Now that Nvidia’s Tegra K1 has another hardware win, Denver, the faster version of Nvidia’s flagship SoC that was first unveiled to the world during January’s Consumer Electronics Show got an in-depth introduction on Monday at the Hot Chips conference in San Jose.
Nvidia’s Tegra K1 strategy will have to versions of the chip ship to manufacturers: a 32-bit version of the chip that has four Cortex A-15 CPUs and a more powerful one that ships with two of Nvidia’s custom Denver CPUs. The Cortex A-15 version of the chip ships in the Shield tablet as well as Xiaomi’s MiPad and the Acer Chromebook 13.
The Denver version of the Tegra K1, which Nvidia hopes to have shipping to manufacturers later this year, will be clocked up to 2.5GHz, versus 2.3GHz for the Cortex A-15 version. Denver uses ARM’s new 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, has 28K of L1 instruction cache 64K L1 data cache, and 2MB of L2 cache. Both versions of the Tegra K1 chip have the same Kepler GPU with 192 CUDA cores.
One of the most interesting features of Denver is its inclusion of a 7-wide superscalar architecture, which would allow it to execute seven instructions per clock cycle compared to the 3-wide superscalar architecture on the A15 version of the chip.
An interesting omissions on the Denver version of the Tegra K1 is the lack of a power-saving “companion core.” What’s now a popular inclusion in most SoCs, is something that Nvidia pioneered with Tegra 3. Instead, Nvidia has included a new ultra-low power state that reduces power below the minimum voltage. It’s unknown at this time if this will be as efficient as the companion core paradigm.
Darrell Boggs, Nvidia’s Director of CPU Architecture and Principal Architect, has been quoted in the press as saying Denver is inherently scalable and can offer performance comparable to that of a PC. Boggs also said that Denver is “significantly outperforming” its rivals on benchmarks such as DMIPS and AnTuTu, but until these claims are proven through independent benchmarking they should be taken as marketing hyperbole.
Nvidia did release some benchmarks showing the performance of the 32-bit version of Tegra K1, Denver and other leading SoCs but these figures have yet to be independently confirmed.
Now, it’s up to Nvidia to sell this chip to hardware manufacturers. The holiday season and CES are both fast approaching, and if Nvidia wants this to be anything more than vaporware they need to act quickly to establish some hardware wins.