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CES: Nvidia’s 64-Bit Tegra K1 Chip to Turn Mobile Devices into Next-Gen Consoles

Don’t get distracted by the smart refrigerators and wi-fi-enabled toothbrushes at International CES this year, because the big announcements are just getting started. In case you were worried about whether or not your next-gen games looked next-gen enough, Nvidia late Sunday unveiled the newest generation of its Tegra chipset, the Tegra K1, which is based on the same Kepler architecture found in their high-end GeForce GTX 780 Ti desktop GPU.

Essentially, what this means is that Nvidia now has the ability to bring top-of-the-line PC game graphics to mobile devices, which in turn opens up greater possibilities for cross-platform gaming and better quality mobile gaming. The gaming tech juggernaut has been slowly combining its desktop and mobile GPU architectures for a while now, but the K1 chip represents the greatest leap forward in making this strategy a reality.

Not only does the chip use a GPU with 192 CUDA cores based on the same Kepler GPU architecture used in desktop GPUs like the GeForce GT 600 and 700 series, but some versions of the chip will be among the first to ship with Nvidia’s proprietary “Denver” ARM CPU. Check out this tech demo below to get a sense of what all this jargon means for you as a consumer.

During a CES press briefing on Sunday, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang noted that the Android operating system, coupled with mobile processor advancements like the K1, means “it’s just a matter of time before Android disrupts game consoles” and even “the auto industry.” The Tegra K1, with its 192 cores, is capable of running Epic Games’ next-gen Unreal Engine 4, which Nvidia says will allow the processor to offer the same graphics features as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and faster graphics than Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

In terms of raw processing power, Ars Technica notes it will be similar to “a GeForce GT 630 or 635, a low-end dedicated GPU from early last year” and performance will also be affected by “memory bandwidth and throttling.” The K1 itself comes in two versions, 32-bit quad core and “64-bit Super Core” based on ARMv8 architecture. The K1 also supports OpenGL 4.4, tessellation, DX11, and has major advancements in speech recognition and mobile video editing capabilities.

When can you expect to find these at retail? Well, the 32-bit version of the K1 is expected to appear in devices in the first half of 2014, and the 64-bit K1 devices should start rolling out in the second half. of the year. You can read more about the devices here. What mobile game do you think will benefit most from these new processors? Let us know in the comments below.

[HT: Gamasutra]

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4 comments

  • The one thing I was looking for that seems like a glaring omission was the impact this would have on battery life. A chipset like that works in an XBox One because the device is plugged into a wall and power consumption is a negligible issue. But putting that kind of horsepower into a smartphone or tablet might not be as feasible if you want to play your game on a 4 hour flight and don’t have access to a recharge port. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m surprised it wasn’t mentioned.

  • “What mobile game do you think will benefit most from these new processors?”

    Here’s the thing. If the chip is as powerful as we’re being led to believe, it’s not a question of what mobile games will benefit. It’s a question of what multi-platform console game will be the first to also release on mobile platforms without being a “mobile game”.

    If the technology exists to make a game look and play as well on a mobile device as it does on a modern console, then that means that there will no longer be any separation between console and mobile gaming. They will become one and the same.

    This won’t just mean enabling mobile devices to play (for instance) Mass Effect 4. It will mean Xboxes and Playstations that you take with you on the go. Not just smartphones with console power, but consoles with mobility.