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MWC 2012: NVIDIA Samples Tegra 3+, Tegra 4 to OEM Partners


Even though NVIDIA is at rage on the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain – all of the industry players are heavily working on next-generation of devices which threatens to turn the current generation obsolete.

There is no doubt about it, producing bleeding edge silicon is going through a lot of pain at this years' Mobile World Congress. TSMC's even openly admitted that the yields for its state-of-the-art 28nm process are far from satisfactory –  the situation is still better than it was for the 40nm process.

Intel is having issues with the 22nm FinFET (so called 3D transistors), while GlobalFoundries had issues in ramping up both 32nm and 28nm process. Samsung is being silent but we've all seen the amount of 3rd party chips the company ordered from NVIDIA and TI to compensate for its own products.

Yet, the development of the latest products is not stopping. According to the rumors in Barcelona, NVIDIA went by the book and taped out T40, i.e. Wayne in late December 2011. The silicon took some time to get back and the company is now starting to sample its OEM partners with the next generation parts which will be launched at the next years' CES and MWC. You can probably expect a repeat of the Tegra 3 launch – limited run of units through a single vendor (in case of Tegra 3, it was ASUS and Transformer Prime tablet), and mass availability in the second quarter of 2013.

In that perspective, NVIDIA is keeping to its roadmap the company outlined at GPU Technology Conference in 2010. As you can see on the image above, Tegra 3 will be offered in a refreshed form, codenamed T35. Our sources said this is not a 28nm die-shrink, but rather increased clocks for the Windows on ARM "clamshells". We've been cited 1.6 and 1.7GHz clocked Tegra 3 SOC's, which is 20% higher than the originally predicted 1.5GHz clock.

Bear in mind that first generation of Tegra 3 cores only worked at 1.3-1.4GHz, as the company was constrained by strict thermal guidelines (100 mW idle, 2W TDP). Clamshells have higher TDP and you can expect a lot more functionality coming from this "quad-core plus a ninja core", "4 PLUS 1" (NVIDIA Marketing Team, seriously – just say it's a quint-core and we're over and done with).

Based on information available, T40 i.e. Wayne i.e. Tegra 4 is a 28nm chip which combines several ARM Cortex-A15 cores (our source says it's different from T30) with a new graphics engine which we assume to be compliant with CUDA. Unlike the roadmap which we have here, we've been told that there might be some delays for the T40 since NVIDIA has to attack Qualcomm Snapdragon, and if the company won't offer Tegra 4+Baseband – Qualcomm will get (most) of the design wins.

MWC 2013 will also see the debut of Grey, a 28nm single-chip package which combines Cortex-A15 cores, the new GPU and the Icera 4G LTE baseband. Grey is a successor of T28, which is a dual-core Tegra 2 combined with an Icera 450 baseband chip. The Tegra+Icera debuted at the show in the form of ZTE Mimosa X smartphone.

Thus, in 12 months from now, NVIDIA will have a top to bottom solution for the expanding smartphone market. Is that enough? Only time will tell.

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