Nvidia blows minds with its next-gen Tegra

The new GPU will be almost as good as the desktop version, except it goes in tablets. Scary thought.

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The 2013 Siggraph conference, dedicated to all things graphics, is winding down in southern California but there is plenty taking place. Nvidia provided a preview of its upcoming Logan mobile processor, the successor to the current Tegra 4, and produced some crazy good demos.

Tegra hasn't been able to gain a lot of traction, despite Nvidia's dominance in PC graphics, because the current generations of Tegra are built on a GPU specially designed for the mobile processor family. With Logan, Nvidia is taking its powerful Kelper GPU architecture used in products like desktop and performance laptop PCs and scaling it down.

Desktop Kepler chips usually have more than 1,000 cores, while Logan will sport just 192 cores. However, that's more than enough to support advanced GPU functions like tessellation and global illumination, Direct X11, OpenGL4.4, OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL, and CUDA 5. Don't believe me? Look at the facial rendering below.

The rendering wasn't extremely smooth, according to reports out of the show. That's because Logan is still in a very early state. The test silicon had only arrived at Nvidia just three weeks prior and no one knew if it was 28nm or 20nm. It's also unclear what kind of ARM core is being used. The thinking among analysts is the Coretex A15, which is the top of ARM's line.

That said, Anand Shimpi of AnandTech thinks Logan could reach PlayStation 3 levels of performance on a mobile processor, which is remarkable. Nvidia ran a demo of a mock-up tablet against the current Apple iPad 4. At equivalent performance levels, the Nvidia kludge tablet reportedly used approximately a third of the power of the iPad. The final product should be even better.

This will give tablet and smartphone designers two choices: run in low power and get decent performance and long battery life, or crank up the performance and use a little more power.

Nvidia representatives did not give a clear date for Logan's launch, but analysts at the show believed it could be ready by the first quarter of 2014 time frame.

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