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More Cores for Mobile! Nvidia's Tegra K1 is Coming

Nvidia's latest mobile chip brings PC and console features to your next tablet or smartphone.

By Mike Williams. Published 3 months ago

CES 2014 has begun. It's that wonderful time of year when hardware companies do their best to convince early adopters to spend a ton of money over the next 12 months. Last night, Nvidia announced the next chip in its Tegra mobile line-up, the Tegra K1. The "K" denotes the fact that this new chip uses the same Kepler architecture that powers the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti, which is a beast of a PC video card.

The K1's core is a 192-core Nvidia Kelper GPU and the chip will come in two versions. The 32-bit version will be a quad-core ARM Cortex A15 CPU, while the 64-bit version has an Nvidia-designed 64-bit dual Super Core CPU, code-named Denver, based on ARMv8 architecture.

Will the Tegra K1 be as strong as it's desktop brother? Hell no. Nvidia is aiming for the chip to have faster performance than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but with the new graphics features found in the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. That's features, not power: the K1 supports DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.4, tessellation, and Nvidia's CUDA parallel computing platform. The Tegra K1 will also support Unreal Engine 4. (Perhaps Android users are a step closer to getting Infinity Blade? Hah, of course not.) The framerate on the Unreal Engine 4 demo video released by Nvidia looks slow and choppy, but it's early test footage and it is good that mobile developers will have more tools to work with.

"With the introduction of this revolutionary processor, we can take applications that run on PC or console and run it on Tegra," said Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney. "From here onward, I think we're going to see the performance and feature gap between mobile and PC high-end gaming continue to narrow to the point where the difference between the platforms really blurs."

Of course, PC will always be able to push far, far more, because they don't have to worry as much about space, heat, and battery power.

There's no word on which devices we'll see the Tegra K1 inside, but devices with the 32-bit version are expected in the first half of 2014, while the 64-bit version will feature in the second half. The Tegra 3 powered the Google Nexus 7 in 2012, but was replaced by the energy-efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro for the tablet's 2013 iteration. The Tegra 4 currently features in Nvidia's SHIELD portable, the Microsoft Surface 2, the 2013 Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, and the Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid.

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