Today, the mobile world was given its first quad-core processor in the form of Nvidia’s Tegra 3.
Don’t think of this as a traditional quad-core, though. The Tegra 3 actually has five cores, but one of them runs transparently to the mobile device’s operating system. The five cores are effectively the same, each being an ARM Coretex A9 CPU much like the cores found in the Tegra 2. The primary four cores are only used when the device is in an active state, while the fifth core is used when the device is idle. This enables the system to shut down the primary cores to preserve energy if the device is merely sitting there or doing something menial like playing music. Preserved energy means longer battery life, always a plus for mobile devices.
What’s truly amazing about this chip is that absolutely zero changes are needed to whatever OS is currently running on it. To the OS, no one core is any different from the other. This allows the Tegra 3 hardware and firmware to deal with the fifth core on its own without needing to worry about the OS. This core management technology, which Nvidia has named vSMP, provides the Tegra 3 with such a unique power architecture that is has energy savings of up to 61% from the Tegra 2 depending on the task at hand.
The Tegra 3 also comes fully packed with a 12-core GeForce GPU. That’s right, Nvidia even wants you to have the most realistic graphics possible on your phone. Nvidia has also included HDMI support on the chip, and the 3D crowd will be pleased to hear the Tegra 3 supports stereoscopic 3D displays. One interesting feature is that the Tegra 3 has built-in support for game controllers. That’s right, users can stream their mobile games to their TVs and use an Xbox 360 or PS3 controller if the game in question supports them.
Mobile devices may very well soon take advantage of the power given to them by the Tegra 3. Be on the lookout for the Asus Eee Transformer Prime as it will be the first mobile device to implement the Tegra 3, but most certainly not the last.