LAS VEGAS -- Nvidia wants to bring the heart of its PC graphics card business to mobile -- and it thinks it has a chip that can pump out the quality of an Xbox One on your smartphone.
Onstage Sunday evening at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang announced a new addition to its Tegra chip family, the Tegra X1. The processor utilizes its most advanced PC architecture for graphics processing units, called Maxwell, that packs in a 256-core GPU on top of a 8-core central processing unit that, together, pumps out one whole teraflop of computational power.
What do all those numbers mean? According to Huang, the result is a tiny workhorse for smartphones that is both powerful and energy efficient enough to bring console and PC-grade graphics to handheld devices. The X1 follows Nvidia's process of transitioning PC-grade tech to mobile, which it did last year by bringing Kepler, the generation before Maxwell, to mobile devices like the Nvidia Shield gaming handheld with the Tegra K1 chip.
"This little tiny thing here is a mobile super chip," Huang said, adding that the X1 was twice as powerful as last year's K1. "We're able to run any application that relies on the architecture of Maxwell," he added. That includes any game powered by top-end PCs and home console.
To showcase this, Nvidia simulated a smartphone demo that rendered in real time the short video "Elemental" built using Unreal Engine 4. Epic, the maker of Unreal, is a leading supplier of game-building tools for the industry's most intensive and photo realistic titles -- the games Nvidia thinks will soon be commonplace on smartphones and tablets if they incorporate its Tegra chip.
Nvidia now dominates the PC graphics card business with its line of GeForce GPUs, having driven competitor AMD out of desktop computers and toward supplying the game consoles of Microsoft and Sony with components. The grip on PCs has proved lucrative; gamers shell out far more frequently for PC parts than console owners, who buy a system and keep it for years.
Now, Nvidia wants to move to mobile and is hoping hardcore gamers can take them there. Qualcomm is the lead supplier of mobile chips, and Nvidia has an uphill battle to try to supplant the Snapdragon line that runs most of the world's Android devices.
Yet that race is a ways down the line, the company says. At the moment, the Tegra X1 and its one teraflop of computational power is too much for current mobile devices. So Nvidia is getting the chip out into the wild -- by having it power next-generation automotive hardware and software.
The company closed out its press conference with a substantial amount of time spent talking up its new Drive PX and Drive CX products. Drive PX will provide autopilot and self-driving software by utilizing new Tegra X1's together to provide reliable computer vision for automobiles, helping with AI-assisted parking and self-driving functions of next-generation cars. Drive CX is Nvidia's new hardware and software platform for bringing its graphics and simulation chops to cars' center consoles for navigation, driver monitoring and other screen functions.
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Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage at CES tonight to unveil its new mobile chip, the Tegra X1. With 256 processor cores and eight CPU cores, Huang touts it as the first mobile "superchip."
The X1 is the successor to last year's K1 processor, and is built atop the Maxwell architecture, which is both fast and energy-efficient. Despite tepid applause, Huang said he was most excited about what the chip can do, saying that there's nothing like it in the world. The X1 can handle 4K video at 60Hz, and is the first mobile chip to exceed 1 teraflop of throughput. The first supercomputer to exceed a teraflop did so in 2000, and needed more than 1 million watts to pull it off.
The X1 is powerful, and Huang demonstrated as much by showing off a real-time demo of Unreal Tournament. However, the chips strengths are being channeled into cars. In the near term, the chip will power the new Drive CX "digital cockpit computer," a fully-functioning infotainment system that could power an array of screens inside your car that monitor speed, temperature, and entertainment. Two X1s will power the Drive PX auto-pilot system that's great for parking