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NVIDIA's Tegra 3 (Kal-El) Quad-Core Mobile Superchip Detailed (Page 1)

NVIDIA officially unveil the Tegra 3 today and we're there to report for you directly from Krypton!
Anthony Garreffa | Nov 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm CST - 2 mins, 6 secs time to read this page
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

NVIDIA's Tegra 3 (Kal-El) Quad-Core Mobile Processor

I was lucky enough to be invited to the secret unveiling of NVIDIA's upcoming Tegra 3 conference call last week where we had unveiled to us their upcoming quad-core Kal-El chip.

I've covered NVIDIA's Tegra 3 chip for quite a while now, as I believe it'll be the first real step toward a totally new direction in technology. It sounds like a bold claim, but by the end of this article you'll have your eyes opened to a totally different perspective, not only of NVIDIA, but of things to come.

NVIDIA chose to use a more intelligent design with Tegra 3 which requires decisions early on in the development process. This is why the companion core was made and used, as well as Tegra 3 being the world's first variable processor.

NVIDIA's Tegra 3 (Kal-El) Quad-Core Mobile Superchip Detailed 1 |

Tegra 3 sports a 500-percent increase in horsepower over the Tegra 2, all while using less power than the Tegra 2 and up to 67-percent less power than most other SoC (system-on-a-chip) solutions on the market. Tegra 3 also supports 3D Stereoscopic and is the first time that a PC-class CPU is made available to mobile devices.

NVIDIA's Tegra 3 chip is a quad-core, 40nm chip, that sports a fifth "companion" core. The companion core only sits there to do low-power, background tasks such as e-mail syncing, Facebook syncing and general low-power use tasks. On top of this, the companion core is also capable of running 1080p video from that single core and in this mode all of the other cores are completely off.

The companion core is also slow, but very capable. It runs at a frequency between 0 and 500MHz, and even at this speed can do quite a lot for such little battery life and clock frequency. Most other developers of tech products think 1080p video is a 'high-power' task, but NVIDIA put their foot down and said it was a 'low-power' task. This is where the companion core shows its true Kryptonian strength.


The companion core is completely transparent to the OS and/or application - they don't need to be recoded to take advantage of the extra core.

The companion core is going to be a very important move for NVIDIA, as they are the only ones with a design like it right now and ARM are months away from being prepared to launch a product based on a quad-core plus simple core chip. The companion core deserves its own story, but I'll cover a bit more of that later on in the article.

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:30 pm CDT

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Anthony Garreffa

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Anthony Garreffa

Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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