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Nvidia's Tegra K1 tablet shows a beautiful future for Android gaming

Nvidia's Tegra K1 tablet shows a beautiful future for Android gaming


After the hype comes the prototype

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Nvidia Tegra K1
Nvidia Tegra K1

Nvidia's big announcement for CES 2014 was, as expected, the fifth generation of its Tegra mobile processor. It's such a momentous step forward for the company, however, that it's getting a whole new designation in being called the Tegra K1. That's because it implements the Kepler architecture, which underpins Nvidia's desktop graphics card lineup, meaning you're literally getting desktop-class graphics technology in your mobile processor.

To demonstrate the prowess of the new K1, Nvidia has set up a number of customized Tegra Note 7 prototypes around the periphery of its press event. They include demos of the custom build of Trine 2, the highly impressive Digital Ira real-time face-rendering demo, and even a version of Serious Sam 3 — all running on the new K1.

Importantly, there was no mention on what sort of devices the Tegra K1 would be able to fit inside. We're seeing it working on 7-inch tablets that are relatively thin and compact, but would the same 2GHz+ power be available inside your next Android smartphone? That's yet to be revealed by the company, as is the actual release time for Tegra K1 devices of any size class. All we know at this point is that the K1 will be in the next Shield.

Stupidly pretty visuals, but the gaming demos suffered from dips in frame rate

What isn't in question is that this is a superbly potent chip. Digital Ira really stole the show with the incredible reflections and skin flaws he displayed, and it's pretty ridiculous to think that it's all being done with a mobile chip. The actual game demos were less striking, owing to noticeable drops in frame rate, particularly in Serious Sam, but Trine also wasn't perfectly smooth in its gameplay. These are forgivable foibles on what is still pretty raw silicon — we're talking about prototypes, after all — but we've said that of Nvidia performance demos a little too often now. The company needs to start turning these highly promising teasers into real-world super-powered devices.

The sooner the better.