interesting to see their response at the Intel Atom Processor Launch Event on June 3rd, 2008*. In the meantime, let's take a look at what the NVIDIA Tegra is all about...
* We just attended the Intel Atom processor launch. Intel did not even bother to mention NVIDIA or Tegra. It became apparent soon enough why they did that. At the end of the launch, the back of the conference room opened to reveal a whole range of final products based on the Intel Atom processors. We will have an entire report on these Intel Atom products very soon.
NVIDIA assured us that this was not a paper launch and that the three Tegra processors have been released to manufacturing and are available for purchase right now. In fact, they are confident that Tegra-based products (initially Tegra AXP smartphones) will be out by the end of the year. Unfortunately for NVIDIA, Intel Atom products are already available today. Is the battle over before it even begun?
What Is NVIDIA Tegra?
According to NVIDIA's official press release, the NVIDIA Tegra is a heterogenous processor architecture with multiple processors, each architectured for a specific class of tasks :
- an 800 MHz ARM CPU,
- a HD video processor,
- an imaging processor,
- an audio processor,
- and an ultra-low power GeForce GPU
These processors are used together or independently to deliver a wonderful experience while utilizing a minute amount of power. With this heterogenous ultra-low power processor architecture, NVIDIA Tegra processors achieve up to 10 times the power efficiency of existing products in battery-operated computer systems running compelling visual computing applications. The highest-end model, the NVIDIA Tegra 650, will feature :
- All-day media processing for 130 hours of audio or 30 hours of HD video playback.
- HD image processing for advanced digital still camera and HD camcorder functions.
- Optimized hardware support for Web 2.0 applications for a true desktop-class Internet experience.
- Display support for 1080p HDMI, WSXGA+ LCD and CRT, and NTSC/PAL TV-Out.
- Direct support for WiFi, disk drives, keyboard, mouse and other peripherals.
- A complete Board Support Package (BSP) to enable fast times to market for Windows Mobile-based designs.
In short, the NVIDIA Tegra promises to deliver tremendous multimedia performance in portable devices for a fraction of the power consumed by current processors. Is that really possible? Let's take a look at what NVIDIA presented to us just a few hours ago...