Nvidia demos Tegra-powered netbooks

COMPUTEX — The Tegra brand may conjure up images of fancy, multimedia-friendly smart phones, but Nvidia isn’t afraid of exploring other venues for its new system-on-a-chip. At the company’s meeting room in Taipei’s International Convention Center today, we got to see a handful of Tegra-based netbooks running Windows CE.

The systems were from firms including Compal, Pegatron, and Mobinova. Those names don’t make too many headlines on the other side of the Pacific, but Compal and Pegatron are both large contract manfuacturers, the latter being an Asus spin-off.

At the heart of the netbooks: this little circuit board, which is the size of an SO-DIMM laptop memory module (it purportedly uses the same connector format, too). It houses a Tegra SoC with system memory and a handful of other chips. I/O connectivity is left to the host device.

Nvidia showed the netbooks playing back 720p video, streaming live Taiwanese TV, and running an alpha version of Firefox 3.6. Tegra handles video-related tasks quite well, and 720p trailers in particular looked surprisingly crisp and smooth. Nvidia tells us Tegra draws so little power that these netbooks should be able to play 720p video for 10 hours straight before exhausting the battery.

Web browsing was a somewhat different story. Although the slow Internet connection at the convention center didn’t help, drawing page elements from a website like TR felt sluggish and caused the mouse cursor to go choppy occasionally. You can chalk that up to the Tegra SoC’s 600MHz ARM processor core. Adobe Flash support was also incomplete, although YouTube videos actually played back reasonably smoothly—but Tegra’s multimedia components take care of accelerating those.

While non-multimedia performance may not be too exciting, Nvidia expects Tegra-based netbooks to feature price tags in the neighborhood of just $199. Cell phone carriers could offer them for free with contracts, too.

Comments closed
    • imtheunknown176
    • 11 years ago

    I’ve never been a fan of the instant on OSes but I would definitely go for a 12-13″ laptop that had regular hardware as well as one of these. I would love to be able to use my laptop in low power mode to browse the internet or run a text editor and then be able to boot up the real hardware when I wanted to do something more intense. Sure it wouldn’t have the battery life of one of these netbooks since it has a larger screen but it would still be very good.

    • ish718
    • 11 years ago

    Nice netbook. Just take out the smartphone CPU, replace it with something that’s capable of something.

    • Lans
    • 11 years ago

    I want one! 🙂

    • pogsnet
    • 11 years ago
      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      I’m not sure netbooks were ever designed for gaming.

      • mesyn191
      • 11 years ago

      For older games (quakeIII maybe) or running SNES/Genesis emu’s it’d probably be fine.

    • UberGerbil
    • 11 years ago

    So do you know which version of Tegra this is supposed to be (600 or 650)?

    Depending on where you look*, the 600 is supposed to run at either 650Mhz or 700Mhz; the 650 is supposed to run at either 750MHz or 800Mhz. Either way, if the demo samples are actually running at 600Mhz, nVidia is still having issues. And a 25% slower CPU could go a long way to explaining FF sluggishness.

    * Wikipedia has the lower speeds, nVidia’s FAQ has the higher
    §[<http://www.nvidia.com/docs/IO/55043/NVIDIA_Tegra_FAQ_External.pdf<]§

      • Farting Bob
      • 11 years ago

      I see nvidia’s purposely confusing naming scheme has extended to this little product as well. The 600 runs at 650mhz, the 650 runs at 750mhz. Well at least the important spec is HIGHER than what you would expect from the name for once.

    • eitje
    • 11 years ago

    q[

      • dslegend
      • 11 years ago

      and your psp has the same screen size?

      • poulpy
      • 11 years ago

      err yeah not even close it’s between 320×240 (240p?) and 472×272 on a PSP IIRC..

      • Hattig
      • 11 years ago

      And surely a PSP is a device that meets the definition of a MID, optimised for gaming?

    • UberGerbil
    • 11 years ago

    No sign of Android running on these? I’d love to see a comparison of Android and Win CE running on the same hardware.

    I wonder how much the beta nature of FF contributed to the web browsing woes. Branchy integer code isn’t going to be a strong point for Tegra (so some of the javascript-heavy AJAX sites will be especially bad) but I would’ve thought it would manage a better showing than that, even with the really limited ARM core they’re using.

    It’s too bad there aren’t any games out there that would exercise the graphics side of Tegra — in fact, I’m surprised nVidia didn’t concoct some kind of demo game for this. (There are WinCE games, but they’ve all been targeted at very graphically-limited PDA/smartphones)

      • WillBach
      • 11 years ago

      IIRC Tegra has a third processor that accelerates Java and – supposedly – HTML. I’m not sure which parts of HTML it accelerates or if the Firefox 3.6 alpha used it. Also, FF isn’t as fast as it used to be on slow platforms. I don’t say that as a criticism, it’s great for Javascript and it has lots of useful features. A downside of all those features is that it probably won’t be as fast as Seamonkey or IceWeasel.

      If Firefox is updated to use that third processor or if a lighter-weight browser is used we could potentially see zippy internet from this platform.

        • UberGerbil
        • 11 years ago

        Java != Javascript
        And there’s no “third core” mentioned in any nVidia materials I can find. I think you’re mistaken.

        I’m kind of surprised they’re not using Opera, actually, but I suppose Firefox is the new sexy (and who knows, Opera might even be worse).

          • zima
          • 11 years ago

          Opera will almost certainly be much better on those. It is still quite usable on my ancient dual pII 266 with 192mb, while new Gecko-based browsers…don’t even make me go there.

          It has a version for smartphones that is essentially the same engine; and how many years are we waiting for mobile Gecko? It’s also on Wii or even Nintendo DS (though on such hellishly slow platform in tends to slow down regularly)

          Plus, Opera Turbo feature seems to work great on slow gprs connections…

          • WillBach
          • 11 years ago

          True, it’s been hard to find concrete data on the Tegra until recently. Hope this helps a little. From §[<http://www.nvidia.com/object/io_1243923085294.html<]§ q[

            • UberGerbil
            • 11 years ago

            Yes but that’s just the Jazelle tech in the ARM11-derived core nVidia is using in Tegra. That’s been around for years now and been used to run Java apps on smartphones, but it’s a separate execution state not a separate core (basically it runs Java bytecodes as native instructions, the way MAJC was supposed to)

            Sorry about jumping on the Java/Javascript thing. It just comes up so often, and I wasn’t able to discern that you were switching topics. JIT’ing helps, of course (getting rid of redundant interpretative steps always does) but ultimately you’re still left with branchy integer code (which ARM is remarkably good at thanks to some nice tricks in its instruction set, but still nothing like what a modern x86 CPU can do) and that’s nothing nVidia’s nice parallel fp-centric graphics can help.

      • Hattig
      • 11 years ago

      Yeah, Android with Webkit and Google’s V8 Javascript engine would be interesting to see.

    • Hattig
    • 11 years ago

    That’s a seriously small motherboard – no use putting the connectors on it because there’s not enough space!

    The next generation of Tegra looks good though – dual-core Cortex A9s for 4x the CPU power. I do fear that this generation is going to be a little sluggish on the general use side of things because of the ARM11 – just as competitors are moving to the faster Cortex A8.

      • Rza79
      • 11 years ago

      While i understand that Tegra might be intresting for PDA like devices or media players, i don’t understand why manufacturers are considering it for netbooks. The ARM11 core is just not acceptable for general usage. Competitors are already offering Cortex-A8 (or even better Snapdragon or Sheva) based SOC’s at 1Ghz and higher.
      ARM11 is around 60% slower per Mhz compared to Cortex-A8.
      (Snapdragon & Sheva are even faster than Cortex-A8)

    • UberGerbil
    • 11 years ago

    Pegatron isn’t an ASUS spin-off, it’s a Decepticon!

    (Which I guess makes Compal an Autobot?)

    Man, everybody’s doing movie tie-ins these days….

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 11 years ago

      I wonder if the Pegatron netbook transforms into a Walther ppk ?

      • cocobongo_tm
      • 11 years ago

      #1, I wonder what would the Pegatron motherboard transform into if touched by the All Spark’s life-giving energy. 🙂

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