NVIDIA’s Project Grey finally saw the light of day today with the release of the Tegra 4i, a Tegra 4 System on a Chip with an integrated LTE modem.
The Tegra 4i will include NVIDIA’s usual 4+1 arrangement of cores: an R4 Cortex-A9 CPU, a +1 low-wattage core, and an NVIDIA i500 LTE modem.
NVIDIA says the Tegra 4i’s new 2.3 GHz clocked (compared to a single-clock frequency of 1.9 GHz for the regular Tegra 4) CPU was jointly designed by NVIDIA and ARM.
The 4i has 60 graphics cores, versus the 12 found in the Tegra 3, and the 72 found in the regular edition of the Tegra 4. It includes the HDR photography and video engine of the Tegra 4.
“Tegra 4i is the very latest SoC solution based on the ARM Cortex-A9 processor and demonstrates the ability of ARM and our partners to continue to push the performance of technology and create exciting user experiences,” says Tom Cronk, executive vice president and general manager, processor division, ARM, in a statement.
“ARM and NVIDIA worked closely to further optimize the Cortex-A9 processor to drive performance and efficiency in areas such as streaming and responsiveness. This is an example of the collaboration and innovation that enables ARM technology-based solutions to be market drivers through multiple generations of SoC solutions.”
For NVIDIA, work on combining a SoC with a wireless modem began in 2011 with the company’s $367-million acquisition of soft-modem manufacturer Icera. A late-2011 roadmap from the company put the Project Grey on a release date of early 2013.
In the Tegra 4i, the legacy of Icera lives on in the Icera i500 modem. NVIDIA says the chip will support Category 3 (100 Mbps) LTE at launch, with a later upgrade to Category 4 when it becomes available.
NVIDIA’s Tegra 4i is going up against Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 in the smartphone market. Blogging at Techpinions, technology analyst Patrick Moorehead notes the Tegra 4i has half the die size of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, has 2.7X the CPU performance per mm2 than the Snapdragon 800 on synthetic, integer-based benchmarks, and has is 1.2X the CPU performance than the Snapdragon 800 on the same style of benchmarks.
“Nvidia’s biggest differentiator with the 4i is its integrated and software-upgradable LTE modem combined with its graphics brand,” he says. “This could be the first significant threat to Qualcomm in that it’s the first time a high performance system-on-a-chip with integrated LTE is available from someone other than Qualcomm.”
Mr. Moorehead notes that NVIDIA has raised the stakes for the smartphone SoC game for 2013.
“If Nvidia can deliver the goods with an integrated LTE solution at the estimated performance levels which extend to real-world usage models, they will have raised their game in smartphones and have the ability to take some share,” he writes.