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

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The first dual-core Android(s goog) 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(s nvda) 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(s goog) 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 (s qcom), Texas Instruments (s txn), Marvell (s mrvl) and others who are working on their own faster chips — 2012 is looking to be the year of quad-core devices.

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


    Well, tablets are essentially shit. The hardware on pcs far outperforms whats on tablets.

    These tablet manufacturers are simply going to be racing to fit existing hardware onto tablets

  2. “Who is to blame in what country? Never can get to the one. Dealing in multiplication, and they still can’t feed everyone.” Eddie Grant

    Here’s to hoping all those extra cores help with the math.


  3. I hold a slightly different opinion here.
    I think that T2 is good enough for anything which is mobile besides high end games.
    Now … do you think that you will see those games in the first 18 months after T3 is out? I don’t think so – not to mention that developers are mostly concentrating around iOS.
    The fragmentation that Android is having around processors based apps is dangerous and I don’t see much application dev around it.
    So to summarize – yes the advancement of processors is great. Truly impressive. Do you need it? No I don’t think so. Your T2 now will operate mobile wise really well for a long time.

    Next point …
    Kevin – I think that the Android market is loosing sight of the real mobile challenges. T3 is nice and again good in general. But the mobile market needs innovation and 3D is a far more attractive direction. I was not surprised at all at the rumors of iPhone 5 being 3D. Seems only LG with its Optimus 3D is going there. Far more attractive feature than a T3 that will run hypothetical games.

    • sygetnospam

      You’re missing the point. When T3 uses no more power than T2 and cost no more to make. What’s the point of using T2 when T3 is available?

  4. Prof. Peabody

    This demo is a four core ARM Cortex A-9 based solution, but by the time it’s ready for consumption later this year, there will already be multi-core products based on the Cortex A-15 architecture, Apple’s iPhone likely among them. It’s basically a bunch of guys who have forced an A-9 to do what the next generation will do by default and the next generation is almost out already.

    • Lucian Armasu

      Cortex A15 specs were just launched by ARM last year. It takes about 2 years to bring them to market by the chip makers. You won’t see Cortex A15 until 2nd half of 2012, that’s why everyone will be going with Cortex A9 for one one more generation. They will use Cortex A15 for 2 generations as well, until Cortex A16 or whatever comes out in 2014 at 20nm.

  5. Lucian Armasu

    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).

  6. 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…

  7. Justa Notherguy

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. marbo100

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. bill cosby

    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