tegra4

The Tale of Two Tegras; Nvidia’s Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i Compared

February 24, 2013 - Written By Tom Dawson

It seems that more than ever, 2013 is the year that ARM-based processors in smartphones and tablets are a hot-topic, not only because we’re using our smartphones and tablets more than ever before but also because ARM-based processors have gotten more powerful than we first imagined. Nvidia are once again trying to make a push into the mobile market with their Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i chipsets. What’s the big difference between these two however? Well, Android Central were lucky enough to spend some time with the two of them and take a closer look at them both.

The idea is that the Tegra 4 is the more powerful of the pair, with 72 GPU cores vs 60 in the Tegra 4i, the Tegra 4 also utilizes ARM’s ARM15 instruction set, with the Tegra 4i relying on ARM9-r4 which isn’t quite as powerful. Having said that, the Tegra 4i has the i500 LTE modem built into the chip. The two chips are physically different on their reference boards as well, with the Tegra 4i being a little smaller. Below is an image of the two boards side-by-side with the 4i on the left, you’ll not the missing chips at the top of the board, which are the LTE modem and its RAM which are integrated into the die on the Tegra 4i.

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It seems like a strange strategy for Nvidia to be pushing two different chips on vendors throughout 2013 but, as the above picture shows, the Tegra 4i is a far more flexible chip compared to the vanilla Tegra 4, its application in smartphones for instance will be far better, with the reduction in size and the built-in LTE modem. It looks like the 4i is going to be Nvidia’s “in” with smartphone vendors and it’s no secret that’s what they’re looking for, either, as their Phoenix reference design is all over the place at MWC.

Power consumption is something that Nvidia are pushing at MWC as well, showing off their new chips compared to what’s already out there. With a 1080p video clip playing, the Tegra 4 offered a 25% improvement over competing products, according to Nvidia. As someone who has a One X with the Tegra 3, I can tell you that Nvidia’s chips were not ready for smartphones at all. Hopefully the Tegra 4i will fix all that. If you want to see how the Tegra 4 benchmarks then take a look here, the Tegra 4i shouldn’t benchmark as highly as this but, it should come in the same ballpark.