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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nvidia Announces the Age of the Super Phone with Dual-Core Tegra 2 Processors

Nvidia used its stage time at CES today to talk up Tegra 2, which it’s calling “the world’s first mobile superchip.” Nvidia’s work with Tegra 2 will push the smart phone market away from single-core processors and into the realm of the dual-core. Nvidia announced the first mobile device to use its dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 chip is the LG Optimus 2X, and more Tegra-equipped devices will be popping up throughout CES.

Expect to hear the “super phone” moniker thrown around a lot more in 2011 as chips like the Tegra narrow the gap between smart phones and low-end ultraportables. Wondering what it takes to make a super phone super? It’s not all about the CPU--phones like the LG Optimus 2X have some unprecedented GPU power for us to look forward to.

Nvidia made a name for itself with powerful graphics cards, which means Tegra is an unusual product for the company. It’s also a welcome step for the industry that echoes moves from Intel and AMD--all three companies are paying more attention than ever to the unification of CPUs and GPUs. Between the dual-core Tegra 2 processors for super phones, AMD’s Fusion APUs for laptops and desktops, and Sandy Bridge’s wide range of chips with onboard graphics processing, GPUs are finally getting the love they deserve outside of high-end performance graphics cards.

Tegra 2 pairs a 1GHz processor with an 8-core ULP (ultra low-powered) GeForce GPU capable of 3D gaming and 1080p video playback without instantly sucking the life out of a battery. Nvidia claims Tegra 2 will be the first mobile chip to make cross-platform gaming a reality, an idea backed up by Dungeon Defenders. The game runs on Unreal Engine 3 and will offer cross-platform play between mobile platforms like iOS and Android and the PC.

The LG Optimus 2X houses a Tegra 2 inside, of course, with a 4” WVGA display and 8 gigs of onboard memory. It wouldn’t be a super phone without expandable microSD storage and a pair of cameras (1.3 megapixel front, 8 megapixel round back) with HDMI output. The Optimus’ 1500mAh battery will hopefully deliver hours of performance thanks to Nvidia’s ULP chip.

More super phones are bound to be announced in the next two days. Until then, it’s completely okay to geek out about the Optimus 2X and potential of Tegra 2. We won’t know if Nvidia’s lofty claims are the real deal until we get hands-on time with a super phone or two, but consider us officially excited about dual-core mobile chips with real GPUs.

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