Quad-core 2.3 GHz Nvidia Tegra 4i with built-in LTE unveiled alongside Phoenix smartphone reference design
Nvidia announced its newest (at the time) processor, the Tegra 4, at CES last month. Now though, the company has unveiled yet another mobile chipset – the Tegra 4i. Don’t let the one-letter name change fool you, this is an entirely new design.
The Tegra 4i is Nvidia’s first mobile chipset to come with built-in LTE support. The Tegra 4 has LTE support too, but that’s optional and isn’t built into the chip.
However, the 4i is less of a performer compared to the 4. So the Tegra 4 remains Nvidia’s top offering in terms of sheer CPU and graphics performance, while the Tegra 4i should find its way into midrange offerings – or that seems to be the thinking here.
The Tegra 4i has four ARM Cortex-A9 CPU cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, and an additional battery-saving core. That’s literally last year’s tech, the Tegra 4 coming with the newer Cortex-A15 design. Also, the Tegra 4i has seen a reduction in the GPU core count, down to 60 compared to the Tegra 4’s 72 – yet this is still five times the number of cores in the Tegra 3. That probably happened in order to cut down on the size of the chip, especially since it comes with an integrated modem as well. And speaking of that, the i500 LTE baseband chip features a ‘soft-modem’ that can be re-programmed over-the-air to support new frequencies and air interfaces. That’s apparently something that “other modem vendors can only dream of”, according to Stuart Robinson from Strategy Analytics.
Nvidia’s Computational Photography Architecture, that was first announced as being included in the Tegra 4, has also made its way to the Tegra 4i. It brings “the world’s first” always-on HDR capabilities, ‘tap to track’ functionality, and the first panoramic photos with HDR.
Nvidia’s also announcing a smartphone reference design called Phoenix, that is powered by the Tegra 4i integrated chipset. This may or may not be the start of Nvidia’s recently rumored ‘white-box’ program, through which it will supposedly be making tablets and smartphones itself, acting much like the Chinese ‘white-box’ vendors – selling its wares to companies that can then use their own brands atop. For now though, the Phoenix is a reference design only. That said, Intel also has a reference design for its latest Atom processor, and that has already been launched in Africa and India under different brands – with the hardware being 100% identical to the reference design. So maybe we should expect something like that from Nvidia in the future.
Unfortunately the company hasn’t said when exactly we will see the Tegra 4i in shipping smartphones. So for now all we can do is congratulate Nvidia on finally making a mobile chipset with built-in LTE.