It's been a long road since Kal-El's debut at MWC this February, but Nvidia's quad-core system-on-chip for mobile devices is finally ready for launch. The superhero codename is being replaced by the more logical Tegra 3 branding and the first host device has now been announced as Asus' Eee Pad Transformer Prime.
Tegra 3 promises to quintuple the performance of Tegra 2 with its four-core Cortex A9 arrangement while also tripling its graphical capabilities with a new 12-core graphics processor. That's a great deal of power for when you need it, but Nvidia has also added a fifth, low-power "companion core," whose role will be to keep things running during standby and other low-intensity modes. That core reaches a maximum speed of 500MHz and can take care of lightweight tasks like audio streaming and some forms of video playback. Anything more demanding than that will kick in the first of the more powerful cores, which can run at speeds of up to 1.4GHz by itself, with dual-core and quad-core modes, each topping out at 1.3GHz, kicking in depending on workload.
Nvidia's rightly proud of this dynamic core management system, which it says helps it deliver the battery life users expect from a mobile device while also packing power never before seen on a smartphone or tablet computer. A particular highlight is the example of 720p video, where Nvidia shows Tegra 3 uses up to 61 percent less power than Tegra 2, resulting in a maximum of 12 hours of video playback with the new SoC (dependent on the battery inside your device, of course).
Coming back to the performance side of things, Nvidia has passed along the demo videos below to illustrate the great leap in capabilities that its new GPU represents, and it's going to push game developers to produce versions of their mobile games harnessing that power, which will be showing up in the Tegra Zone app discovery store in due course. Tegra 3 is said to be capable of playing 1080p video at a highly impressive 40Mbps bitrate, though you probably shouldn't make the mistake of assuming you'll be able to get both the 12-hour battery life and that sort of video performance at the same time.
The first device to be powered by Tegra 3 is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, though Nvidia's intention remains to spread this quad-core chip out to as many manufacturers as possible, in both tablets and smartphones.