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NVIDIA's Tegra 3 (Kal-El) Quad-Core Mobile Superchip Detailed (Page 2)

Anthony Garreffa | Nov 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm CST - 3 mins, 18 secs time to read this page
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

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

Let's talk cores. For a single webpage or single-threaded web page where not many scripts are required, Tegra 3 only uses one core and disables the rest including the companion core. With only one core enabled, Tegra 3 boosts the single-core up to 1.4GHz. This allows NVIDIA's Tegra 3 chip to give even higher performance for single-threaded apps.

What Tegra 3 does differently here, is it will switch on the single core, flick it up to 1.4GHz, download the website, display it, turns the 1.4GHz core off and switches to the low-power companion core. This provides the best of both words; fast collection and display of a website, but excellent battery life as it switches down to the companion core.

For tasks such as browsing complex web sites, 2 cores enable at between 0 and 1.3GHz; with these two cores and that clock speed, Tegra 3 can easily handle scripts, background tasks and flash-based websites. In this case, two cores on, two cores off, companion core off.


This design is thanks to the variable processor, where CPU cores are auto-enabled and disabled based on workload. As workload increases, each of the CPU cores is enabled. As it decreases, the cores are disabled, but not only are they disabled, they are power-gated off; no leakage, absolutely no power consumed.

This is a great achievement for NVIDIA and something I dare say will be a huge tool for them against other SoC builders going into 2012.

NVIDIA said that they've received very strong feedback from customers and OEMs, with lots of feedback from people in the industry asking what vSMP (variable SMP) can provide. Obviously from what I've just explained, it provides quite the toolset to not only developers, but users. The results of this is the lowest power for Tegra 3 which can provide video playback results of up to 12-hours.

This is largely thanks to NVIDIA's companion core, when compared to Tegra 2 or other SoCs. Video decoding is not handled by the companion core, but by NVIDIA's new video engine built on a GeForce GPU built into Tegra 3. It features three times the graphics performance of its predecessor and NVIDIA said they have worked closely with developers to push the limits of what mobile gaming has been capable of in the past.

Tegra 3 has been designed from the ground up for next-generation games which include built-in support for features such as dynamic lightning, physics, high-resolution environments and more. NVIDIA showed a slideshow of Tegra-based games with the differences between Tegra 2 and 3. It was hard to tell from a still image what to expect, but you could see the detail in water, environments, effects such as smoke, shadows and lighting were all much improved.

NVIDIA showed us various games such as Riptide from Vector Unit which is a water-based game that debuted on Tegra 2 with water simulation that was life-like. Tegra 3 amplified this with improved realism and effects. It used all four cores on Tegra 3 and added more effects such as water splashing up on the screen (or visor) of the rider, with the water droplets all simulated in real-time, including transparency and reflection from the water droplets. I think in real-time, this is going to be quite the feat to look at.

Another demo shown was Shadowgun, which again is available not only on Tegra 2, but iOS. It involves lots of realism and detailed environments. But Tegra 3 again helps immensely. It adds new effects, added water on specific scenes with most scenes enhanced on Tegra 3. Previously with Tegra 2, water was too difficult for mobile processors to simulate; Tegra 3 allows water to be simulated in real-time on GPU with specular lighting, transparency, lighting in real-time, water rippling as characters run through it - the effects are just amplified.

NVIDIA's Tegra 3 (Kal-El) Quad-Core Mobile Superchip Detailed 4 |

It's quite amazing to know this is all done on such a low-power chip, and not only that, but handheld for tablets and smartphones.

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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