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Asus Transformer Prime TF201: A Tablet With A Higher Calling

Tegra 3: The Quad-Core SoC That Goes To Five

SoCApple A5XTegra 3
Fab Node45 nm40 nm
Processor1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 (dual-core)1.4 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 (quad-core)
GraphicsPowerVR SGX543MP4 (quad-core)ULP GeForce
L1 Cache(Instruction/Data)32 KB / 32 KB32 KB / 32 KB
L2 Cache1 MB1 MB

Tegra 3 (code name: Kal-El) isn’t particularly new to us. We've already run demos on devices and discussed this architecture prior to today's review. However, the iPad 3's introduction as a rival sparks renewed interest in how Nvidia’s architecture compares to Apple’s A5X.

GeekBench v2.2.7 ResultsiPad 2iPad 3Dell Mini 1012LePan IITransformer Prime
CPUApple A5Apple A5XAtom N450APQ8060Tegra 3
ArchitectureDual-core A9Dual-core A9Single-Core AtomDual-core ScorpionQuad-core A9
Speed1 GHz1 GHz1.66 GHz1.2 GHz1.4 GHz
Overall7647609176491194
Integer6916879107091781
Floating Point9219207629431781
Memory83082511053621091

In terms of raw processing potential, Tegra 3 leads the pack by a large margin. Software optimizations and clock rates aside, increased parallelization allows Nvidia's SoC to work on more data concurrently. Similar to the desktop space, adding cores doesn't turn out to have a multiplicative effect on most real-world applications. But an enhanced ability to multitask is nice, especially as resource-hungry background tasks pile up.

Of course, bolstering performance often incurs higher power consumption at the same time. Nvidia, anticipating this, addressed power from a creative angle.

Kal-ElCompanion CPU CoreMain CPU Cores (Symmetric Processing)
# of Cores14
FunctionPower-Optimized (Standby)Performance
ArchitectureCortex A9Cortex A9
Process TechnologyLow Power (LP)General
Operating Frequency0 MHz to 500 MHz0 MHz to Max Frequency

Kal-El sports a fifth "companion" CPU core that operates at lower frequencies and handles background tasks like syncing email, playing ringtones, and keeping applications alive while the device is in standby mode. It's hard to quantify the exact benefit of Nvidia's implementation since there aren't any Tegra 3s that lack the fifth core. However, the company's engineers clearly felt strong enough about its effect (particularly coupled with low-power silicon) that they were willing to dedicate precious die space to what was considered a power-optimized design.

Borrowing a page from Qualcomm's book, Nvidia employs an asymmetrical clock scheme that's similar to Turbo Boost, except that it allows the companion core to operate at a different frequency. It also incorporates Advanced SIMD (called NEON), which lets the CPU perform certain tasks (like playing MP3 audio) at extremely low CPU speeds, generally between 10-20 MHz. Qualcomm made a name for itself using a similar design, and the result is a processor with very low power consumption that can deliver performance when it's needed. Read Third-Generation Snapdragon: The Dual-Core Scorpion for more information on Qualcomm's solution.

Kal-El: Four Tabs in Chrome on ARM-based Windows 8

There’s every reason to believe that this hybrid approach should work well. However, realizing gains with this approach depends on Nvidia to work within the constraints of operating system design. Purposely, Tegra 3 doesn't expose the fifth CPU core to the OS. Rather, it operates in the background without any management from the operating system. That means “low-overhead tasks” have to be identified by the hardware and handled by its companion core.

  • killerclick
    Is this a joke? Wait for the new iPad to come out and then review the Transformer Prime? Why didn't you review it sooner? Did Asus miss a payment or did Apple give you a little extra to keep a lid on it?
    Reply
  • lancelot123
    Wake me when it is running Windows on a x86 CPU so I can install whatever I want for free.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    9530586 said:
    Is this a joke? Wait for the new iPad to come out and then review the Transformer Prime? Why didn't you review it sooner? Did Asus miss a payment or did Apple give you a little extra to keep a lid on it?

    Because we didn't have it sooner.
    Reply
  • joytech22
    I was thinking of getting this until I caught wind of the Transformer T701.
    I think the 1080p display is worth the wait.
    Reply
  • DjEaZy
    ... that thing with the splash effect... i do believe, that it iz a program issue... 3rd gen iPad haz power to burn... you can program some splashes... it's like M$ say, that, to play crysis and see the rays thru treas, you needed vista and DX 10... it turned out, that it waz a tweak, that enabled it on XP too... and i believe, if apple will implement some open standard of some physics engine, like Bullet Open Source Physics, all of the open standard devices will benefit, android and iOS alike... and nVidia physx will be not relevant... to program some separate android+nVidia version of a game? ...when there is many different android devices, that don't use Tegra? ... it could end for nVidia, like it ended for 3DFX with there glide engine... 3Dfx waz killed by OpenGL and DirectX... 3Dfx's Glide waz visually superior, but OpenGL and DirectX helped then ATi and nVidia to go multiplatform and to the masses...
    ... so, my point waz... prime is a nice thingy, but, if there are proprietary stuff on a open platform, like android... i don't believe, that Tegra can get some momentum without going open source... the question is... how big is the Tegra's market share on the android platform? ... and... is the market share for Tegra so big, that they can insist to use there proprietary things?...
    Reply
  • "While the Transformer Prime supports output over microHDMI, it cannot push 1080p through the wire" ...When using hardware decoding, Transformer Prime actually pushes true 1080p-video to the television (..while the tablets screen remains unused = black). As an owner of TF201, I can confirm this.
    Reply
  • mily
    U're bienvenida: D Gracias por venir a mi artículo .. Espero que lea mis otros artículos

    .. Me interesa conocer sus puntos de vista .. gracias :)
    Echo de menos los comentarios de Lippo durante el proceso de ruptura de la pared, no puedo

    creer que redujo el papel de Lippo como el
    camisetas hombre
    Reply
  • joytech22
    DjEaZymy point waz... prime is a nice thingy, but, if there are proprietary stuff on a open platform, like android... i don't believe, that Tegra can get some momentum without going open source... the question is... how big is the Tegra's market share on the android platform? ... and... is the market share for Tegra so big, that they can insist to use there proprietary things?...
    Ehh...? I have no idea what you are trying to get at.
    Is it your first time on the internet? :\
    Reply
  • DjEaZy
    DjEaZy... that thing with the splash effect... i do believe, that it iz a program issue... 3rd gen iPad haz power to burn... you can program some splashes... it's like M$ say, that, to play crysis and see the rays thru treas, you needed vista and DX 10... it turned out, that it waz a tweak, that enabled it on XP too... and i believe, if apple will implement some open standard of some physics engine, like Bullet Open Source Physics, all of the open standard devices will benefit, android and iOS alike... and nVidia physx will be not relevant... to program some separate android+nVidia version of a game? ...when there is many different android devices, that don't use Tegra? ... it could end for nVidia, like it ended for 3DFX with there glide engine... 3Dfx waz killed by OpenGL and DirectX... 3Dfx's Glide waz visually superior, but OpenGL and DirectX helped then ATi and nVidia to go multiplatform and to the masses... ... so, my point waz... prime is a nice thingy, but, if there are proprietary stuff on a open platform, like android... i don't believe, that Tegra can get some momentum without going open source... the question is... how big is the Tegra's market share on the android platform? ... and... is the market share for Tegra so big, that they can insist to use there proprietary things?...joytech22Ehh...? I have no idea what you are trying to get at.Is it your first time on the internet? :\... smoke some and you will get the full picture...
    Reply
  • In Italy Asus decided not to give the free dongle, because they say that it was selled as a localization system, and not a GPS, therefor, they will not help us improve our tablet experience. Since the prime doesn't have a 3G connectivity, I don't think the GPS is that important, also, a 10" GPS is quite annoying. I prefer to use the phone. Great review by the way. Although I don't trust benchmarka, nor asus ICS updates. At the biginning the wi-fi was working great, no overconsumption of power, now my battery drains in hours.
    Reply