nvidia-tegra-x1-chip-handAs it is customary for NVIDIA at this time of the year, it has announced a new mobile SoC called Tegra X1. While the announcement was not a surprise in itself, the performance of Tegra X1 was stunningly high and shows that NVIDIA remains one of the few players that is able to sustain a “Moore’s Law Cubed” rate of performance increase. The X1 name comes from the underlying graphics processor (GPU) architecture code-named Maxwell, whereas Tegra K1 (aka Tegra 5) was using an architecture called Kepler.

The extra performance over the previous, and already impressive, Tegra K1 is big and can hit 2X in many cases. NVIDIA points out that its K1 chip is already at the top of the performance charts next to Apple’s recently launched A8X processor which has made a name for itself. With Tegra X1 now running benchmarks, it looks like NVIDIA will hold the top spot a while longer – that’s particularly true for graphics and gaming performance tests. Today, Tegra X1 is simply unmatched.

There are many ingredients in Tegra X1’s performance feats, like the 8-core CPU setup, but it is fair to say that most of the horsepower is derived from its graphics processor, which packs not only hundreds more cores than Tegra K1, but each of these cores is faster and more power-efficient, thanks to the Maxell architecture."TEGRA X1 IS SIMPLY UNMATCHED"

We have looked at this when Maxell was used for PC graphics chips, but ever since Kepler, one must keep in mind that every NVIDIA GPU is now designed for mobility from inside out. Maxell is extremely energy-efficient, and NVIDIA’s internal lab tests indicate that it can be as fast as Apple’s A8X while consuming about 1.7 times less power. This is a number that any mobile user should pay attention to.

The Tegra X1 benchmark scores are impressive. The ones below were run on an X1 development kit, so it’s not a consumer product, but it shows a high-level view of the kind of performance that can be achieved. From there, thermal requirements for each product design may dampen the numbers, but every design should suffer from similar restrictions.

  • Antutu: 59,811
  • GFXBench Manhattan: 54.7 FPS
  • 3DMark Unlimited Icestorm: 43,769
  • AndeBench Pro: 12,472

Less impressive to 3D gamers, Tegra X1 can also decode 4K videos at 60 FPS. A unique ability for now, but we expect competitors to catch up fairly quickly on this one since it’s a fixed function.

Now, the question is: which products will feature this chip? We’ll have to wait and see. Tegra K1 had a few high-profile wins with Xiaomi or Google’s Nexus 9 tablet, but it’s not really widespread. It’s just about certain that Audi and possible Tesla will use this processor as well. Finally, there’s no question that NVIDIA’s own SHIELD line of products (tablet and mobile console) will be updated to reflect this new mobile graphics performance reality.

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