In a blog post, Nvidia unveiled that its upcoming Tegra SoC currently codenamed Kal-El is not a quad core CPU but rather a quintuple core CPU. That said, the fifth core is quite different to the first four and it's apparently also patented.

In a blog post, Nvidia unveiled that its upcoming Tegra SoC currently codenamed Kal-El is not a quad core CPU but rather a quintuple core CPU. That said, the fifth core is quite different to the first four and it's apparently also patented.

Nvidia has put a really interesting twist on things by adding what it calls a "companion core". You might think that this means it's meant to handle various things that the main cores shouldn't have to be bothered with, but this isn't quite the case. Instead, the companion core will take over the entire device when simple tasks such as audio and video playback, web browsing (basic web pages) or other similar things that doesn't require the power of the four main cores.

As such, the companion core has a maximum clock speed of 500MHz according to a whitepaper that Nvidia also published today. It's still a Cortex-A9 core, but it's meant to be a power sipping alternative to the other four cores which will run at XGHz. Nvidia calls this Variable Symmetric Multiprocessing, or vSMP for short. The entire core is also built in low power process technology instead of more performance focused process technology for the other four cores, although we're not entirely sure how Nvidia has managed to pull this one off, as it's generally not possible to mix and match process technology inside a chip.

The companion core also means lower power consumption in standby mode, as the four main cores are all switched off and only the companion core is active. The only thing that isn't very clear is how Nvidia handles the switching between the companion core and the other four cores, as the companion core can't be enabled at the same time as any of the four main cores. The whitepaper mentions that the L2 cache is shared between the companion core and the main cores and as such there should be little to no noticeable lag for the user when core switching takes place.

Nvidia is also making some bold claims with regards to power savings compared to its current dual core Tegra 2 SoC. Even at 40nm, Nvidia claims that Kal-El is some 14 to 61 percent more power efficient thanks to vSMP. The biggest power saving numbers comes from HD video playback, with the smallest gain being during music playback. The company goes on to make claims of being two to three times more power efficient that its competitors, although that is of course current models, in this case from TI and Qualcomm.

If you're interesting in reading up on the power saving benefits of Kal-El we suggest you head over to the blog post linked below and check out the whitepapers for yourself. It'll be interesting to see how Nvidia's competitors respond to this, but it seems like a very logical way forward, especially in mobile devices that spend a lot of their time in idle mode, or at least most of their time running at far lower speeds than what today's and tomorrow's SoC's are capable of.

Source: Nvidia