As we prepare to go to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) -the most important event for the mobile industry-, the web is buzzing about the upcoming chip from NVIDIA: Tegra 3. There is rampant speculation that NVIDIA will announce its next-generation mobile chip there, and at this time, the company probably has working chips that are ready to be demonstrated. The timing would fit the rhythm that NVIDIA imposes upon itself (and soon to the rest of the industry): one iteration per year. Back in September, NVIDIA’s CEO (shown in photo above) had already said that Tegra 3 was “almost done”, so a MWC launch seems unavoidable at this point. The question is: how far will Tegra 3 push the envelope?
We can only speculate, but it’s safe to say that Tegra 2 will be much faster for things that matter most to NVIDIA: web browsing, Flash and 3D Gaming. Expect to see 3 or 4 CPU cores and a faster graphics unit (GPU). Frequency (MHz) will probably stay relatively low (1GHz, 1.2GHz?) in order to maintain a manageable power envelope.
Why more cores? At the moment, adding more cores is still beneficial for things like web browsing as browsers do create a lot of threads. The mobile industry is also going to benefit from almost a decade of multi-core development experience from seasoned programmers. With today’s software, there are probably diminishing returns beyond 4 CPU cores, but multi-core software performance and scalability is still the subject of intense research by everyone involved in the computing industry. It’s just a tough nut to crack.
3D graphics: NVIDIA knows how to scale the performance of computer graphics. However, working with 70X less power consumption than a classic GPU is the real wall that engineers have to climb.
If you haven’t followed the whole Tegra 2 thing, check our Tegra 2 Overview.