Nvidia's Tegra chip makes its way to mobile devices

Even if the Zune HD has a more capable chip, it will still struggle to compete with the iPod Touch

After close to a year of talk and demonstrations, Nvidia's low-power Tegra chips will soon appear in mobile devices, a company official said on Thursday.

Microsoft's Zune HD portable multimedia device, due for launch soon, will be the first device consumer device to carry the Tegra chip, said Michael Rayfield, general manager of the mobile business unit at Nvidia, during a press briefing. The chips were first announced around the middle of last year.

Tegra-based devices will combine advanced graphics, better battery life and always-on Internet access, Rayfield said.

The Zune HD will be powered by the Tegra APX 2600 chip, which has an Arm11-based processor core, a GeForce graphics core and other components. The chip also has specialized cores to encode and decode high-definition video, which will enable the Zune HD to play 720p HD video, Rayfield said.

Other Tegra-based devices, including smartphones, mobile Internet devices and smartbooks, netbooks based on Arm chip designs, will start coming out later this year, Rayfield said, adding that smartbooks will be primarily offered through carriers.

Nvidia has around 50 Tegra design wins, Rayfield said. Nvidia has already demonstrated several such devices, including a mobile Internet device priced at $US99, and Samsung has said that it plans to use Tegra in a future netbook.

The chips used in these devices could include the Tegra 600 running at 700MHz, Tegra 650 running at 800MHz, or the Tegra APX 2500. The company plans incremental advances for the chip every year, with new Tegra chips planned for next year that provide quadruple the performance of chips in the existing lineup, Rayfield said.

Nvidia expects Tegra to be a major revenue generator in the future, Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia's CEO, said during an earnings conference call last week. Most of Nvidia's revenue comes from graphics cards, but the company wants to tap into the burgeoning mobile market through Tegra and other mobile chips.

Last week, the company reported revenue of $US776.5 million for the second fiscal quarter, a fall from $US892.6 million during the same period last year.

The first measure of Tegra's success will be the Zune HD, which is designed to provide a better multimedia experience than Apple's iPod Touch, Rayfield said.

The Zune HD will be able play 720p high-definition video, which the iPod Touch cannot play. Whether that's enough to unseat Apple from its dominant position in the media player market remains to be seen -- some observers say multimedia improvements offered by the Zune HD may not be enough to dent Touch sales.

Besides 720p playback, the Zune HD will include a 3.3-inch OLED touch-screen with 480-pixel by 272-pixel resolution. Another video feature will be the HD video out port, and Tegra can process 720p video for display on external high-definition screens. Microsoft will include a number of entertainment options with the Zune HD, including instant access to films and TV shows in the Xbox Live Video Marketplace.

Beyond multimedia, Microsoft is marketing Zune HD as a mobile Internet device with wireless networking and a Web browser. Tegra enhances the Web experience with support for Adobe's Flash, which allows Zune HD to load normal Web pages with HD video, Rayfield said.

The release date for the Zune HD hasn't been announced, though it is already available for preorder on sites like Amazon.com and Best Buy.

The Nvidia chip may do a better job on multimedia than the iPod Touch, but Zune HD won't be an immediate iPod Touch and iPhone killer, said Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group.

"The thing that Apple has going for them -- there is so much software development around their devices," Olds said. The winner will be the device with a better user interface and software choices, Olds said.

Apple has a significant lead with an ecosystem that includes the wildly successful App Store.

Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do to compete with the iPod Touch. "Zune is an uphill struggle all the way," Olds said.

Gadgets are continuously demanding more graphics performance, but content outweighs technology advances in low-power devices, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. Apple has a strong iPod and iTunes content infrastructure that Nvidia has to contend with.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags smartbooksgraphics cardsnvidiaNvidia Tegramobile

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?