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Need to Know – Nvidia Tegra 3

The quad-core chipset found in the Asus Transformer Prime tablet and HTC Edge smartphone is the future of processors – time to learn more

Nvidia Tegra 3 – more power using less power

The extra power of a quad-core processor means tablets and mobiles will be able to run games with console-quality graphics. But the really great thing about Tegra 3’s quad-core is its ability to manage power. The System-on-a-Chip will let you operate your tablet or mobile faster than a dual-core, but while using less power. How does that work? Using its hidden fifth core. There’s more about that on the next page.

Nvidia Tegra 3 – more than quad-core

Technically the Tegra 3 – formerly Project Kal-El – is a quad-core mobile chip that manages super-power speeds with energy management so efficient, a tax official would be impressed. In reality it has five cores.

Each is an ARM Cortex A9 CPU. But while four run at high-speed (max 1.4GHz), one is hidden from the OS and used at lower frequencies (max 500MHz) for simple processes – thereby allowing the others to rest and save power.

This process is called Variable Symmetric Multiprocessing (vSMP) and is ideal for things like playing music and video, syncing email and social neworking apps, updating active widgets and so on, while in low-power standby.

Nvidia Tegra 3 – kills the Blu-ray player

The biggest power-saving operation on the Tegra 3 is video playback, which is 61% more power efficient than the Tegra 2’s dual-core. The Tegra 3 is also able to churn out video to two screens with resolutions of up to 2048×1536 – which is more than most TVs can display. So now you can store all your films, TV shows and guilty-pleasure anime in HD quality on your phone (HTC Edge) or tablet (Asus Transformer Prime) and output to your LCD – all without having to plug in for power. Goodbye solid-state media.

Nvidia Tegra 3 – camera happy

The mighty quad-core can support up to 32MP snaps on the primary and 5MP on the secondary camera, as well as 16x digital zoom. Not the kind of numbers we can expect on a phone or tablet anytime soon, but it’s nice to know we’re future-proofed.

Nvidia Tegra 3 – gaming powerhouse   

With up to 2GB DDR3 RAM support, 3D stereo, and a GeForce 12-core GPU chipset, gaming on tablets can finally reach console levels. With the option to plug in PS3 controllers into mobiles and the likes of the Asus Transformer Prime with USB 2.0 for mouse input – gaming really can be freed at last.

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Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home

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