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07 January 2013, 11:44

NVIDIA announces Tegra 4 and Android gaming handheld

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Zoom NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang with the flip-out console
Source: Daniel Schrader

Android and Linux were at the core of NVIDIA's launch of its new Tegra 4 chipset, and a handheld gaming console prototype based on it, at the CES conference in Las Vegas, with the new chipset and console already running Android and its Linux kernel.

The specifications for the new chipset itself are no surprise and are almost identical to information leaked about it in December. The chipset features four Cortex A15 CPU cores, a low power companion core to save power when the tablet is idling and 72 GeForce GPU cores for graphics acceleration. For wireless connectivity, a software modem designed by the company can provide 3G and 4G LTE access; it is unclear if any open source tools will be available for the software modem though.

Company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang also demonstrated the prototype of a handheld flip-out console, code-named Project Shield, which looks similar to an Xbox controller with an added display. The console's operating system is Android 4.1 and NVIDIA says that a vanilla version of the operating system is being used. The existence of Android 4.1 on the device means that the Tegra 4 already has a complete port of at least Android BSP drivers for the underlying hardware, though, again it did not disclose whether those drivers would be open sourced or only available as binary blobs to OEMs and developers. The company says that it has not changed the user interface and that the device includes Google's Play store.

According to NVIDIA, the 33Wh battery is designed to last 5 to 10 hours with games and 24 hours when playing videos. In addition to the integrated 5" display with a 720p resolution, an HDMI connector allows users to play on monitors, TVs and projectors; according to NVIDIA, the HDMI port even supports 4k resolutions. The graphics can be computed by the console, but they don't have to be: Shield can optionally stream games that run on a Windows PC to the user's TV, in which case the console is used as a controller. PC streaming requires an NVIDIA Kepler graphics card (GTX650 or above). The console is scheduled to be released in the second quarter of 2013; the company hasn't announced a price yet or whether it will be locked or unlocked.


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