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Nvidia Intros Tegra 4i System-on-Chip with Integrated LTE

Today Nvidia introduced the Tegra 4i, an ARM-based quad-core SoC designed for the mainstream smartphone sector. Previously codenamed as "Grey", it's packed with an integrated 4G LTE modem processor and is "significantly faster" than its nearest competitor at only half the physical size.

Unlike the Tegra 4 chip which is focused on tablets and high-end smartphones, this SoC will focus on bringing the super phone experience to a more affordable mainstream phone market. It consists of four R4 Cortex-A9 CPU cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, Nvidia's fifth battery-saver "ninja" core, and 60 custom Nvidia GPU cores. The Tegra 4i's core size is 1.15 mm2 which is incredibly small compared to the Tegra 4's 2.7 mm2 core size.


Included in the new chip is an optimized version of the "futureproof" Nvidia i500 LTE software-defined radio modem which delivers 100 Megabits per second out of the box, plus software-upgradeability to 150 Mbps LTE, carrier aggregation, and TD LTE. There's also an image signal processor, a video engine, and an optimized memory interface. The company said it even made changes to the Cortex-A9 architecture itself to squeeze out even more performance from the chip, and submitted them to ARM, thus the resulting Revision 4, or R4, designation.

"ARM and Nvidia worked closely to further optimize the Cortex-A9 processor to drive performance and efficiency in areas such as streaming and responsiveness," said Tom Cronk, executive vice president and general manager, processor division, ARM. "This is an example of the collaboration and innovation that enables ARM technology-based solutions to be market drivers through multiple generations of SoC solutions."


In addition to the Tegra 4i chip, Nvidia formally introduced the Tegra 4 family's Chimera Computational Photography Architecture. Chimera offers features not seen on mobile devices before now including always-on high-dynamic range (HDR) photos and videos, HDR panoramic and persistent tap-to-track capabilities.

By offering an always-on HDR setting, users can instantly capture high-quality HDR images similar to how the human eye sees the world, the company said. The panoramic aspect allows the user to take wide-angle "fish-eye" shots that typically require an expensive digital single-lens reflex camera. The persistent tap-to-track tech directly focuses on a person or object within a scene with a simple touch, thus the camera will remain locked on that person/object if there's movement while also keeping an optimum exposure level.

"Nvidia’s Chimera architecture takes mobile imaging far beyond what consumers have come to expect from the phones and tablets," said Brian Cabral, Vice President of Computation Imaging at Nvidia. "Capabilities that until now have been reserved for professional photographers – like instant HDR and HDR panoramic shots and flawless image tracking – are now within easy reach for the rest of us."

Nvidia said this new architecture for image processing can conduct nearly 100 billion mathematical operations per second using the same techniques found in X-ray scanners, deep space telescopes and spy satellites. Chimera is available in both the Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i SoCs.

Phoenix Reference Design


Also shown on Friday was the company's "Phoenix" reference design for the Tegra 4i SoC so that smartphone makers can use to quickly design and build future Tegra 4i-based phones. This platform features a 5-inch 1080p display, an 8-mm thin design, 4G LTE connectivity, PRISM 2, DirectTouch and the Chimera architecture.

Phoenix Reference Design


"Nvidia’s Tegra 4i appears to outperform the leading integrated LTE chip significantly, and also benefits from an integrated 'soft-modem' that can be re-programmed over-the-air to support new frequencies and air interfaces – something other modem vendors can only dream of," said Stuart Robinson, director, Handset Component Technologies Program at Strategy Analytics.

Both the chip and the reference design will be showcased next week during Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, Spain (Feb. 25 – 28). Below is a comparison between the two Tegra 4 SoCs:

Tegra 4
Quad-Core CPU: Cortex-A15, plus battery saver core
Max Clock Speed: 1.9 GHz
Tegra 4 GPU Cores: 72
LTE: Optional via Nvidia i500
Chimera: Yes
Memory Type: DDR3L & LPDDR3
Memory Size: 4 GB
LCD: 3200 x 2000
HDMA: Ultra HD (4K)
Process: 28-nm
Package Size / Type: 23x23 BGA / 14x14 FCCSP

Tegra 4i
Quad-Core CPU: R4 Cortex-A9, plus battery saver core
Max Clock Speed: 2.3 GHz
Tegra 4 GPU Cores: 60
LTE: Integrated Nvidia i500 core
Chimera: Yes
Memory Type: LPDDR3
Memory Size: 2 GB
LCD: 1920 x 1200
HDMI: 1080p
Process: 28-nm
Package Size / Type: 12x12 POP / 12x12 FCCSP

Stay tuned for more in-depth with the Tegra 4i.

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