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CES 2014: NVIDIA boasts about its Tegra K1, but will reality match the promise?

NVIDIA
NVIDIAWikimedia Commons

It's time for CES activities -- or really, time for pre-CES activities, as the show itself doesn't begin until Tuesday, Jan. 7. On Sunday, NVIDIA unveiled its latest mobile processor (via The Verge), the 192-graphics core Tegra K1, promising that the latest in its line of "impossibly advanced" mobile chips would work in not just smartphones and tablets, but 4K televisions, consoles, and cars, as well.

The latest in the Tegra family, the Tegra K1 succeeds 2013's Tegra 4. NVIDIA's Kepler GPU, shrunk down to mobile size for the Tegra K1, was demonstrated at 2013's SIGGRAPH. At the time, NVIDIA claimed that the mobile version of Kepler had more raw computing power than the PlayStation 3.

Why not Tegra 5? NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said,

It's almost inappropriate to call it Tegra 5, because it's simply not linear. It's the most successful architecture we've created.

The question is, will reality live up to the promises coming from both NVIDIA and the prototype silicon? There was much hype around the Tegra 4, but the chip never really made inroads into mobile device market share.

The K1 will be offered in two versions, with the first being a 32-bit quad-core ARM Cortex A15 processor, similar to the Tegra 4. The second variant will be the long-awaited "Project Denver" custom 64-bit dual-core ARM CPU, the first CPU the company has developed. That 64-bit version, codenamed "Parker" in NVIDIA's superhero-style codenaming convention for its SOCs, may hit in the second half of 2014, although some are pointing to a 2015 release.

A demo video of a prototype version of NVIDIA K1 is embedded here, due to on-site limitations. While there's no doubt the imagery is beautifully rendered, there are some noticeable drops in frame rate, particularly in "Serious Sam." We hope that NVIDIA can better that in the final silicon.