Nvidia targets low-cost LTE smartphones, tablets with Tegra 4i chip

Smartphones and tablets based on the new Tegra 4i chip will be out by year end

By , IDG News Service |  

Nvidia is primarily known as a graphics company, and the 4i chip enables booming multimedia, Carmack said. Users will be able to play high-definition Android video games on handsets. There are 60 graphics cores in Tegra 4i, while Tegra 3 had only 12 such cores. The Tegra 4 chip has 72 graphics cores.

The 4i chip is more than half the size of Tegra 4, which could lead to thinner and power-efficient smartphones, Carmack said, adding that the board size for 4i is much smaller than competitive offerings from companies like Qualcomm.

"Nobody can build a smaller quad-core LTE smartphone," Carmack said.

The new chip adds many more hours of video playback to a smartphone or tablet compared to its predecessors, Carmack said.

The battery life of a tablet or smartphone is determined by the amount of power drawn by the screen, battery capacity and other components. Nvidia has also made some improvements so the 4i chip package can make components like screens more power-efficient without sacrificing display quality.

One of the biggest advancements in 4i is the integrated modem, while Nvidia's earlier chips had to be attached to a separate modem, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"I didn't expect to see the integrated baseband this quickly," McGregor said. "This puts them in the realm of selected companies with integrated modems."

For example, Qualcomm offers Snapdragon S4 chips with integrated modems. Integrating components makes chips faster and more power efficient.

A challenge for Nvidia could be finding buyers for the Tegra 4 chips, McGregor said. The number of third-pary chip buyers has shrunk as companies like Apple, Samsung, Huawei use internally designed chips in their devices. Up to 60 percent of the mobile chips used in devices are homegrown, McGregor said.

But the new Tegra 4i chip is impressive and Qualcomm's lead in the chip category could be challenged by Nvidia.

"They have emerged as a competitors," McGregor said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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