Asus can’t be absorbing all those limelight photons today. Not when its freshly detailed Transformer Prime depends so heavily on NVIDIA’s special sauce. Admittedly, we already know a lot about Tegra 3 from its Kal-El days, but we haven’t seen much in the way of real-world performance claims. Until now, that is. Below you’ll see newly released screenshots of Android games that have been souped-up to capitalize on the imminent Asus Eee Pad as well as other Tegra 3-powered devices — including smartphones — that are expected early next year. NVIDIA has also put out slides containing in-house benchmarks and head-to-head comparisons with the Tegra 2, which you’ll find right after the break.
Fancy a glimpse of the future? That little psychedelic beauty on the right is ARM’s brand new Cortex-A7 processor. Its spec sheet might not seem so colorful at first glance, because it doesn’t really do things any faster than existing high-end smartphone processors. However, this UK-based manufacturer isn’t known for bumping its gums, so it pays to look a little deeper. For a start, the Cortex-A7 is built using a 28nm process that makes it five times smaller and more efficient than the current-gen Cortex-A8. It’s also cheap enough to power sub-$100 handsets, so we could be pulling GSII-like tricks on budget phones within a couple of years.
Is that it? Nope, there’s more: perhaps the most important feature of the A7 is that it can be combined with much higher-power cores like the Cortex-A15 side-by-side on the same chip. This allows a super-phone or tablet to switch between two totally different processing units depending on how much power is needed at the time. ARM calls this “Big.LITTLE” computing,” and a similar concept is already in use on NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 (aka Kal-El) SoC, which we’ll see imminently in the next Asus Transformer. However, the Tegra 3 uses five identical Cortex-A9 cores, whereas a device that mix-and-matches the A15 and A7 could potentially deliver higher highs and lower lows, giving you speed when you need it and amazing battery life when you don’t. How cute is that? Full PR after the break.
We’ve known about Kal-El — the quad-core mobile processor from NVIDIA — for a fair amount of time, but a lot of the finer details have remained a secret as we’ve anxiously awaited its debut in tablets and smartphones. Fortunately, we have some reading material to bide our time as the company published white papers discussing benefits of the new CPU, and for the most part it’s what you’d expect: NVIDIA touts higher performance, better battery life and improved physics-based gaming when more cores are involved and working together.
What came as a surprise to us was the fact that this quad-core CPU actually utilizes five cores: in addition to the standard four main Cortex A9 high-performance cores, Kal-El throws in a fifth Cortex A9 “companion” core specifically designed to handle less demanding tasks in effort to minimize power consumption caused by active standby processes. How is it done? The Companion core’s max operating frequency gets capped at 500MHz, offering higher performance and greater efficiency per watt when running menial tasks such as push email, Twitter / Facebook sync, widgets, background apps and live wallpapers. This leaves the four main cores free to take care of the stuff it does best — games, web browsing, transcoding / editing audio and video, 3D, physics simulations and image processing, to name a few — allowing performance bumps of up to 50 percent when compared to Tegra 2. We can tell that quad-core devices are going to make us very, very happy. If charts and geeky stats brighten up your day like it does ours, head to the source to read the papers in their entirety.
NVIDIA announced its latest Tegra processors a while back, codenamed Kal-El, and now it looks like the first tablets to feature the new quad core processors will launch by the end of the year.
Jen-Hsun Huang, NVIDIA’s CEO has confirmed that the first Kal-El powered quad core tablets, which will run Google’s Android Honeycomb will launch before the end of 2011, although no details have been released as to which manufacturers will produce the first tablets.
He also said that the first smartphones which will run the quad core Kal-El processor are expected to launch in early 2012. We have already seen a demo of a Honeycomb tablet with a Kal-El processor, which looks impressive.
Fan of ASUS’ affordable, yet competitively specced Eee Pad Transformer, but still haven’t committed your credit to its 10.1-inches? Well, if this bout of rumor-mongering proves true, you might want to put the wallet down until early fall. Harbinger of supply chain gossip Digitimes is reporting that the electronics maker has just enlisted Wintek to provide touch panels for its next gen tablet, slated to launch this October. The parts supplier is said to be working in tandem with HannStar Display to ramp up production should this iteration be met with its predecessor’s unforeseen popularity. Adding more ambiguity to the speculative fire, ASUS’ Chairman Jonney Shih recently confirmed to Forbes that an updated Transformer is on its way, saying only that it’d be very “impressive,” and would be available before CES. Jonney didn’t comment on the upcoming slate’s supposed use of NVIDIA’s quad-core Kal-El, but with the chip’s promised August launch date, we wouldn’t rule it out. While talks of a Transformer 2 are still just gossamer promise, you can always snag that Eee Pad Sliderwhile you sit and wait.
As if showing up in two of the first four reference devices for Windows on ARM wasn’t enough of an achievement for NVIDIA’s quad-core Kal-El superchip, it decided to visit us in person here at Computex to demonstrate its splendid graphical prowess. Running Android 3.1 on a 10-inch WVGA screen, it gave us a first-hand look at the Glow Ball demo that wowed us in video form just a couple of days ago. What we saw on the dev tablet before us was no less impressive; lighting was being rendered in real time and scattering all over a multiplicity of surfaces, while the cloth simulation was, to use a terrible pun, silky smooth. NVIDIA also ran us through a sightseeing tour of the Unreal Development Kit and Lost Planet 2, noting that the PC game took only a couple of months to port over to work on the Kal-El architecture. Unfortunately, no new details were forthcoming about when Kal-El devices might be coming or what developers we should expect to see coding games and other content to exploit the platform’s evidently mighty capabilities. For now, we’ll just have to sate ourselves with the video after the break.
Remember how Microsoft unveiled that whole “Windows 8″ thing earlier today? It’s back for more: here at Computex 2011 in Taipei, prototype ARM-based Windows 8 slates and smartbooks are coming out of the woodwork. Foxconn, Wistron and Quanta all unveiled early hardware for the new OS, with chips from Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and NVIDIA powering their live tiles — including NVIDIA’s upcoming Kal-El, which got both a tablet and a super-slim prototype notebook to call its own. Dell’s also got a XPS development station up on stage, which Microsoft used to demo the UI — it’s bulky and ugly as such things are, but it suggests that Dell’s also likely to have a portable Windows 8 machine at some point. For its part, Qualcomm is promising a chip that can instantly wake from sleep, and one of the devices showed that USB host support works fine and dandy. Unfortunately, none of these machines will make their way to market, but it’s nice to know that the OEMs care enough to show their solidarity here.
You might think yourself too grown-up to be wowed by shiny, glittery things, but we doubt many will be able to watch NVIDIA’s new Glow Ball tech demo without a smidgen of childlike glee. Built to run on the company’s quad-core Kal-El processor, it shows us the first example of true dynamic lighting on mobile devices and also throws in some impressive physics calculations like fully modeled cloth motion. Instead of the pre-canned, static lights that we see on mobile games today, NVIDIA’s new hardware will make it possible to create lighting that moves, fluctuates in intensity, and responds realistically to its environment — all rendered in real time. The titular glow ball can be skinned with different textures, each one allowing a different amount and hue of illumination to escape to surrounding objects, and is directed around the screen using the accelerometer in your tablet or smartphone.
NVIDIA demoed the new goodness on a Honeycomb slate with 1280 x 800 resolution and the frame rates remained smooth throughout. In order to emphasize the generational leap that we can expect with Kal-El, the company switched off two of the four cores momentarily, which plunged performance down to less than 10fps. That means the simulations we’re watching require a full quartet of processing cores on top of the 12-core GPU NVIDIA has in Kal-El. Mind-boggling stuff. Glow Ball will be available as a game on Android tablets once this crazy new chip makes its way into retail devices — which are still expected in the latter half of this year, August if everything goes perfectly to plan. One final note if you’re still feeling jaded: NVIDIA promises the production chip will be 25 to 30 percent faster than the one on display today. Full video demo follows after the break.
The Eee Pad Transformer may be wowing tablet lovers with its unbeatable price-to-features ratio today, but ASUS looks to have its sights set on even mightier devices for the future. DigTimes reports that the Taiwanese company is hard at work on a Tegra 3 tablet — built around the spectacular Kal-El quad-core SOC that we saw demonstrated at MWC 2011 — as well as another one running an Intel CPU. As far as the Intel slate is concerned, we’re probably looking at the tablet-centric 1.5GHz Atom Z670, which promises 1080p playback and great battery life. You’ll forgive us if we reserve our excitement for the Tegra 3-powered tablet, however, which should be able to churn through quite a few more pixels than regular old 1080p. There’s no indication on when ASUS intends to deliver it, but NVIDIA’s roadmap for devices with the quad-core chip expects to start appearing in August. Video of that awe-inspiring MWC demo follows after the break.