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Nvidia Tegra 4 launch at CES today

Nvidia Tegra 3

Updated: The new Nvidia Tegra 4 chipset was launched as expected at CES with some impressive demos

[UPDATED – Confirmed specifications and details of demos from the Nvidia Tegra 4 announcement event]

As expected Nvidia launched its next-generation chipset today, on the eve of the CES 2013 conference. The Nvidia Tegra 4 chipset is a big deal, as it will power numerous upcoming devices – both smartphones and tablets – over the next year. Nvidia had promised a new chipset every year, and wth Tegra 4 it has delivered impressively.

After a leak in December, the basic specifications of the chip were widely known, and that leak proved accurate today.

Nvidia has stuck with its quad-core plus one architecture, used on Tegra 3 – which we first saw late in 2011 on the Asus Transformer Prime. Here the main four processing cores are accompanied by a fifth low power core, which is used to reduce power consumption during low intensity tasks and when idling.

The new cores have been updated from ARM’s Cortex A9 architecture to the latest A15 design – which looks to bring a sizeable boost in performance. A demo showed a modified Google Nexus 7 tablet with a Tegra 4 chipset render 25 webpages in just 27 seconds. The same demo run on the speedy, Samsung Exynos-based Google Nexus 10 took almost twice as long at 50 seconds. That’s a huge jump in performance if it’s borne out in the real world.

We’ve seen A15-based devices before, but only in dual-core configurations. Which makes this the first quad-core A15 chipset. On the graphics side, the expected 72 GPU cores proved correct, that’s six times the number on Tegra 3. This should provide graphical performance in excess of anything we’ve seen to date. There’s even support for 4K displays, which will prove handy with tablet screen resolutions rocketing.

Support for dual-channel DDR3 memory and a move to a more power-efficient 28nm manufacturing process round off the specification. All in all it’s an impressive-sounding bit of silicon.

All that processing power has been put to use in photography, with the chipset showing impressive HDR performance, snapping and merging multiple shots almost instantaneously.

One disadvantage of Tegra 3 was a lack of integrated LTE/4G support, but now there’s an optional Icera i500 chipset to add support for this, it’s programmable so we can expect wide frequency and future standards support, plus it’s apparently 40% smaller than most such chips. This means Tegra 4 devices will support services such asEE 4G,

We’re hoping to see a number of Nvidia Tegra 4 devices over the next few days, so we should be able to bring you a far more concrete breakdown on its performance both in terms of raw specs and hands-on feel.

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