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Maximizing Performance Per Millimeter Squared

Nvidia's Tegra 4 GPU: Doubling Down On Efficiency
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Nvidia clearly needed to make difficult decisions in order to enable Tegra 4’s GPU in just 10.5 square millimeters of die space—less than Qualcomm’s Adreno 320, ARM’s Mali-T604, or Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR SGX554MP4. Holding off on a unified shader architecture, forgoing features that would have met OpenGL ES 3.0/Direct3D 9_3 minimum specifications, and paring back Tegra 4i’s features show that the company kept its eye on a number of tough targets.

Ultimately, though, we’re not looking at PC-equivalent content on mobile platforms yet. Nvidia’s leadership says the company approached Tegra 4 with rendering efficiency in mind, and the in-house benchmarks we’ve seen tend to back this up. Instead of focusing on frame rates or expensive features, the numbers compare GPU area and power consumption.


Tegra 3
Tegra 4
Tegra 4/Tegra 3
GLBenchmark 2.5 Frame Rate
720p, On-Screen
57 FPS
60 FPS

Power (mW)
2,294 mW
1,521 mW

Performance/Watt
24.9
39.4
1.6x
GLBenchmark 2.5 Frame Rate
1080p, Off-Screen
12 FPS
54 FPS

Power (mW)1,629 mW
3,674 mW

Performance/Watt7.4
14.7
2x

Source: Nvidia

Here’s one example: in GLBenchmark 2.5’s on-screen 720p test, Tegra 3 must go all-out to achieve 57 FPS, using 2.3 W in the process. Tegra 4 pegs the display’s refresh at 60 Hz. But because it doesn’t get taxed by that workload, it only draws 1.5 W. The result is 1.6x Tegra 3’s performance (in FPS) per watt. Conversely, if you let Tegra 4 run unconstrained by rendering out to an external 1920x1080 display, it’s able to do 4.5x Tegra 3’s frame rate using 2.25x as much power. That neatly works out to 2x the performance per watt.

Granted, those are Nvidia’s internal numbers, and they ultimately only cover one of the SoC’s subsystems. However, we already know from ARM Vs. x86: The Secret Behind Intel Atom's Efficiency that power is the front on which other vendors are most eager to do battle with Nvidia. A Tegra 4 able to deliver better battery life in the next generation of Android-based games would certainly put Qualcomm and Samsung on notice. We’ll have to see how much success Nvidia has convincing Microsoft to allow some of Tegra 4’s more advanced features under Windows RT, though.

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Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    Memnarchon , February 24, 2013 9:17 PM
    A Sunday article? :o 
  • 20 Hide
    blazorthon , February 24, 2013 10:02 PM
    deedee2die4Nvidia staying on top, the best of the best!


    Uhh, no... T4 isn't supposed to be out for like six months, yet it's already not as fast as some of Qualcomm's latest. Nvidia is improving, but as usual, they're staying a little behind in technology.
  • 18 Hide
    s3anister , February 24, 2013 8:17 PM
    I'm always amazed with the progress made in strides in this ultra-competitive sector so it's nice to see nvidia finally hit 28mm with Tegra 4. I'm sure some of their performance gains can be attributed to this.
Other Comments
  • 18 Hide
    s3anister , February 24, 2013 8:17 PM
    I'm always amazed with the progress made in strides in this ultra-competitive sector so it's nice to see nvidia finally hit 28mm with Tegra 4. I'm sure some of their performance gains can be attributed to this.
  • -3 Hide
    levin70 , February 24, 2013 8:22 PM
    Charlie at semiaccurate is correct. The Tegra 4 is DOA. Almost no one will be using it. Everyone else is already ahead of where the T4 is today, and it hasn't even launched. How many design wins were noted? 1?

    Yeah, says it all.
  • 23 Hide
    Memnarchon , February 24, 2013 9:17 PM
    A Sunday article? :o 
  • -3 Hide
    deedee2die4 , February 24, 2013 9:25 PM
    Nvidia staying on top, the best of the best!
  • 20 Hide
    blazorthon , February 24, 2013 10:02 PM
    deedee2die4Nvidia staying on top, the best of the best!


    Uhh, no... T4 isn't supposed to be out for like six months, yet it's already not as fast as some of Qualcomm's latest. Nvidia is improving, but as usual, they're staying a little behind in technology.
  • 6 Hide
    aicom , February 24, 2013 10:05 PM
    levin70Charlie at semiaccurate is correct. The Tegra 4 is DOA. Almost no one will be using it. Everyone else is already ahead of where the T4 is today, and it hasn't even launched. How many design wins were noted? 1?Yeah, says it all.

    Nobody is ahead of Tegra's four Cortex A15 cores. Krait is at less performance than A15 (until the refresh at least). Samsung's got Exynos 5 Octa, but that's not out yet either and T4 will probably still top it in the GPU performance department. Speaking of which, Tegra 4 has the most powerful GPU in floating-point of anyone (including the iPad 4) with 74.8 TFLOPS @ 672 MHz. It only takes a 825 MHz Cortex A15 to match a 1.6 GHz A9, and Tegra 4 is supposed to ship at 1.9 GHz. Unfortunately, TDP does go up in the process.

    You also have to look at where these parts are targeted. Krait is really gunning for phone design wins and they have many. It's a very power efficient chip that found its way into some very nice phones. Tegra 4 is not aimed at that market; Tegra 4i is. Tegra 4 will have a much higher TDP than 4i (and Krait) and will get substantially higher performance as a result.
  • 0 Hide
    tjosborne , February 24, 2013 10:33 PM
    Hey guys, I am considering getting a Asus transformer prime tablet with the tegra 3. Would it be best to wait till this processor ends up in a tablet to get one?
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , February 24, 2013 10:39 PM
    So at 1.3Gpix/s, Nvidia has just admitted to 10x overdraw...per second? So we're looking at 9~10 frames per second oh high res displays. Lag lives on.
  • 4 Hide
    PreferLinux , February 24, 2013 11:35 PM
    aicomNobody is ahead of Tegra's four Cortex A15 cores. Krait is at less performance than A15 (until the refresh at least). Samsung's got Exynos 5 Octa, but that's not out yet either and T4 will probably still top it in the GPU performance department. Speaking of which, Tegra 4 has the most powerful GPU in floating-point of anyone (including the iPad 4) with 74.8 TFLOPS @ 672 MHz. It only takes a 825 MHz Cortex A15 to match a 1.6 GHz A9, and Tegra 4 is supposed to ship at 1.9 GHz. Unfortunately, TDP does go up in the process.You also have to look at where these parts are targeted. Krait is really gunning for phone design wins and they have many. It's a very power efficient chip that found its way into some very nice phones. Tegra 4 is not aimed at that market; Tegra 4i is. Tegra 4 will have a much higher TDP than 4i (and Krait) and will get substantially higher performance as a result.

    You mean Gigaflops, not Teraflops.
  • -1 Hide
    blazorthon , February 24, 2013 11:43 PM
    aicomNobody is ahead of Tegra's four Cortex A15 cores. Krait is at less performance than A15 (until the refresh at least). Samsung's got Exynos 5 Octa, but that's not out yet either and T4 will probably still top it in the GPU performance department. Speaking of which, Tegra 4 has the most powerful GPU in floating-point of anyone (including the iPad 4) with 74.8 TFLOPS @ 672 MHz. It only takes a 825 MHz Cortex A15 to match a 1.6 GHz A9, and Tegra 4 is supposed to ship at 1.9 GHz. Unfortunately, TDP does go up in the process.You also have to look at where these parts are targeted. Krait is really gunning for phone design wins and they have many. It's a very power efficient chip that found its way into some very nice phones. Tegra 4 is not aimed at that market; Tegra 4i is. Tegra 4 will have a much higher TDP than 4i (and Krait) and will get substantially higher performance as a result.


    S4 Pro is a faster CPU IIRC. IDK about how the graphics compares and won't comment about it.

    Nvidia, like I said, is getting better, but they're still going to be a little behind. They're making up a lot of ground here, especially with how they're making Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i instead of a single SoC to take both places, but they seem like they'l still have a little room to make up, at least in CPU performance, to be the best. Like I said before (at least in other articles about it), they'll still be near the top either way.
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , February 25, 2013 12:38 AM
    ankit0x1can this play crysis? ('console port' on arm)


    Just keep the texture settings low and the resolution at minimum and it might be almost playable if someone manages to get it to work on ARM ;) 
  • -8 Hide
    sanilmahambre , February 25, 2013 1:00 AM
    Tegra 4 in Razer gaming tab is best example of NVIDIA's superiority.
  • 2 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 25, 2013 2:04 AM
    blazorthonUhh, no... T4 isn't supposed to be out for like six months, yet it's already not as fast as some of Qualcomm's latest. Nvidia is improving, but as usual, they're staying a little behind in technology.


    +1
    In this hyper competitive market, every SoC company needs atleast one product that is best in one area over every other SoC. Middling in all the areas is what T3 did, which made it a failure.
  • 2 Hide
    blazorthon , February 25, 2013 2:31 AM
    mayankleoboy1+1In this hyper competitive market, every SoC company needs atleast one product that is best in one area over every other SoC. Middling in all the areas is what T3 did, which made it a failure.


    To be fair, although in many ways not an exceptional SoC, T3 was a very successful product, wasn't it? They managed to get Tegra 3 in one form or another around to a lot of well-selling devices.
  • 3 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 25, 2013 2:41 AM
    blazorthonTo be fair, although in many ways not an exceptional SoC, T3 was a very successful product, wasn't it? They managed to get Tegra 3 in one form or another around to a lot of well-selling devices.


    I would say that T3 came with a bang and lots of fanfair, but as soon as the Krait4 came, nobody wanted to be seen with a T3.
    After that T3 pretty quickly started appearing in the Tier2 phones. All T1 phones used either a KraitS4 or the Exynos4. I would even say that Ms's Surface was a semi-fail in performance because of the T3. If MS had went with a dual core KraitS4, i am pretty sure Surface would have received much better reviews.
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , February 25, 2013 2:43 AM
    mayankleoboy1I would say that T3 came with a bang and lots of fanfair, but as soon as the Krait4 came, nobody wanted to be seen with a T3.After that T3 pretty quickly started appearing in the Tier2 phones. All T1 phones used either a KraitS4 or the Exynos4. I would even say that Ms's Surface was a semi-fail in performance because of the T3. If MS had went with a dual core KraitS4, i am pretty sure Surface would have received much better reviews.


    +1 I can agree with that :) 
  • -4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 25, 2013 2:46 AM
    As Nvidia is not a market leader in SoC's, they cant do anything revolutionary in the T4 SoC . Like increasing the die area for adding more GPU muscle. Because they dont know if the OEM's will accept that or not. So whatever they do, it will always be conservative.
    Apple and Samsung have no such problem. THey can afford be revolutionary, without much consequences.
  • 5 Hide
    aicom , February 25, 2013 2:47 AM
    Not sure where people are getting the idea that Krait is faster than A15. S4 Pro's max clock is 1.7 GHz, while Tegra 4's is 1.9 GHz, so A15 already wins the clock speed match. In addition, Krait is a touch slower than A15 (3.3 DMIPS/MHz vs 3.5 DMIPS/MHz).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krait_(CPU)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapdragon_(system_on_chip)#Snapdragon_S4
  • 1 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 25, 2013 2:57 AM
    ^
    Krait S4 is a modified A9 architecture, that performs between A9 and A15 archs, but closer to A9.
    Apples Swift architecture is also a modified architecture that performs between A9 and A15, but much closer to the A15 arch.
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , February 25, 2013 3:10 AM
    Quote:
    Not sure where people are getting the idea that Krait is faster than A15. S4 Pro's max clock is 1.7 GHz, while Tegra 4's is 1.9 GHz, so A15 already wins the clock speed match. In addition, Krait is a touch slower than A15 (3.3 DMIPS/MHz vs 3.5 DMIPS/MHz).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krait_(CPU)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapdragon_(system_on_chip)#Snapdragon_S4


    Quote:
    ^
    Krait S4 is a modified A9 architecture, that performs between A9 and A15 archs, but closer to A9.
    Apples Swift architecture is also a modified architecture that performs between A9 and A15, but much closer to the A15 arch.


    If we're going by the links in the above post, Krait is much closer to A15 than to A9. This is still ignoring the fact that those types of measurements are extremely general and oftentimes only loosely related to performance in the real world.

    My bad, it's the newer top Snapdragon 800 version that Tegra 4 doesn't beat in CPU performance, thanks for the clarification. Regardless, I seem to have given Nvidia too little credit with Tegra 4.
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