nVidia Tegra system-on-a-chip solution for MIDs
nVidia has introduced a system-on-a-chip solution called Tegra which combines CPU, GPU and even memory in a single US dime-sized chip, and is mainly meant to be used in Mobile Internet Devices – or MIDs for short.
The company has announced two models of these processors so far, namely Tegra 600 and Tegra 650. If you don’t mind getting a little technical, let’s take a peak inside these.
Perhaps the most important part of Tegra chip is the APX 2500 processor that nVidia introduced earlier. It, in turn, consists of a universal ARM 11 architecture 800 MHz CPU and an ultra low voltage GeForce graphics processor. Besides that, the Tegra chip also has integrated system memory and a controller for peripherals. What’s more, it also has a separate processor for media – that’s right, it’s actually separate from the APX 2500.
The highly integrated architecture gives Tegra an advantage in power efficiency – up to ten times compared to the existing products, nVidia claims. According to the company, this chip can playback HD videos for 30 hours straight when running on a battery.
Here’s the official feature list of Tegra 650 from nVidia:
- All-day media processing, for 130 hours audio, 30 hours HD video playback
- HD image processing for advanced digital still camera and HD camcorder functions
- Optimized hardware support for Web 2.0 applications for a true desktop-class internet experience
- Display support for 1080p HDMI, WSXGA+ LCD and CRT, and NTSC/PAL TV-Out
- Direct support for WiFi, disk drives, keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals
- A complete Board Support Package (BSP) to enable fast times to market for Windows
- Mobile-based designs
This puts nVidia in a position to compete with Intel and their Atom processor. Note, however, that these two products are rather different; they’re both meant for MIDs, yes, but then again, companies still argue about the very definition of MIDs. Intel Atom is a CPU based on x86 architecture, and judging from the specs, it should be faster than nVidia’s ARM 11 CPU. On the other hand, Terga combines all system in a single chip, and will probably use power much more efficiently than an Atom-based system.
There might be one more player in the game – AMD. Switz semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics has introduced their own mobile processor back in February. The Nomadik STn8820 is somewhat similar to Terga, as it also runs on a ARM11 CPU (although this one can only be clocked at 528 MHz while the one in nVidia’s chip runs at 800 MHz). The big difference is the graphics engine, which comes from AMD. On paper, the chips seem to have pretty similar capabilities, with STn8820 falling slightly behind. The two chips support different video formats: H.264, MPEG-4, VC-1 and WMV9 for Terga, and H264, VC1, MPEG-2 and Divx for Nomadik.
Returning back to Terga now, nVidia says we should see the first mobile devices based on this technology this year already. The estimated price is around $200-$250.