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Carmack: Take Nvidia’s Tegra K1 claims with a ‘grain of salt’

Oculus CTO and fixture of Nvidia’s previous ‘Way it’s Meant to be Played’ event tweets he doubts Nvidia’s new mobile SoC can take on consoles.


Nvidia’s presentation at this year’s CES was anchored by the unveiling of its new  Tegra K1 SoC, the successor to the unpopular Tegra 4 chip. While the company’s CEO, Jen Hsun Huang, made some bold statements on what to expect from the chip’s performance, one prominent developer is publicly doubting the company’s claims.

“Take Nvidia’s comparisons between their K1 SoC and consoles with several grains of salt,” John Carmack tweeted earlier this week. Carmack didn’t elaborate on why he thought Nvidia’s claims were not to be taken seriously, nor did he mention if he has early access to hardware, but stepping back and analyzing Nvidia’s claims from CES it’s not hard to see why he has a point.

Apples to oranges

During the CES presentation one of Nvidia’s slides claimed that at 5W the Tegra K1 had more GPU and CPU horsepower than the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 at 100W. This should immediately draw skepticism from attentive readers, as this comparison is fairly specious.


This 100W includes the necessary supporting hardware for the console to run — optical drives, hard disks, cooling, etc — while not exactly specifying what power draw the K1 was at when the test was done. The Tegra K1 may run at 3W, but may only be able to get performance comparable to a console when running at a higher draw and in an actively cooled environment.

Tegra K1 is not only destined for phones, some manufacturers are trying to put it in PCs and notebooks like Lenovo with the ThinkVision 28. These environments would afford the opportunity to have active cooling and more power in order to squeeze out more performance from the chip. But mobile manufactures know that Tegra will be a power hog, and like the Tegra 4, will be very hesitant on committing to the SoC for production runs of devices.

With both the launch of the Tegra 4 and Tegra K1,  Nvidia made a volley of impressive claims about performance and core count. In the case of Tegra 4 manufacturers expressed their lack of enthusiasm for the SoC by passing over it in favour of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon family. While Snapdragon powers the A-list devices, Tegra 4 has the Shield and a motley crew of no-name slates.

Will the Tegra K1 follow the path of the Tegra 4? Likely. It doesn’t help that Nvidia feels it necessary to make such spectacularly misleading claims as well.

Source: Twitter

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