Nvidia unveils muscular Tegra 4 quad-core chipset

The chipmaker's next-generation quad-core processor for tablets and smartphones comes on strong at CES.

Tegra 4
Nvidia launches the Tegra 4 processor, based on ARM Cortex A-15, at CES 2013. James Martin/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Chipmaker Nvidia has just ratcheted up the quad-core pressure.

At its CES press conference tonight, Nvidia announced Tegra 4, its next-generation quad-core processor for tablets and smartphones.

Following rumors, Nvidia based Tegra 4 on ARM's latest Cortex-A15 architecture, which means that its processing power will be dramatically faster than the current Tegra 3 quad-core chipset, which is based on ARM Cortex A-9.

In addition to the new architecture, Nvidia's Tegra 4 system-on-a-chip contains a whopping 72 graphics cores -- six times what's built into in Tegra 3. It also includes Nvidia's first 4G LTE modem.

One trick in the Tegra 4 bag includes HDR, or high dynamic range. The processor very quickly takes two photos, one at high exposure and one at low, and recombines them into a single, richer photo. While many chipsets allow for HDR, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, says that Tegra 4 takes shots at a rate of 0.2 second per frame, making Tegra 4 10 times faster than the iPhone 5, which took an HDR shot in 2 seconds.

Here are two more camera tricks that Tegra 4 enables: HDR panorama, and tracking a moving object, like a toddler or a soccer ball, without blur.

As with its predecessor, the new Tegra 4 maintains Nvidia's 4-plus-1 design, in which a much smaller fifth core helps regulate power consumption among the other, more powerful cores.

Icera modem
This month, Nvidia will be sampling its LTE-enabled i500 modem to partners. The i500 contains eight processors inside, which deliver 1.2 trillion operations per second. With the modem, Nvidia can push its Tegra 4 chipset to more tablet and smartphone partners.

Stay tuned; more details to come...

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