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Nvidia Tegra 4 chipsets, Project SHIELD and Grid Cloud gaming confirmed

Before the week has even begun, Nvidia has let loose the first major announcements of CES 2013. Taking to the stage at the The Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, Nvidia’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang was one of the first big players to show off the latest wares produced by his company intended to shape the world of consumer technology in 2013, introducing the Tegra 4 chipset and Project Shield gaming console.

Nvidia Tegra 4

What is Tegra 4?

As anticipated Nvidia pulled the wraps off it’s new mobile processor headed for smartphones and tablets in 2013/2014: the Tegra 4 chipset.

As with last year’s highly successful Nvidia Tegra 3 chip, the 4 makes use of a 4-plus-1 core design, with the additional core stepping in for power saving use when the full might of the chip isn’t required. Despite the successes of the Tegra 3 last year, its biggest shortcoming was power efficiency, especially when compared to offerings from Samsung and Qualcomm in equivalent handsets under real-world usage conditions. The issue looks to have been Nvidia’s focus when developing the Tegra 4, with a new 28nm manufacturing process employed in an effort to improve power efficiency over its predecessor, which utilised a 40nm process.

General performance has also been improved over the Tegra 3, naturally, with Mr Huang going as far as to claim that the new chip is now “the world’s fastest mobile processor”, however the quote wasn’t backed up with a clock speed at the time, despite the fact that we know it utilises an incredible 72 GPU core design.

Nvidia Tegra 4 layout

With intended use in mobile devices, functionality is solely focused on gaming prowess either, and ‘Nvidia’s computational photography engine’ was put into play to show off the chips capabilities in enhancing the photo and video experience. The processing power of the Tegra 4 allowed an unknown Windows RT tablet to capture HDR (high dynamic range) stills and even video, an impressive feat to say the least as it requires the camera to capture and process two simultaneous streams of visual input and different exposure settings to composite a final shot.

What is Project SHIELD?

Naturally, Nvidia weren’t simply going to show us the chip without giving us at least one device with which already has it on board and the company brought out project SHIELD as their example.

Project SHIELD is a cloud gaming, portable console which runs Android but also has the ability to work with select Nvidia desktop PC graphics cards in order to locally stream desktop/console quality titles to the console’s inbuilt display. The console itself offers a lot more in the way of functionality and only hints at the potential of the company’s new Tegra 4 chip.

When will Tegra 4 become available?

Although Nvidia didn’t divulge a release date for Tegra 4 chips making their way into devices, we’re expecting to see the device manufacturers give us that information when some of the rumoured handsets are unveiled over the next few days.

Which devices will support Tegra 4?

Beyond Project SHIELD, which is already confirmed to make use of a Tegra 4 processor, we can only assume that fans of the last year’s Tegra 3 might again opt for Nvidia’s offerings over anything Qualcomm are intending to announce at CES with the likes of HTC and Asus springing to mind, we’ll likely no more soon.

What is Nvidia GRID?

Nvidia also revealed information on its new GRID platform. The new rack-based cloud gaming server system can take up to 20 compatible servers per rack with a total of 240 Nvidia GPUs working together as a means to offer up the equivalent of 700 Xbox 360s.

Although the numbers alone sound might impressive, cloud gaming clients running not only on an Xbox 360, but also Android were used to demonstrate the potential of the new GRID system. There are a few companies already signed up to test the cloud services out but there’s no official arrival time with regards to when consumers will be able to trial a GRID-based service.

LG are also said to be interested in Nvidia’s GRID system as a way of integrating complex 3D games into their Smart TVs.

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