Tablet Market Primed for Quad-Core: Latest ASUS device announced with NVIDIA Tegra 3
Not resting on its laurels after winning Stuff magazine’s gadget of the year, ahead of Apple’s iPad 2, ASUS has announced an enhanced version of its tablet/notebook hybrid, the Transformer. The Transformer Prime (a name which may sound more like an action figure than a personal computer) is the first device to carry NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 – the world’s first mobile quad-core processor. If 2010 was the year of the 1 GHz processor in mobile, and 2011 was dual-core, it was inevitable that as we head into 2012, the quad-core revolution would start to roll into action. For those not in the know, multi-core processors are the in-thing now in computing. Essentially what it means is that, within the CPU, there are multiple processors. While many consumers will still be lingering at the dual-core stage with notebooks and desktops, mobile computing is rapidly advancing. What are the benefits of multi-core? Well, “two heads are better than one” as they say, so why not four? On mobile devices, multi-tasking is a common occurrence, and if you’re instant messaging, you want your music to continue playing smoothly in the background, while a news app continues to retrieve the latest stories in the background ready to pop-up when required. So, multi-core is better for multi-tasking, but it’s also better for your battery. Rather than having one core running at 4 GHz, you have four running at 1 GHz, for example. And with a lower clock frequency (in GHz), less juice is used. With mobile devices being used for long periods outside the home, and away from re-charge points, battery life is at a premium, and this is why multi-core is becoming such a KSP for mobile devices. What’s special about NVIDIA’s quad-core though, is it’s actually “penta-core” as it has a fifth “companion” core. This core is manufactured with a special low power silicon process which means it uses less juice at low clock rates, but more at higher rates – which is why its limited to 500 MHz. The theory is that this fifth companion will be used for simple background processes; while from one to four of the main cores will be used depending on the activity – four in the case of console-class gaming, for example. That’s why NVIDIA has its own app store for gaming. So expect to see many, many more quad-core tablets, and also smartphones, in 2012.