nVidia has not been having a good time. With their Tegra 4 adoption really poor (thanks to the power hungry ARM Cortex A15 cores) not many smartphone manufacturers are signing up, nor is the first smartphone based on it coming anytime soon. However, it seems that things might turn around with nVidia’s new small and efficient Tegra 4i chipset. Along with that, nVidia has released their Phoenix reference smartphone to build with Tegra 4i, and if it is any indication, Tegra 4i based smartphones might be really exciting.
nVidia Tegra 4i
The nVidia Tegra 4i is based on the same 4 cores plus 1 companion core design that nVidia has been following since the first quad core Tegra 3 design (and refuses to drop it already). In the Tegra 4, it consists of 4 x ARM Cortex A15 cores plus another Cortex A15 clocked lower and that which consumes lesser power, relatively. The new Tegra 4i packs something new. It packs ARM Cortex A9 R4 (R might stand for Revision) architecture based processors instead of the usual ARM Cortex A9. And nVidia claims are big for the new processors.
So nVidia didn’t adopt ARM Cortex A7 (as Qualcomm and Mediatek did) but decided to go for much faster and better performing ARM Cortex A9 R4. According to nVidia’s claims, the ARM Cortex A9 R4 CPUs will be between 15% to upto 30 % faster than a regular ARM Cortex A9 CPU, which brings it near ARM Cortex A15 levels (albeit still some way to go, but hey it’s a start!). The new ARM Cortex A9 R4 will also consume lesser power, and space too. This new Tegra 4i chipset comes with LTE integrated, and the chipset overall is really small in size (which is also a key focus area by nVidia). Again, there will be a 5th companion core, and most probably an ARM Cortex A9 R4 based CPU itself, clocked lower with lower voltages we presume.
The ARM Cortex A9 R4 CPUs will clock as high as 2.3 GHz, which can end up real interesting in terms of performance figures. For all we know, at 2.3 GHz it might be faster than a 1.5 GHz ARM Cortex A15 CPU (nothing can be said as of now however!). Moving on, we have the GPU which will be 60 GeForce ULP cores. Yep, that’s 60 cores, as nVidia likes to call it, in a mobile chipset that too. The Tegra 4 packs 72 of these GPU cores. Performance figures are completely unknown at the moment.
nVidia has also added ‘always-on HDR’ to the Tegra 4i chipset feature set. However, there is some bad news. Tegra 4i devices will see the light of day only around Q1 2014. That’s a year away right now, as sampling will only begin Q3 2013. That’s too late we dare say. For all we know, nVidia might announce Tegra 5 by then based on 64-bit ARM Cortex A57 and A53 by then (in 2014).
nVidia Phoenix Tegra 4i Reference smartphone
The Phoenix Tegra 4i phone is nVidia’s reference smartphone for building around the upcoming Tegra 4i chipset, and it ain’t shabby. Truth is, we wish the reference phone be released into the market as it looks amazing! Look at the screenshot below. What we are seeing is a really thin device with very small bezel on top and bottom, all that with a 5 inch 1080p display. Want want want!
So nVidia is aiming to make budget LTE phones with 1080p 5 inch displays. In addition, they want the new smartphones to be really thin (hence smaller chipset packaging). 8 mm thickness, as well as nVidia’s PRISM 2 technology are included as well.
Small is really in as the Tegra 4 die is about 80 mm^2 while the Tegra 4i die is 60 mm^2, and that too with the baseband integrated. The memory connection is LPDDR3 which should lead to some fast memory bandwidth.
Overall we are looking to a new breed of faster yet more power efficient smartphones, and nVidia wants to be at the spear head of this new charge. Gotta say, nice strategy. By 2014, the display will be a more common place and such smartphones might sell for a really attractive price unlocked and in markets like India.
Speaking of which, Indian smartphone manufacturer might release an nVidia Tegra 4 chipset based smartphone in the coming months. Stay tight, 2013 is an exciting year ahead. This news makes us look forward for 2014 already!
Author's Personal Profile