Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage at CES tonight to unveil its new mobile chip, the Tegra X1. With 256 processor cores and eight CPU cores, Huang touts it as the first mobile “superchip.”
Tegra X1 mobile chipset is a veritable beast: It’s able to provide almost two times the graphics performance of the iPad Air 2’s A8X while also consuming just about the same amount of power, and it’s already in production, meaning tablets sporting the X1’s graphical prowess should be available to consumers in the relatively near future.
Huang said he was most excited about what the chip can do, saying that there’s nothing like it in the world. The X1 can handle 4K video at 60Hz, and is the first mobile chip to exceed 1 teraflop of throughput. The first supercomputer to exceed a teraflop did so in 2000, and needed more than 1 million watts to pull it off.
The Tegra X1’s benchmarks suggest a future where we’ll see tablets come even closer to approximating the gaming capabilities of full desktop computers. X1 is based on Maxwell, after all, the microacrchitecture used in the most recent GeForce GTX desktop graphics cards, meaning just like the K1 and Kepler before it, X1 makes it easy for developers to use desktop gaming APIs to bring their products to mobile with far fewer intricacies involved.
Nvidia’s own tests with the X1 show it performing at just about twice the rate of the Tegra K1 when it comes to 1080p offscreen performance, about 1.5x in 3Dmark 1.3 Icestorm Unlimited and almost twice the iPad Air 2 in the same metric, and about 1.5x in the BasemarkX 1.1 vs. both iPad and K1. But perhaps its most impressive performance improvements over comparable chipsets revolve around energy efficiency: The X1 offers about twice the performance as you increase power draw vs. the K1 architecture, and about 1.7x the performance of the A8X on average for the same power consumption.
X1 features a 265-core Maxwell GPU, an 8-core 64-bit ARM CPU and can handle 60fps 4K UHD video playback in either H.265 or VP9 coding. Like the Apple-designed A8X, it uses a 20nm process, which means it’s fairly easy to benchmark it against the Apple tablet in a straight-up graphics benchmark comparison. Nvidia obliged us with just such a test, using a range of benchmarks to illustrate exactly how it compares not only to the iPad, but to the current, Tegra K1-powered Nvidia Shield Tablet, which owns the graphics performance crown among Android slates.
Still, that’s a big part of why Nvidia has developed its own platforms, including the Shield line of devices, and it’s likely they’ll have announcements in that realm soon now that the X1 is in production. Along with new hardware will come optimized software, too, so users won’t have long to wait before they get their first taste of wha the X1 means to actual lived computing.