Nvidia today announced its latest Tegra 4 processor, the Tegra 4i, which ships with an integrated LTE modem, which also offers the highest performance rating of any single-chip mobile processor according to the company and weighs in at half the size of the competing Snapdragon 800. Why does that matter? Because it brings Tegra 4 performance to a whole range of new, mid-market devices, whereas before it was pretty much exclusively available for top-end super phones.
The Tegra 4i boasts 60 custom Nvidia GPU cores, a quad-caore CPU based on ARM reference designs and a fifth, battery saving core in addition to the Nvidia i500 LTE modem. That makes for a small, energy-efficient processor with a 2.3GHz CPU that offers five times the GPU cores of the Tegra 3. The integrated LTE modem is also software-defined, which means that it can be reprogrammed over-the-air to handle different frequencies for different networks. The Tegra 4i also offers camera tech that allows it to do always-on HDR photography, as well as panoramic photos with HDR, too.
In addition to the Tegra 4i, Nvidia is also announcing a reference smartphone design called the Phoenix, which acts as a blueprint for smartphone OEMs to use freely in creating their own shipping handsets to bring to market more quickly. the development of the Tegra 4i and the i500 LTE modem are the result of Nvidia’s acquisition of Icera last year.
This is a major development for Nvidia, because it means they can finally compete on equal footing with the chips with integrated modems being offered by resident big dog on the mobile processor block Qualcomm, with power consumption that should hopefully help the company finally address complaints of low battery life, which have plagued its previous Tegra designs.
These processors will be on the show floor at MWC this month, so hopefully we’ll get to see them in action powering actual devices by then, at which point we’ll be better able to determine whether the Tegra 4i does indeed provide Nvidia the means to truly shake up the Qualcomm-dominated mobile processor industry.