Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsung Huang

First Tegra 4 SoC Based on Nvidia’s Kepler Architecture Shows Up in Source Code

November 11, 2013 - Written By Nick Sutrich

While Nvidia is more known for their desktop graphics cards, they have become one of the leading forces of hardware in the mobile world in the past few years.  The latest Android source code release from the Nvidia code branch repository has revealed a new and upcoming Tegra 4 system-on-a-chip, and this isn’t just any old update either.  Those familiar with the PC gaming world will immediately recognize the name Kepler, as it is the latest in the current line of Nvidia chipsets that’s underneath the hood of their most powerful PC graphics cards.  These GPUs pushed the edge of performance when they were released, and did so not just by brute strength as previous entries in Nvidia’s catalog did, but by utilizing some new optimizations as well.  These optimizations are what’s behind the newest line of Tegra 4 chips, all of which are based on the GK20A Kepler architecture from the PC world, albeit scaled down to run in the power and heat requirements of a mobile device.

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An upcoming Nvidia event listing shows that Nvidia’s GPU Architecture Director, Craig Wittenbrink, will be speaking about the upcoming GK20A chip, and the listing shows it being a Kepler-based GPU.  Myce was also able to obtain a benchmark listing for the new chipset on GFXBench, which is a popular mobile benchmarking tool.  This benchmark was posted from the GK20A’s development board, code name Laguna, and has subsequently been pulled from the GFXBench database.  The results were incomplete and only one tests was run unfortunately, but it helps us gauge exactly where the performance of this new chipset might lie.

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We can see from the chart that it scores a fairly low 983 frames rendered on the offscreen 1080p T-Rex HD test, which equates to about 17.6 frames per second.  Comparably the current Tegra 4 in Nvidia’s own Shield gaming system scores 24 FPS (1345 frames), and the Snapdragon 800 inside the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 scores 26.2 FPS (1468 frames).  This puts Nvidia’s new chip right in the mid-range section, and seems like it might be a more budget chip than the current Tegra 4 lineup is.  This might also be one of the new boards powering anything from tablets to automobile entertainment units as Nvidia’s CEO stated recently.  Nvidia has really been trying to branch out lately, releasing everything from its first tablet to its first mobile gaming system in 2013 alone.  There’s also news that the follow-up to the Shield might be coming soon too, and powered by none other than the Tegra 5 too.  The upcoming year is certainly going to be an interesting one for Nvidia and the Android market as a whole.