Previously codenamed “Project Grey”, the Tegra 4i is Nvidia’s first chip to integrate its app processor and 4G LTE on the same piece of silicon. The result is a compact chipset that Nvidia boasts is roughly half the size of current competing chipsets such as the Tegra 4 or Qualcomm 800.
Despite its small stature the Tegra 4i is still a gaming-performance chipset featuring 60 Nvidia GPU cores, a 2.3GHz quad-core CPU based on ARM’s R4 Cortex-A9 CPU with a fifth battery saver core; and a version of Nvidia i500 LTE modem optimized for integration.
Nvidia expects the new chipset to help the company get a foothold in the handset market, something the Santa Clara Company has struggled to do in the past. It needs the mobile market to help to offset its declining PC sales. Plus, with increased competition in the tablet market Nvidia is hopping to gain a footing with smartphone manufactures as well.
Tegra 4i vs. the Competition
Admittedly the new Tegra 4i is not as powerful as the recently unveiled Tegra 4 mobile processor which offers 72 cores compared to the Tegra 4i’s 60 GPU cores; but the 4i chip is far more power efficient and takes up significantly less space making it more appealing to handset manufacturers.
The real challenge for Nvidia’s 4i will be Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 600 and 800 mobile processors integrated with LTE and Wi-Fi. Qualcomm told CNET earlier today that it expected the competition from Nvidia and feels secure with its current market position.
Qualcomm may have a reason to be secure too, as its newest line of processors offer faster LTE than Nvidia’s Tegra 4i chip. However, the 4i is also far more compact than its competitor, and according to the company it’s also roughly 2.5 times as efficient per square millimeter as the Snapdragon 800; which could make the Tegra 4i far more cost friendly.
Additionally the Tegra 4i will offer software-defined radio technology. This will allow the chip to work on both 3G and 4G networks and be upgraded to include new features. The ability to enact upgrades via software updates, instead of requiring new hardware, should add a great deal of flexibility to the chip.
In line with the announcement of the Tegra 4i, Nvidia also introduced a smartphone reference design, called Phoenix, to test the chip’s capabilities. Smartphone manufacturers will be able to use the reference design to help expedite the construction of their own handsets.
The Tegra 4i is currently being sampled by handset makers, and Nvidia expects to see smartphones equipped with the Tegra 4i around the end of this year.