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Nvidia: Tegra 5-Powered Smartphones Will Be More Powerful than Current Gen Consoles

April 4, 2013 - Written By Lucian Armasu

We’ve heard it for a couple of years now that we’ll be getting “console-quality” games on our mobile devices, and that has never really been true so far. The chip companies themselves have been a little flexible with the truth, and what they meant when they were saying “console-quality” was really “we’re this close from almost having games as good looking as on consoles”.

But after such misleading promises, I believe next year we’re finally going to see it, at least with Tegra 5-powered devices:

“The PS3 and Xbox 360 are barely more powerful than mobile devices.The next click of mobile phones will outperform [them],” said Tony Tamasi, the senior vice-president of Content at Nvidia.

Why do I actually believe them this time? Because Tegra 5 will be based on the Kepler GPU architecture, and should also be several times more powerful than Tegra 4 this year. PS3 and Xbox360 have about 200 Gflops right now, while Tegra 4 has about 80 Gflops. Since Tegra 3 was at least 3x faster than Tegra 2 in GPU performance, and Tegra 4 is 6x faster than Tegra 3, I think it’s safe to assume Tegra 5 will be at least 3x faster than Tegra 4.

While Tegra 2, 3 and 4 all used the same old GPU architecture, Tegra 5 is switching to a full PC GPU architecture that will come with more performance and access to the full OpenGL 4.3 graphics API, which means developers could make Android games look even better than the ones we see PS3 which only uses the OpenGL ES 2.0 API with some extensions from Sony.

Nvidia has developed some great relationships with developers, so I think we’re going to see some great games coming to Android next, which will probably only work on Tegra 5, at least for a while. Most other chips will only be support OpenGL ES 3.0, but I think with enough performance behind it, even devices using those chips will be able to outperform the PS3 and Xbox360.

My only concern with Tegra 5, as usual, is battery life. While the Kepler architecture is one of the most efficient PC architectures Nvidia has ever made, we don’t know yet what that means exactly for mobile devices. Since its a “full” PC GPU architecture, it’s possible it won’t be as efficient as other mobile GPU’s, and will trade efficiency for performance and great graphics.

I’m hoping Nvidia will be taking energy efficiency more seriously than in the past though. Suggesting that Tegra 5 will go into smartphones (while apparently Tegra 4 won’t), may mean just that, and it’s probable Tegra 5 will be a sufficiently efficient chip to go into phones.