The guys over at NVIDIA are certainly proud of themselves today, and for great reason too. Last night, prior to the official start of CES, NVIDIA released on the world a bunch of sweet products. Included in their announcement list was the NVIDIA Grid, NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC, and the NVIDIA Shield.
NVIDIA Grid -- Cloud Gaming
NVIDIA Grid was kind of a meh for most people watching the event. Simply put it is cloud computing for games. You plug in a controller, it connects to NVIDIA Grid and you can play games anywhere, any device. It also supported tablets and phones. This announcement was like I said kind of meh, but you realize later why they announced it, and we will get to that in a moment, first some numbers.
The numbers for the Grid are impressive. It can support up to 36 High quality game streams per server. You through in a full rack of these and you have more processing power than 700 Xbox360s (that is a lot of power). Cost and availability aren't immediately available, but you can call NVIDIA if you are interested.
Who is NVIDIA grid for? Steam, Microsoft, and the other players for the future. The idea behind Grid is to allow you to host the servers, and have the gamers come to you for the games.
NVIDIA Tegra 4
Do much gaming on your tablet? Watch videos on your phone? Generally complain about the speed and performance of those? Well NVIDIA wants you to know that your face is going to melt when their new System on a Chip (SoC) Tegra 4 drops next quarter (Q2 2013). Technically already available, we are just waiting for devices with the power house chip to show up.
Like the Tegra 3 the new Tegra 4 is quad-core, and that is about where the similarities end. Tegra 4 is a monster compared to Tegra 3. First NVIDIA moved from the Cortex-A9 (1.2 - 1.GHz) to the Cortex-A15 with a whopping 2.5GHz. Right there you have at least 40% more power. It gets better too, NVIDIA also managed to cram in a 4G LTE modem, oh... and 72 GPUs. Wait, what?!
72 Graphical Processing Units... count it, you can, here is an image of the die (images from Ubergizmo (from the NVIDIA conference):
So the five rather large chips on there are the quad-core (and the helper chip), then all the little boxes to the left and right in the top corners, those are all GPUs.
They showed a rather lack luster demo of a Nexus 10 loading webpages versus the Tegra 4 tablet (of which they sort of had one to demo). The Nexus 10 opened 25 pages in about 50 seconds. The Tegra 4 tablet completed in 27 seconds. Impressive, though not an actual benchmark.
NVIDIA claims this chip to be twice as fast as the Nexus 10's Samsung Exynos dual-core Cortex-A15 CPU and quad-core ARM Mali T604 GPU. Given that is has 72 GPUs I am betting it is. It also (from NVIDIAs slides) beat the performance of the iPad4, though not as drastically.
When should we start seeing Tegra 4 devices? My guess is early this year, as in February or March.
NVIDIA Project Shield
Project Shield is obviously a reference to the Marvel comic world, where Shield was the group organizing The Avengers. NVIDIA has a long history of giving reference to comics in their code name phases. Well last night they unveiled what Shield is to the gaming world, and I have to say I think the gaming world's collective jaw dropped. Utilizing the power of the Tegra 4 SoC, and adding a few extra features NVIDIA showed the world the future of mobile gaming.
Still called Shield the system is a controller based console, more or less. It is like nothing we have ever seen before. Sporting a 5 inch 720p retinal display with multi-touch, a Tegra 4 SoC, HDMI out, "micro-USB", microSD, built in speakers, stock Android, with some other sweet software features.
Immediate thoughts are groups like Ouya, and MOGA had better hope this takes a while to ship, or they are dead in the water.
The system plays Android games, and can stream PC games from compatible NVIDIA GTX600 series video cards (over LAN). You really have to see it to grok the awesome power of this little unit, but trust me it is the future of gaming.
Demos last night included new Mad Finger games, and Hawken (coming to Google Play, yay!).
Probably the most awesome part of this though is the PC streaming through the GTX600 cards. You literally just install games through Steam or other avenues, and if they support controllers they should work. Plug your controller into the TV of choice (or use the built in display) and stream any game from your computer to wherever you are in the house. What are they using for streaming? H.264 streams, such a versatile little codec.
You can sign up for more information on Project Shield at the NVIDIA website, and check out a few more images of the system while you are there. This is definitely going to be the system to get this year. Good luck with your announcement Microsoft, you have already lost the game.