The first dual-core Android tablets only arrived in February, but Nvidia is already showing off an improved quad-core chip that’s expected to power tablets by August. The system-on-a-chip, codenamed “Kal-El,” has four computer cores and a dozen graphics processors that will offer a huge performance boost in mobile devices. Nvidia announced the chip in February, with support for 1440p video playback, which is higher than most HDTV sets.
To get an idea of what to expect from Nvidia’s new mobile chip, the company shared a video demonstration with me last week, which is now available for public viewing. Take a peek at the game demonstration that focuses on dynamic lighting and detailed physics on an Android Honeycomb tablet at 1280×800 resolution.
The video prowess of the upcoming chip is impressive; you can get a real feel for it when the demonstration drops down to using just two of the four processing cores. Kal-El should bring faster device response times, vastly improved graphics, quicker camera applications and more. But perhaps the chip is too impressive when it comes to product timing.
If the first dual-core tablets launched in February and slates using this new quad-core chip could be available by August, that means the very young Google Honeycomb tablet market is essentially running through a product cycle in six short months. Improved performance is always welcome, but I wonder if the growing number of consumers who are shopping for a tablet will simply hold off for a few more months.
The same can be said of smartphones because Nvidia expects handsets to run on Kal-El chips by this holiday season. I’m generally an early adopter but I haven’t yet moved to a dual-core handset. I’m in the process of choosing the device that will replace my Nexus One and this development makes the decision a little harder: Do I wait or just pull the trigger now, knowing that there’s a good chance of a big hardware boost by the end of the year?
Regardless of the increasing technology cycle and what that will do to consumer purchase decisions, the advancements shown in Kal-El are a positive development for mobile technology. This year might be known as the year of dual-core chips, but if Nvidia has anything to say about it — not to mention competitors such as Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Marvell and others who are working on their own faster chips — 2012 is looking to be the year of quad-core devices.