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Microsoft confirms Nvidia 'Tegra' chip for Zune HD

Company says battery life and graphics acceleration convinced it to go with Nvidia's first processor built for power-frugal handhelds.

Microsoft has confirmed that the Nvidia "Tegra" chip is inside the upcoming Zune HD, a big win for Nvidia.

Microsoft Zune HD
Microsoft Zune HD

This was reported earlier at Engadget and follows reports earlier this week.

"There's been a lot of chatter about us possibly putting the Nvidia Tegra chip in the Zune HD," Matt Akers, software development engineer in test at Microsoft, said in a June 19 podcast. "Well, we're going to go ahead and confirm that. Yes, the Zune HD does have the Tegra chip in it."

He added: "So much better battery life, graphics acceleration. This thing's like a mini laptop in your hand."

Tegra is the first processor Nvidia has built for power-frugal handheld devices, a major departure from the large, power-hungry graphics processors that it sells to the gaming rig and workstation markets.

The system-on-a-chip (SOC) uses less than 0.5 watts of power, an attribute the main Tegra processor inherits from its power-stingy ARM parentage. (And a tiny fraction of the 50-watt-plus ratings of the chipmaker's desktop graphics silicon.) The defining feature of the Tegra SOC, however, is the Nvidia GeForce graphics chip.

Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang said at the company's analyst day on Tuesday that the Tegra processor is expected to account for half of Nvidia's business in a few years.

The rumors about Microsoft and Tegra go back to November. The first round of rumors put Nvidia's Tegra in a Microsoft phone (which some analysts still believe is a possibility).

To date, Tegra has 42 design wins, ranging from media players to smartphones to Netbooks, according to Michael Rayfield, general manager of Nvidia's mobile business unit, who spoke during Analyst Day. Out of those 42, about 18 are smartphones, he said. "You'll start to see those show up toward the end of this year."

The Zune HD--due later this year--comes with a 3.3-inch, 16:9 OLED (480x272 resolution) screen. And also includes an HD (high-definition) radio, HD (720p) video out, Wi-Fi, a Web browser (with tap-to-zoom technology), built-in accelerometer, and a touch-screen QWERTY keyboard.