CES 2014 is winding down and GPU juggernaut – Nvidia was front and center to announce their newness as the show kicked off Sunday night. After reintroducing the crowd to some of the company’s latest innovations such as Gamestream and it’s obvious wireless implications, SHIELD – the new Android powered mobile device that also plays PC games and G-Sync – touted as the missing link between a systems video processing unit and the monitor–Nvidia CEO then went on to announce the Tegra K1 “Super Core” (ARM) mobile processor for Smartphones and tablets.
The Tegra K1 is Nvidia’s self-proclaimed “super chip”. It’s a bold claim, but applicable when you look at the ambitious possibilities the chip could bring to mobile gaming. The Tegra K1 is powered by a 192-core Nvidia Kepler GPU. This is born from the same guts found in the company’s benchmark shattering flagship video card for desktop PCs, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti. Tegra K1 will drop in two compatible pin-to-pin bit-flavors. These are a 32-bit quad-core (4-Plus-1 ARM Cortex A15 CPU) and a 64-bit dual Super Core CPU specially crafted by Nvidia (also ARM-based).
With this much graphic crunching power let’s quickly note 5 ways Nvida’s new Tegra K1 could change the landscape of mobile gaming and quite possibly eroding conventional consoles into obscurity.
1. PC Gaming Standards + Console Style Convenience
The most advanced game engines such as Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 are mere child’s play for the Tegra K1–which reminds me… I once told an Nvidia exec, the company should ramp up the marketing for their Tegra 4-powered Nvidia SHIELD to effectively go for the jugular of Xbox One and PS4. The spunky little Swiss Army Knife-like SHIELD device, brings PC gaming to any room of your house (via wifi) just like a console. It’s mobile and it supports Android which includes a bottomless library of applications.
The Tegra Ki could take things much further. It is far more advanced in GPU features, horsepower and CPU power than previous gen consoles and even the current SHIELD. Fitting a 192-core Kepler GPU into tablets and smartphones will ensure gamers experience PC-quality immersion and fidelity with the convenience of living room and TV connectivity. This is due, in no small part, to support for premium industry standards like Direct X 11, OpenGL 4.4, full Tessellation and 4K display resolutions.
2. High End Cloud Gaming
Tegra K1 is an essential component to the virtual cartel of gaming tech Nvidia has constructed. Now that GRID (Nvida’s cloud gaming network) is live, Tegra K1 can pipe your favorite PC games from the cloud to your tablet or smartphone. Clothes shopping with the wife is a lot more exciting when you’re capping flag in Battlefield 4 or running a quick 5min survival mission in Warframe–all from the comfort of flowery department store.
3. PC-Quality Gaming On The Go.
Tegra K1 also packs significantly more GPU muscle than what’s found in SHIELD. So future tablets, smartphones and subsequent SHIELD devices can bring your favorite PC games–which were formerly shackled to our high end desktops–to the mobile sector, with zero resolution and fidelity compromises.
Imagine using your Tegra K1 powered-smartphone to play Star Citizen or enhanced PC versions of The Division and Grand Theft Auto 5 on the go or in your living room via HDMI-out to a HD television. Good times await.
4. Efficiency and Stamina
Mobile device batteries take a huge hit when running games. The Tegra K1 is said to be “1.5 times more efficient than other mobile GPUs”. This level of energy efficiency equates less strain from streaming games over wifi and from the cloud. We should expect lengthier game sessions at a faster, smoother pace.
The more burly of the Tegra K1 silicon is the 64-bit 4-Plus-1 quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU. The A15 was a basis for Apple’s proprietary A6 SoC found in the iPhone 5. Nvidia has essentially paired the tried and true Cortex-A15 with an additional “battery-saver” core. The die implements a Variable SMP (Symmetric Multi-Processing) custom designed by Nvidia. It enables all 4-cores variably where each core is enabled or disabled independently based on the need and load.
5. Powered by Android
Android seems to be the OS du jour for camp-Nvidia. It’s a good choice with its innate level of freedom and openness. What’s exciting…every new device that supports Android seems to spawn a sizeable app developer community from which new content perpetually spawns. Your next tablet or smartphone may easily be the nexus where Steam games, Nvidia GRID cloud gaming and Android OS + its ecosystem converge.
Nvidia Tegra K1 is the creamy PC gaming center of your next mobile device.
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.