Personal computers and “big” computing devices are no longer the latest craze in the market. The highlight is now on smartphones and tablets and almost all major tech companies are interested in being amongs the innovators. Nvidia is one of the biggest chip makers in the world and currently, they are apparently shifting their focus. For example, it was surprising to see Nvidia announce Project Shield at CES, where it actually managed to become one of the most hunted gadgets.

Today, Nvidia announced the Tegra 4i, previously known as Project Grey. Tegra 4i is Nvidia’s first device that combines a modem and a GPU-based processor. The i500 LTE modem is integrated in Tegra 4i, which is half the size of its nearest competitor. With the launch of Tegra 4i, Nvidia hopes to rival Qualcomm in the mid to low-range market of smartphones. If Tegra 4 is for superphones and tablets, then Tegra 4i is the solution to bringing LTE speeds to smartphones with a more accessible price.

nvidia tegra 4i


Nvidia gets serious in smartphone chip war

Twenty months ago, as Nvidia informs us on its official blog, they have acquired Icera, an acquisition that has been crucial to Nvidia’s current moves on the market. And the company seems very confident that Tegra 4i will be unchallenged:

Tegra 4i will bring super phone capabilities to the mainstream smartphone market, and there will be nothing on the market like it.

We hope to see Tegra 4i in action at the Mobile World Congress next week, where Nvidia is said to bring a reference phone, called Phoenix. We’ll be able to judge on our own its powers only then. Nvidia has probably chosen to integrate ARM Cortex A9 instead of Cortex A15 in order to preserve battery life and reduce size. We know how much LTE can drain the battery of some phones and how much we don’t like bulky gadgets. Nvidia doesn’t want that, neither.

nvidia tegra 4i phoenix

Besides bringing LTE to much cheaper smartphones, Tegra 4i could also make possible the 1080p playback on a 5-inch screen, at least this is what the reference design showcased at the launch is suggesting. Here are some more specifications currently available for the Tegra 4i chip:

  • 2.3 Ghz max CPU cloc
  • 60 GPU cores
  • 2 GB memory seize
  • 1920 x 1200 display
  • Quad-core CPU R4 Cortex-A9, a fifth battery saver core
  • NVIDIA Chimera Computational Photography Architecture

Tegra 4i comes with innovative photography technology

If LTE is not enough for some, you should know that Tegra 4i also comes with a new photography technology from Nvidia – Chimera. And it comes with features that we haven’t see anywhere else before - always-on high-dynamic range (HDR) photos and videos, HDR panoramic and persistent tap-to-track capabilities.

nvidia tegra 4 comparison

Thanks to the increased computing power that smartphones will have, it’s now possible to see features that previously were found only in DSLR cameras:

Chimera architecture removes those boundaries by providing the power to conduct nearly 100 billion mathematical operations per second to perform image processing, using computational techniques used in X-ray CT scanners, deep space telescopes and spy satellites.

Bringing advanced photography features to middle and lower range smartphones is a very good idea. We’ve seen a lot of rumors recently where even Apple was envisioned releasing a cheaper iPhone. Mobile subscription rates are increasing at a fast pace in developing countries, so it makes a lot of sense to pack as much as one can in affordable handsets.

The fight is on

Accordoing to Nvidia, the Tegra 4i chip’s performance per square mm  is 2.5 times better than the one of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 series chip. Patrick Moorhead, president at Moor Insights & Strategy:

Nvidia’s biggest differentiator with the 4i is its integrated and software-upgradable LTE modem combined with its graphics brand. This could be the first significant threat to Qualcomm in that it’s the first time a high performance system-on-a-chip with integrated LTE is available from someone other than Qualcomm.

With Tegra 4i and Project Shield, Nvidia might be on the right path and that is – moving its brand and reputation from the world of personal computers to the one of mobile, portable devices. Nvidia is already a respected name in the tablets industry so this step was natural. As WSJ rightfully observes, Tegra 4i comes to fill a gap in the current market – they’re bringing increased data speeds without compromising the space inside the device, the battery nor the price. Now, the ball is over to Qualcomm, Intel and even Samsung. What will be their next move?

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is the Managing Editor of Technically Personal. When he has some extra-time, he writes about Windows 8 apps and reviews them on Wind8Apps. Believes that technology is the main engine of civilization. Send him a tweet or make him your Facebook friend