Nvidia brings Kepler to mobile with Tegra K1

Followup to Tegra 4 SoC to pack 192 CUDA cores, and will be available with either an ARM or Project Denver based processor.

nvidia ces tegra unreal Nvidia brings Kepler to mobile with Tegra K1

Nvidia kicked off CES 2014 by announcing a followup to Tegra 4: Tegra K1.

Tegra K1 promises to be a substantial jump over previous mobile offerings from Nvidia as it brings the Kepler architecture — which powers the GTX 780 Ti — to the mobile space. The Tegra K1 packs 192 CUDA cores and Nvidia says the Tegra K1 will be available 32 and 64-bit versions. The 32-bit version will be clocked at 2.3Ghz and will use ARM’s A15 architecture, while the 64-bit version will be clocked at 2.5 Ghz and will use Nvidia’s “Project Denver” architecture.

“Over the past two decades, Nvidia invented the GPU and has developed more graphics technologies than any other company,” Nvidia’s Jen-Hsun Huang said on stage. “With Tegra K1, we’re bringing that heritage to mobile. It bridges the gap for developers, who can now build next-gen games and apps that will run on any device.

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An example of the bridge between desktop and mobile  that Nvidia promises Tegra K1 will provide can be found in the announcement by Huang that the SoC will be able to support Unreal Engine 4 along with Direct X 11 and Open GL 4.4.

console tegra Nvidia brings Kepler to mobile with Tegra K1

“With the introduction of this revolutionary processor, we can take applications that run on PC or console and run it on Tegra,” Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games and developer of Unreal Engine, is quoted as saying on a slide during the presentation. “From here onward, I think we’re going to see the performance and feature gap between mobile and PC high-end gaming continue to narrow to the point where the difference between the platforms really blurs.”

In terms of sheer GFLops, Nvidia says that Tegra K1 will beat the PS3 and Xbox 360 pushing out 365 to their respective 192 and 240.

But will  manufacturers commit?

The announcement of Tegra K1 has shades of last year’s announcement of Tegra 4. In both circumstances Nvidia made a volley of impressive claims about performance and core count, but in the case of Tegra 4 manufacturers expressed their lack of enthusiasm for the SoC by passing over it in favour of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon family. While Snapdragon powers the A-list devices, Tegra 4 has the Shield and a motley crew of no-name slates.

It’s too early to say right not if Tegra K1 will be a hit. On paper, Nvidia has done an impressive thing with its core count and Kepler architecture; being able to run the Unreal 4 engine is nothing short of a noteworthy feat. But the same thing could be said about the Tegra 4 last year.

Nvidia hasn’t announced a firm release date, but it says the 32-bit version is expected in devices in the first half of 2014, while the 64-bit version is expected in devices in the second half of the year.

Sam Reynolds is a Canadian technology journalist based in Taipei. His interest is the intersection between politics, business and technology.