It was widely speculated that Nvidia would announce the successor of its Tegra 4 chipset at CES 2014, and rightly so, they have done the honours with the Tegra K1. As claimed by Nvidia, the Tegra K1 is such a big step ahead from the Tegra 4 that it wouldn’t make sense to name it Tegra 5, that’s why the K1 suffix.
Why is the Tegra K1 leaps ahead of the current generation? Because it implements the Kepler architecture, which is what Nvidia’s current and previous generation desktop cards (yes, the GTX 780s and 680s) use. Neat, eh? This means you literally get desktop-class graphics performance in the mobile form-factor, without generating excessive heat and sacrificing battery life. The Tegra K1 houses 192 cores (don’t confuse this with dual and quad-core nomenclature, apples and oranges), in contrary to Tegra 4’s 72 cores.
By “192 cores” what Nvidia basically means is 192 shader processors. These are the same shader processors we talk so much about in our GPU benchmark and reviews. In Nvidia’s desktop and notebook GPUs, each SMX unit houses 192 shader processors. The GeForce GTX 780Ti has 15 SMX units, that means 15 x 192 shader processors, just to give you a comparison. Nvidia is yet to reveal the graphics clock frequency of the Tegra K1 architecture though.
“Over the past two decades, NVIDIA invented the GPU and has developed more graphics technologies than any other company,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and CEO, NVIDIA. “With Tegra K1, we’re bringing that heritage to mobile. It bridges the gap for developers, who can now build next-gen games and apps that will run on any device.”
Nvidia’s official press release states that the Tegra K1 will be available in two versions. One is a 32-bit quad-core ARM Cortex A15 CPU, similar to the Tegra 4. The other is the much awaited 64-bit dual-core “Denver” ARMv8 CPU, which was teased during CES 2011. This puts Nvidia roughly on the same zone with Intel. The 32-bit version is expected to populate devices as early as the first half of 2014. The 64-bit version devices are expected during the second half of 2014.
The Tegra K1 fully supports DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.4 and tessellation, and according to Nvidia, “Tegra K1 is also the first mobile processor to deliver the same graphics features as the next generation of consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4) and faster performance than current generation consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3), all in the palm of your hand.”
Nvidia illustration Tegra K1’s capabilities by running on it an Unreal Engine 4 tech demo. Check it out: