In 2008, industry-leading graphics-chip maker, NVIDIA, surprised the tech world by announcing NVIDIA Tegra -- signaling the company's rekindled interest in the low-power, low-cost CPU game.
Tegra is a chip that combines an ARM processor CPU, a mobile GeForce GPU, northbridge, southbridge and memory controller into a single package. Upon release, it was tagged as the world’s first full HD ultra low-power mobile Web processor, perfect for netbooks, tablets and portable media players.
Considering its architecture, NVIDIA Tegra seems to have been made to trump the Atom processor, Intel's category-leading chip. And, given that the early Atom is merely a single-core CPU vs. Tegra with CPU, GPU and Memory controller, in some ways Tegra met the goal.
Two things that Tegra creators are particularly proud about are:
1. How the ARM11 MPCore CPU in Tegra 650 (the Tegra variant made for netbooks and tablets) matches the performance of the early Atom chip and
2. How energy efficient the NVIDIA Tegra is compared to the early Intel Atom (Diamond Ville variant).
This chart shown to TechGage by Vice President of Marketing at ARM, Ian Drew, sums up the claim:
The upper portion shows the internet browsing performance of 400Mhz ARM11 (blue bar) vs. 1.6 Ghz Intel Atom (Red) in loading the most popular websites (Apple, Craigslist, etc.). Despite the fact that ARM only runs on 400Mhz of power, it matches the performance of Intel's 1.6Ghz chip.
The lower portion, on the other hand, shows how energy efficient the ARM CPU in Tegra is compared to Atom. Given a 1400mAh battery, the early Atom can provide an average of 8 hours uptime, while - in stark contrast - ARM11 can offer a whopping 10.6 days uptime.
Considering that NVIDIA claims that that Tegra only consumes 1/10th the power of Intel Atom, while also being 1/10th its size and ARM's test results show that Tegra with its ARM-architecture CPU matches the internet browsing power of Atom while being more energy efficient, I'd say that NVIDIA Tegra is an interesting product that could very well be a worthy competitor to the Atom and even give it a serious run for its money.
Now, I wonder how NVIDIA Tegra will perform against Intel's latest Atom PineTrail CPU (Atom platform with CPU, GPU and Memory controller architecture used in Intel Atom N450). That should be a more interesting comparison.