Nvidia reveals Kai cut-price Tegra 3 tablet design

Nvidia reveals Kai cut-price Tegra 3 tablet design

Nvidia's Tegra 3 chip is coming to sub-$199 tablets, thanks to the company's cut-price Kai reference design.

Nvidia has announced a new reference platform for tablets, codenamed Kai, which it hopes will help increase adoption of its Tegra 3 system-on-chip (SoC) in low-end tablets.

Nvidia's Tegra 3 - codename 'Kal-El' - is a powerful chip, packing four 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processing cores alongside an ultra-low power (ULP) GeForce graphics engine. Its most stand-out feature, however, is its 'Companion Core,' a low-power 500MHz ARM core designed to keep background tasks ticking over while the more power-hungry main cores shut down and conserve battery life.

It's a design which has plenty of wins in the market: the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime features a Tegra 3 chip in its heart, as do the Acer Iconia Tab A510 and A700 and Toshiba AT270 and AT300 tablets. It's even finding its way into high-end smartphones, with LG choosing the chip for its Optimus 4X HD handset and HTC for the recently-launched One X.

All the aforementioned devices have one thing in common, however: they're expensive. That's good news for the manufacturers, who are making a nice margin on each sale, but less so for Nvidia. Higher selling price means fewer units sold; fewer units sold mean fewer chips sold; fewer chips sold means less cash compared to companies with lower-end parts in their line-up like Samsung, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

To combat this: Kai. The name given to Nvidia's reference tablet design, Kai packs a fully-featured Tegra 3 SoC design into a bill of materials which will see manufacturers able to sell the device for the magic sum of $199.

Unveiled at the company's annual investor meeting last night, Kai will feature the same quad-plus-one-core 'Kal-El' chip design and GeForce graphics engine as its higher-priced equivalents. Unlike devices like the Transformer Prime, however, the screen will be significantly cheaper and other components cut back in order to hit the ultra-low price point.

Precisely how the low price point is achieved, Nvidia isn't saying. 'Kai is our low-cost Tegra 3 reference platform that allows tablet makers to build low-cost, quad-core Android tablets targeted at the $199 price point,' Nvidia's Bruce Chan told Wired following the event. 'It uses power-efficient Tegra 3 technologies to help reduce display power and bring lower cost devices to market.'

Even with such corners being cut, Nvidia's Kai design could be a big winner: Amazon has been selling its Kindle Fire $199 Android tablet by the bucketload, despite lacklustre performance from its cut-price Texas Instruments dual-core processor. A quad-core tablet at the same price point could be a game-changer for the industry.

Nvidia's Kai revelation came with the news that several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have picked up the design, but the company has yet to name names. The release does coincide with one particular rumour, however: Nvidia is rumoured to be replacing Texas Instruments as the chip supplier for Amazon's Kindle Fire 2, which has already been rumoured to include a quad-core chip of one type or another.

In addition to the Android market, Nvidia has confirmed that it will be producing Tegra 3 reference designs for tablets running Windows RT, the ARM-compatible variant of Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS. Release dates for either product line were not discussed at the event.


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Snips 24th May 2012, 10:56 Quote
Wow at that price it will surely heat up the tablet market once WinRT is released. Me likey!
Guinevere 24th May 2012, 11:16 Quote
Why they do this?

Because it's near impossible for any manufacturer (other than maybe Samsung) to produce a premium quality tablet and sell them at quantity and for a decent profit.

Because the average Joe on the street says... "£400! If I'm going to pay that I might as well buy an iPad... they're shiny!"

Amazon has a huge percentage of Android sales because they are selling devices built to a cost and have enough clout to not worry about making a mint from each hardware sale.

I think we'll see a glut of cheap, slightly underpowered, low-res windows tablets. People won't notice the crappy screens at first because see it in Metro mode with it's big play-school boxes and chunky fonts.

They'll be happy with their <5 hour battery life from the undersized cells installed in the unit, but they'll be able to buy a 3rd party Chinese pocket-burner spare from ebay for £8.99 with free shipping so they won't care. A handful of spare batteries and you'll even be able to spend most of a day watching flash videos.

And most importantly they'll be quad core. Which is like... twice as many as a dual core... so that's twice as good right? Okay so they'll be slowed down a bit by all the bloat ware 3rd party apps the suppliers will install to make an extra buck but users can remove those if they want to... and know how... and realise it's them slowing things down.

At the end of the day they'll be cheaper than the most expensive units, and fast enough for a bit of you-tube, web-browsing, angry birds and fruit ninja. So perfect 99% of the time.

Tablets are here to stay.

But bring on the Leap Motion. Me wants!
scott_chegg 24th May 2012, 11:54 Quote
"however, the screen will be significantly cheaper"

Tablets are made or broken by the quality of the screen in my opinion. It's so integral to the whole experience of using a tablet that putting in a low cost/low quality screen is insane.
yougotkicked 24th May 2012, 19:15 Quote
"My name's Kai, and I'm here to kick @$$ and lower prices. And I'm all out of @$$' to kick."

(Honestly though, my first name is Kai, this is just uncanny.)

I may be in the market for a tablet when I return to school in the fall, if this is available by then I might just have to buy it.
alpaca 25th May 2012, 08:13 Quote
Originally Posted by Guinevere
Why they do this?

Tablets are here to stay.

But bring on the Leap Motion. Me wants!

Oh, me want toooo! for 70 dollar.thats the cost of a decent keyboard. Will the drivers be any good? The future is so exiting!

EDIT: Wieieieie
Nexxo 25th May 2012, 08:21 Quote
Aw, cute. It's got a companion core! :p Shades of Portal, anyone?
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