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Summary:

The first dual-core Android tablets only arrived in February, but Nvidia is already showing off an improved quad-core chip it expects in tablets by August. A video demo of the chip, codenamed “Kal-El,” shows impressive performance: enough that some consumers may wait to buy a tablet.

kal-el-nvidia-demo

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.

  1. that’s a tech demo from the people who made the SoC

    c’mon, don’t be so easily swayed by propaganda

    just like on PCs
    very few programs will fully take advantage of all 4 cores

    dual core is fine for current resolutions
    and quad core will be great for higher resolutions
    but I’m sorry, some poorly written nvidia-porn demo means nothing

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  2. Definitely impressive, but also concerned, mainly for the reason you stated – if they’re going to make leaps and bounds improvements in just 6 months, things are going to get really ridiculous really quickly.

    I can see at least two different outcomes for consumers:

    1. When the new Kal-El tablets come out, the existing dual-core (Xoom, Galaxy Tab 10.1, Acer Iconia, etc) will plummet in price (they’re at least $150-200 overpriced right now, IMO), which will entice *most* consumers to get those, instead of these new ones.

    2. Manufacturers won’t drop the price on their earlier models (they probably can’t really afford to), and so these new Kal-El tablets will either be A) the same price or B) even more expensive than the existing set.

    Given that I can get a *really* slick laptop for under $600 easily, and ALOT of consumers got burned on the whole netbook craze (myself included), it’s going to be a tough sell to convince consumers they should drop $600+ on these fancy new tablets.

    This will most likely lead to soft sales, which will of course be blamed on everything but this ridiculously short life cycle, and tablets as an industry will be hosed.

    Interestingly enough, it’s quite the opposite of what happened with netbooks. With netbooks, the second (and third?) waves were hardly distinguishable from the earlier units. Sure, the casings got slightly thinner/lighter/more stylish, but overall, the guts stayed the same. Same 10.1-inch display, ~1MP webcam, WiFi, bluetooth, 160GB HDD, blah blah blah. Battery life was pretty much the only distinguishing factor.

    I’m interested to see how the Android tablets differentiate from one another.

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  3. Thanks to this, I am justified in sticking with my Galaxy Tab till the quad cores come out. Awesome.

    Now I just have to hope the manufacturers don’t overprice their tablets again.

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  4. I own an Asus Transformer, Xoom, & iPad 2. All I see is… Wow. An iPad can do that NOW.

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    1. That just sounds ignorant.

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      1. He meant an iPad can play that video. (just not in flash format)

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  5. Quad core smartphone by the end of the year. It’s a good time to bea tech enthusiast!

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  6. Appropriately named. love it!

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  7. As I finally make up my mind on a Ipad 2, I see this demo….but I don’t think it will sway my decision. Reality is that, very few apps will take advantage of the increased performance. I guess mid 2012 will be best time to get a quad core Tablet.

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  8. Justa Notherguy Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Let’s see, first you post a straightforward, affirmative title…

    “Don’t Buy a Dual-Core Tablet Until You See This Video”

    …which would seem to eliminate any need of further editorial comment in favor of, well, watching said video.

    Yet we are soon treated to some questions otherwise obviated by the aforementioned title, in both paragraph #4:

    “[...] but I wonder if the growing number of consumers who are shopping for a tablet will simply hold off for a few more months.”

    …and para #5:

    “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?”

    All of which leaves me to wonder: are these signs of genuine passive-aggressive disorder or just a cheap way to stretch a rather thin story line from 150 words to 300? Tough call.

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  9. This reminds me of Bounce that was pre-installed on the Nokia N900 and used the graphics engine plus the accelerometer. Unfortunately no full-version was every created and I’ve yet to find a full game that looks as impressive. Lets hope the game developers get on-board with the above…

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  10. Lucian Armasu Monday, May 30, 2011

    Kevin, Tegra 3 is actually arriving on schedule. The first Tegra 2 device was supposed to arrive late August last year. I think it got delayed a bit and arrived in October or so (Toshiba smartbook), the in November we saw those noname Tegra 2 tablets with Froyo.

    Remember when Motorola said they will have a 2 Ghz (well he meant dual core) phone by the end of the year? That didn’t happen, for whatever reason. Also I’m 100% certain the “popular” tablets like Xoom, Transformer and others were delayed because of Google, since they didn’t finish Honeycomb in time, and we’ve all seen that Honeycomb was even rushed.

    So yeah, I see everyone is saying this, how Tegra 2 is already a bit weaker or becoming obsolete quickly because of Tegra 3, but the fact of the matter is Tegra 2 was supposed to arrive much earlier, and Tegra 3 is actually on Nvidia’s 12 month schedule for a new chip (expect 2.5 Ghz quad core Cortex A15 Tegra 4 in August 2012).

    Oh and, I guess this may finally convince you to wait for Nexus 3 :). It turned out I was right about HTC Sensation being a bit slower than SGS2 because of Sense 3.0 (according to Engadget review).

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