Final Words

The first thing everyone at NVIDIA asked me after I saw Kal-El running was an eager and expected: "well, what did you think?"

On the one hand, we have a clear underdog in the SoC space demonstrating a brand new chip just 12 days after getting it back from the fab. It's functional, it can render 3D games, it can decode high bitrate video and it runs Android today. The word impressive is insufficient to convey the magnitude of what I just described, particularly in the SoC space.

On the other hand, it's still just an announcement. It wasn't too long ago that NVIDIA was struggling to name a single design win. The recent success with LG, Motorola and Samsung is awesome, but it isn't a guarantee of what's to come. That being said, the handset vendors and carriers clearly take NVIDIA seriously today and they would be foolish not to consider Kal-El as it'll be the quickest way to get to quad-core in an Android phone.

Architecturally, Kal-El isn't a huge departure from what we currently have today with Tegra 2. NVIDIA claims a 5x performance improvement over Tegra 2 however that seems a bit optimistic. The 5x gains appear to be from combining the 2x theoretical gain from 2 to 4 cores plus a 3x gain from the new GPU. NVIDIA claims that this is enough to put Kal-El above a Core 2 Duo clocked at 2GHz (see the test results below), however the NVIDIA generated scores seem suspect not to mention that Coremark isn't representative of the sort of workload you'd see on a smartphone/tablet. 

If NVIDIA can increase clock speeds a bit we'll see better performance than Tegra 2 on lightly threaded workloads, but I'm not convinced of the gains to be had in single-tasking workloads from four cores in a smartphone/tablet. The bigger gains over Tegra 2 will likely come from any improvements to the memory controller as well as the faster GPU. This being said, NVIDIA does believe that even web page rendering can benefit significantly from a quad-core CPU so I could be very well proven wrong once devices are out in the wild.

If NVIDIA can secure significant design wins with Kal-El based tablets in August of this year and smartphones in Q4 I will be beyond impressed. NVIDIA gets major points for putting on good demos of working silicon today but in this business you need to have devices. For now we play the waiting game. I suspect if you're not taking NVIDIA seriously at this point, you really should be.

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  • wolfman3k5 - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    Does this thing help hair growth?
  • michael2k - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    Testosterone is known to cause hair loss.
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    Actually it's believed to be DHT buildup, but there a lot of breakthroughs that are able to regrow hair straight from the skin/stem cells w/o needing the hair follicle. They did it on rats, but it grew back colorless, human testing is either underway or soon.

    As for Nvidia, could they up the release date for phones? My contract's up in August ;)
  • descendency - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link

    Colorless isn't a problem. Hair dye... duh.
  • Saidas - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link

    Yes....but only on your back.
  • Camikazi - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    How is there not a picture of Superman there?
  • quiksilvr - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link

    Because chesty military girl is cheaper.
  • MeanBruce - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link

    Chesty? Nah she's barely a C-cup. ;)
  • Ronakbhai - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    She's not superman. She's not even Jor-El's wife!
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    Some guy in tights reversing time by rotating the planet backwards is as believable as perfect scaling from 2 to 4 cores, so I suppose "Kal-El" is an appropriate name.

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