Archive for July 2013

Good job, Intel and Nvidia! Now show us Haswell and Kepler in mobile devices

If you keep an eye on mobile chip scene, the way I do, you will know that in the last few days Intel and Nvidia made big splash.

Intel announced it would have a Haswell chip with a SDP – a fancy replacement for more traditional and accurate TDP – of 4.5W ready by the year end. The 4.5W is the big deal here because it will allow the chip to go into a tablet.

Haswell in a tablet is a geek’s wet dream. It is a Core processor and is likely to be significantly superior to any chip ARM or its partners currently offer or are likely to come up by the end of this year.

Nvidia, meanwhile, formally announced Logan. The big news with Logan is that Nvidia is finely bringing its PC graphics technology to its mobile chip. Logan is supposed to come inside devices by the second half of next year.

Nvidia claims that it terms of theoretical power (read gflops) the graphics core in Logan will be as powerful as GTX 8800! Even though there is no chance that Logan will have memory bandwidth to push GTX 8800 class performance, this is a big deal.

Both are nice announcements. And both have generated a lot of good PR for Intel and Nvidia, which are struggling to come out of the PC industry where they dominate and adapt their business to the mobile market.

I am not convinced.

The reason: Execution. Or the lack of it.  

Despite superior technology, especially in chip manufacturing, Intel has so far failed to match ARM and its partners like Qualcomm in offering competitive mobile processors. We all know that Silvermont is coming by the end of this year and it may make Intel competitive in the mobile industry but unless we get devices powered by these chips, it is dangerous to hazard a guess.

Keeping this fact in line, I am not too sure that Haswell will really appear in tablets. And even if it appears, it will live up to the hype. Even Intel acknowledges that Haswell in tablet is more like an experiment. It talks of limited availability of tablet-ready Haswell chips.

Nvidia too is struggling in the mobile despite being one of the top semi-conductor firms. Tegra 1, Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 have been passable at best and lame at worst. In February, the company showed Tegra 4 and claimed it would be the best mobile processor in the market. If I remember right, some benchmarks were used and the score posted by Tegra 4 were amazing. But since then we haven’t heard much about it.

In the market, it is difficult to find a Tegra 4 device. I think Toshiba has one tablet and HP has come out with one Hybrid.

In fact, there is a very valid question mark on the ability of Tegra 4 to fit into a smartphone form factor because the amount of power it is supposed to consume and the amount of heat it reportedly produces.

Given that Intel is yet make a really competitive processor despite several tries and Nvidia is struggling to get the Tegra right, I will like to see the tablet running on Haswell and a phone powered by Logan before I can believe the tall claims. 

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