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Nvidia's Tegra CPU has a mighty battery life

Nvidia's Tegra CPU has a mighty battery life

They aren't midgets, Tegra enables manufacturers to create tiny laptops.

Today Nvidia’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang delivered his company’s second Computex address in as many days. Today’s speech was a much more focussed affair than the first – which rambled from ambitious plans for Ion to providing free 3D glasses.

This time, the whole speech focussed on one product: Tegra. It’s a complete ‘system on a chip’ which is barely bigger than a USB thumb drive. Huang called it “one of the most ambitious investments in the history of our company”, and said it has cost Nvidia $500 million and taken over five years to design.

Although Nvidia has talked about Tegra before, this is the first time the company has clearly laid out its aims for the chip and shown off computers which will actually use it.

Tegra has been designed to be frugal with power, with Huang reasoning that “it’s very clear that the reduction in power consumption is what enabled progress from mainframes to PCs to laptops.” According to Nvidia, reducing power by a factor of 100x is what is required to enable designers to create new form factors.

Current high-end gaming PCs can easily draw 500W from the wall (we once had a Vadim machine that managed a scintillating 750W), with laptops taking this figure down to around 20W. Tegra, Nvidia claimed, was designed to use “no power”, although when Tegra General Manager Mike Rayfield took to the stage, he did revise this figure to 1W.

Still, 1W is a lot less than current PCs use, and judging by the onstage demos, it’s a capable chip. Rayfield showed a Tegra unit smoothly playing a 720p trailer for the new Star Trek movie, and browsing Flash-heavy websites.

Tegra features eight independent processors – listed as an Arm 11, an Arm 7, a GPU, a 2D engine, a HD video encoder, a HD video decoder, and Audio and Imaging. According to Nvidia, it achieves its low power usage as it has a processor for each job, and when a processor isn’t being used, it stays powered down.

Huang made an interesting point when he compared the way people use PCs and their mobile phones – the PC is generally powered up when needed, while phones are left on all the time. His claim was that Tegra’s design was frugal enough with power that with a ‘netbook-style’ battery it could be used in a similar manner to a phone – left on and always at your disposal.

A slide then showed a Tegra system’s battery life compared to an Intel Atom machine, and one based on Snapdragon, Qualcomm’s low-power chip. Unsurprisingly, Tegra came out of it rather well, offering 25 days of music playback compared to 5 hours on Atom and 60 hours on Snapdragon. Nvidia claimed Tegra coule play Quake at 46fps, and 10 hours of HD video versus three hours for Atom. Snapdragon was awarded a ‘fail’ mark in this category.

After all the talk, Nvidia then finally showed several different Tegra systems – some were similar to netbooks, others were even smaller. Inventec and Mobinova both had machines with 10.1in displays with a 1,000 x 600 resolution, while the ICD Ultra was a 7in machine with a capactive touch screen. The exact models available will vary from country to country, but Nvidia told bit-tech that it expects the first wave to be in stores before the end of the year and that initially they will be sold, in Europe at least, by mobile phone carriers on 3G data contracts.

Nvidia’s plans are nothing if not ambitious – Huang may have officially signalled the end of the company’s interest in motherboards when he said “we have four brands – GeForce, Tegra, Tesla and Quadro", and then went on to stake out a bright future for Tegra:

"We believe that when we can bring computing power down to less than 1W we can open up the industry to billions of platforms. You car will turn into a computer, your TV will, your picture frame will, your clock radio will. Everything will have a computer inside it."

The proof, of course, is once the final hardware is actually out and in the hands of consumers. Until then you can discuss Tegra in the forums.

Nvidia's Tegra CPU has a mighty battery life Nvidia's Tiny Tegra CPU Has Mighty Battery Life   Nvidia's Tegra CPU has a mighty battery life Nvidia's Tiny Tegra CPU Has Mighty Battery Life

26 Comments

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Aracos 2nd June 2009, 13:22 Quote
Wow I want one :O I never thought I'd get anything from nvidia but if it's really that good when it's in stores I'll accept them with a giant hug :)
cebla 2nd June 2009, 13:34 Quote
It would be awesome to make some cool small form factor mods with one of these.
The Bodger 2nd June 2009, 13:37 Quote
Very interesting; at first glance, it looks like a similar approach to that used by Gumstix in their OMAP 35xx based miniature computer boards. (The Overo 3530 used on them contains an ARM Coretex 8, DSP and Graphics accelerator in a 1W device if I remember.) The Gumstix Overo looks very similar in size too.

Will certainly be very interesting to see how this stacks up performance - wise in the real world when pitted against the OMAP platform and the (significantly higher power) Atom platform.

Edit: Given that Nvidia get the low power consumption for doing things like playing MP3s etc by shutting down all the parts of the chip that aren't being used, it my be a little clunkier than expected. Surely it means that while playing MP3s in ultra low power mode, for example, you won't be able to do anything else, as only the ARM7 part of the chip will be running? I would have thought that it would take some time to reboot and initialise the other parts of the chip to switch to doing something else.
V3ctor 2nd June 2009, 14:03 Quote
I didn't bought a smart-phone yet, because I'm expecting this little wonder... Just hope that it doesn't come at a big price...
Rkiver 2nd June 2009, 14:08 Quote
*Gibbers happily about the possibilities*
OWNED66 2nd June 2009, 14:14 Quote
i want Nvidia to say this when the first releases it

" IT'S OVER 9000 !!!!!!!!!! "
Skiddywinks 2nd June 2009, 14:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Bodger
Edit: Given that Nvidia get the low power consumption for doing things like playing MP3s etc by shutting down all the parts of the chip that aren't being used, it my be a little clunkier than expected. Surely it means that while playing MP3s in ultra low power mode, for example, you won't be able to do anything else, as only the ARM7 part of the chip will be running? I would have thought that it would take some time to reboot and initialise the other parts of the chip to switch to doing something else.

I should imagine that you can do whatever you want with it (obviously within limits of performance. I wouldn't go installing Crysis, that's for sure!), and the othe rchips would simply power on and be used in conjunction, assuming a different chip had to be used. In fact, I think that would be a better choice really. If you need to use the same chip for two different tasks, then there would be issues with performance. If you are using two different chips, or even three depending on what you are doing, this should allow much greater multitasking (depending, of course, on what the tasks are).

As for a "reboot" time etc before a chip can be sued, I find it highly unlikely. I don't know that much about chip designs and the like, but since it isn't like loading an OS, and is simply powering up a chip, I should imagine the delay would be minimal.
pizan 2nd June 2009, 14:29 Quote
This could go in my car nicely
alpaca 2nd June 2009, 14:42 Quote
a full twenty-computer system as big as a book. yay. at 1 watt, does this thing even need cooling? i'll be waiting eagerly.
ParaHelix.org 2nd June 2009, 14:44 Quote
Wut.
DXR_13KE 2nd June 2009, 14:48 Quote
imagine these things powering small tablet like net-tops with multitouch OLED screens, filled with e-books and sold or given to school kids....
Goty 2nd June 2009, 14:51 Quote
Ok, but what's the battery life like when using a reasonably sized battery? I highly doubt this thing could even idle for 25 days with something considered even remotely portable by today's standards.
Skiddywinks 2nd June 2009, 15:16 Quote
With a 1W draw, I can see the battery lasting for a very long time. The problem is, I doubt this is factoring in powering a screen, as well as half the features that are expected in a smart phone etc.
Jordan Wise 2nd June 2009, 15:52 Quote
How much power do mobile phones draw? And what battery size do they have? I'd like that comparison if they claim 25 days
Also, is this shipping with xp?
iwod 2nd June 2009, 16:36 Quote
What is the die size compare to SnapDragon ( Which is an very capable chip ), It could be 10 times faster but 10 times bigger.

Most of these can already be done with other design. PowerVR SXD and VXD plus ARM Cortex A9. The only special thing is that it uses low power Geforce 6, which gets much better software support. However, how does Geforce 6 stacks up against PowerVR in performance per watt per die space?

I really hope to see Quad Core Cortex A9 inside Tegra.
Xtrafresh 2nd June 2009, 17:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ParaHelix.org
Wut.

QFT

secondary system driving download box anyone?
dylAndroid 2nd June 2009, 18:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
... is this shipping with xp?

I could be mistaken, but this looks like it's not an x86 type processor, and as I understand it, Windows is only designed to run on x86 processors. You could probably get some kind of Linux to run on it, though.
Nathan@Nanopoint 2nd June 2009, 18:14 Quote
That is awesome!
ch424 2nd June 2009, 18:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
How much power do mobile phones draw? And what battery size do they have? I'd like that comparison if they claim 25 days
Also, is this shipping with xp?

All nVidia have done is make a smartphone chipset and brand it as a netbook chipset. Open up any smartphone and you'll find an ARM11 CPU or two, a video DSP, a display driver, lots of wireless hardware (WiFi, GSM, bluetooth etc) and sometimes a 3D chip. The lot in my N82 (two ARM11 CPUs, a 3D processor, video DSP) use about 500mW when they're in use. The wireless hardware uses another watt or two. If you attached my phone to a laptop battery, I have no doubt that it'd last 25 days. And yes, it can play Quake at a decent framerate too.

Aside from the excellent marketing, the only special part about Tegra is that it supports high resolution displays, and (being nVidia) better 3D processing too.
Krikkit 2nd June 2009, 18:28 Quote
That's all they're after though...
perplekks45 2nd June 2009, 21:40 Quote
So basically they didn't do anything else but taking already available hardware from ARM and other [pretty much] well-known manufacturers and call it a new product?

Sounds a lot like nVidia to me.
Sifter3000 2nd June 2009, 22:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by dylAndroid
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
... is this shipping with xp?

I could be mistaken, but this looks like it's not an x86 type processor, and as I understand it, Windows is only designed to run on x86 processors. You could probably get some kind of Linux to run on it, though.

The demo systems they had were running some variant of Windows CE/embedded - the demo of flash websites definitely involved IE.
serial_ 11th June 2009, 22:05 Quote
I have to say this makes me a happy nBoi.

A long time ago I decided to stop supporting "brands" and just get whoever could benchmark the best, and avoid brands that i've had trouble with. I bought an ATI card, had nothing but issues with it, and then got treated like **** by their Customer Support. That pretty well was the end of my ATI days and the beginning of a problem-free, happy nVidia customer. Everything I see out of nVidia blows ATI away, and this is certainly one of the good reasons why, they innovate like nothing else. SLI is a tiny ass little circuit bridge vs. crossfires giant external cables. What's with ATI and cables, anyway (look at the all-in-wonders)?

I can't wait for this to hit shelves. As is I play games on the go with my Acer Aspire One rocking a 1.66ghz atom and an intel 945G but I'm really liking the idea of something that just does so much in such a small package. Put a high-def screen on that biatch and let's see some better resolutions than what the atom will pump out.

I have to say, if you're gonna fanboi something that starts with a lowercase letter; go nBoi, not iBoi.
D-Cyph3r 11th June 2009, 22:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by serial_
I have to say this makes me a happy nBoi.

A long time ago I decided to stop supporting "brands" and just get whoever could benchmark the best, and avoid brands that i've had trouble with. I bought an ATI card, had nothing but issues with it, and then got treated like **** by their Customer Support. That pretty well was the end of my ATI days and the beginning of a problem-free, happy nVidia customer. Everything I see out of nVidia blows ATI away, and this is certainly one of the good reasons why, they innovate like nothing else. SLI is a tiny ass little circuit bridge vs. crossfires giant external cables. What's with ATI and cables, anyway (look at the all-in-wonders)?

I can't wait for this to hit shelves. As is I play games on the go with my Acer Aspire One rocking a 1.66ghz atom and an intel 945G but I'm really liking the idea of something that just does so much in such a small package. Put a high-def screen on that biatch and let's see some better resolutions than what the atom will pump out.

I have to say, if you're gonna fanboi something that starts with a lowercase letter; go nBoi, not iBoi.



Oh god, I just dont know where to start.... so i'm not.
perplekks45 11th June 2009, 23:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by D-Cyph3r
Oh god, I just dont know where to start.... so i'm not.
QFT.
ProDigit 29th June 2009, 04:54 Quote
Very interesting! But I doubt this chip can run something like Windows.
What operating system does it need to boot? Linux?

If it is linux, we can expect a limited gamma of games, and programs. Also, it may be true that it plays quake better than the Intel Atom system, the GMA945/950 chipset is very slow. That's just a matter of graphics card. Pair it up against an ion platform and the results will be different.

I'm also having my doubts on Winrar/audio or video encodings; although having multiple cores could boost performance for applications optimized for multithreads, would an application not optimized for multithreading be faster too?

What about office and productivity benchmarks,like booting office, an internet browser, or a larger program?

Playing quake at these resolutions and graphic settings, with these framerates could imply that we're having a device that under normal circumstances would have equal performance as an intel 945/950 and as an ion (GeForce 9400) at best; while many games actually could under perform.
Boosting this system by 200% (to a 2 watt system), with a full watt allocated to the graphics core, would be a wise thing, even if there's only a 50 increase in fps.

The 1watt system is something also Intel is trying to achieve. The 1watt only refers to CPU, GPU, and N/Sbridge(memory controler, USB port controller, pcie controller). It does not take in account the wattage lost to memory (RAM,VRAM; about 1-2Watthour?), display (backlit LCD displays of laptops generally consume around 3,5Wh), power needed to power to USB ports (500mA, 5V = 2,5W), audio out (1v x 0,5A = 0,5W). The total of such a system should be around 8,5Watthours; which is about 11W better than current Atom system, but the graphs shown above are purely theoretical. In real life the 25 days of battery life will be closer to 5 days,and the 10 hours video will be closer to 8 or 9.

Also,most likely such a device will not be paired with a 3-6cell 3500-7200mAh battery pack, but rather a 1 or 2 cell, 2800mAh max battery pack.

Also this system is aimed at the mobile and MID market, not the PCmarket, but it would be interesting to see personal computers like the ION platform, and netbooks being based on this technology!
For sure they could become a reality, but that will depend on other manufacturers. I'd also expect a device that will perform in the likes of an Atom Z processor (slow due to always coming out of sleep before, and going back into sleep after a task).

A device like that could be very versatile. And if NVidia would mind creating a mobo hosting 2 to 8 of these computer 'sticks' that could function in RAID, we'd probably get a very good webpage/ fileserver, upto the task of being 24/7 online down/uploading, perhaps a chatroom server, or print server.

A device like this could also find a good place in the professional music industry,replacing the hardware found in various electric piano's and studio recording/mixingboards.
The way I see it the device should be about the size of a SODIMM RAM stick, rather than a USB flash drive!
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