The Zune HD is Tegra-powered

When Microsoft announced the Zune HD in May, we said there had been talk of the device sporting an Nvidia Tegra system-on-a-chip. Well, that’s now pretty much official. Ryan Shrout from PC Perspective says he received confirmation directly from Nvidia staffers at Computex earlier this month.

If you missed Microsoft’s big announcement, the Zune HD will come out this fall and fill in as Microsoft’s answer to the iPod touch. The device will have a 3.3" 480×272 touch-screen OLED display, Wi-Fi connectivity, a full-screen web browser, and an HD radio tuner. You’ll be able to buy music online straight from your Zune HD, and Microsoft will even offer a docking station that will enable 720p video output via HDMI.

As for Nvidia’s Tegra, that little piece of silicon has an ARM CPU core and some Nvidia logic that lets it both decode and encode 720p video. There’s also an OpenGL ES 2.0-compatible GeForce graphics core, which could (at least in theory) allow the Zune HD to go head-to-head with the iPod touch in terms of gaming capabilities. Microsoft would need to bring game developers on board for that to happen, though.

Comments closed
    • Ailuros
    • 12 years ago

    I’m personally quite careful when it comes to comparing cores for embedded markets; first aspect to look for is target market and in extension the purpose of each device, as of course die area consumed for each GPU core.

    There’s a variety of Tegra cores available from NVIDIA as there is an even larger variety of SGX cores. Single core SGX varies between the SGX520/SM3.0+/2.6mm2@65nm and SGX545/SM4.1/12.5mm2@65nm; at a theoretical core frequency of 200MHz triangle rates scale between 7M Tris up to 40M Tris/s for those. For even more demanding cases IMG has the SGX543 multi-core variant SGX-MP which could theoretically allow up to 16MP cores with nearly linear scaling with a 560M Tris/s maximum @200MHz and 8mm2@65nm/core.

    Tegra’s die sizes aren’t public yet from what I’ve seen, but I’d guess the highest end variant to be roughly in the SGX540 league with a somewhat larger die area. Besides Tegra has separated pixel and vertex shader units, while SGX has a unified shader processor with MIMD ALUs.

    Long story short: a portable multimedia device doesn’t need IMHLO any excessive GPU capabilities. Some mainstream gaming should be possible on any of those as on both iPhone models, but for all them mobile games will still use the lowest common denominator which today is still unfortunately CPU-only mobile devices.

    An interesting comparison for gaming handhelds between a Tegra and a SGX variant will come in the future. You can’t measure performance in 3D on those either usually, but there will be sufficient catfights about those in the future I guess…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • oMa
    • 12 years ago

    Why use the old arm11 cpu? Why take a step back, both palm pre and the new iphone use cortex a8, which have much higher performance per watt and overal performance.

    • melgross
    • 12 years ago

    But they gave up so much resolution. I’d rather have seen a 480x 320 screen with bands on the top and bottom. Now, when video isn’t 16:9, you only get a small, low resolution image. Seems crazy to have gone backwards like that.

    Same problem for menus and any games, if they get any.

      • Ricardo Dawkins
      • 12 years ago

      it is the same resolution as the PSP with a higher dpi.

      @oMa: iphone and pre can’t do HD stuff. and the menus and main UI looks fluid and fast in the 2 previews videos posted by Gizmodo and Cnet.
      what is your point ?

    • PRIME1
    • 12 years ago

    Good maybe the next Xbox will have NVIDIA graphics again.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 12 years ago

      So that way, it’s even more likely to die?

      I keed, I keed. :p

      • Pettytheft
      • 12 years ago

      What does that have to do with anything?

      • Furen
      • 12 years ago

      Whatever for?

      If they keep the ATI gpu and the PowerPC-based cpu then they can have backwards compatibility pretty much for free. If they go back to nvidia then, once again, they would be forced to do any backwards compatibility through software emulation. Looking at how things stand right now, MSFT has much more to gain from BW compatibility with the xbox 360 game library than it did from the original xbox library back when the xbox 360 came out.

      Also, remember that MSFT OWNS Xenos, so they could simply shrink it and clock it up the sky (well, as far as possible) or just use two of them and avoid having a complete redesign on the GPU. Or they could get ATI to enhance it (widen it, make it dx11 compatible, etc) and I’m sure it would still be much cheaper than going to an all-new nVIDIA core.

      Back to the topic at hand:
      Isnt tegra based on the ARM11? If so then that means that it has a weaker CPU than the iPhone 3G S and (more relevantly) a new iPod touch based on it (if it comes out, not sure if anything’s been announced).

    • Dr_b_
    • 12 years ago

    HD radio… really nice feature. Apple oughta put an HD radio tuner in the ipod, it does offer itunes tagging after all, so it would link nicely with itunes and in fact could auto download songs you hear OTA. nice feature would be to record audio from the radio too.

    OLED nice too. gonna have to give it srs consideration, despite the ipod touch slick UI and itunes ecosystem with applications. Maybe it can do flash too.

    • Hattig
    • 12 years ago

    Competition is a good thing. It will be interesting to compare the next iPod Touch (presumably with the A8 + SGX @ 600MHz (CPU)) with this Tegra (with an ARM11 + NVIDIA graphics @ ~600MHz (?)). The Touch will have the faster CPU (by around 50%) which will really show when using it, however the custom hardware in the Tegra could be better than that in the Touch – although that’s just conjecture right now.

    The next Tegra, due out next year, will also be using a dual-core A9 design – some slides were posted a couple of weeks back confirming this.

    • ecalmosthuman
    • 12 years ago

    Give me an HDMI-out on the device itself, none of this docking station garbage.

    • ltcommander.data
    • 12 years ago

    When will Zune HD launch? The iPod Touch will most certainly be refreshed in the September/October time frame and will probably get the ARM A8 + SGX combination like the iPhone 3G S is supposed to get. Tegra uses an ARM11 so the Zune HD will presumably have less CPU power than the next iPod Touch, but the Geforce GPU probably has the lead over the SGX.

    Any word on capacity? I’m really looking toward 32GB or 64GB, especially if they want to hold 720p video.

    • juampa_valve_rde
    • 12 years ago

    maybe… just maybe the zune hd will be able to encode a 480×272 video/audio stream while recording, it does sound posible for some cuda units even at 15-20 fps with h264. also the hdmi will be just output for video/audio, maxed out at 720p, able to use cuda units to decode an h264 stream (ion + atom single core are able to reproduce 1080p at 2 mpix per frame with some codecs, so a 720p vid using 0,77 mpix per frame seems posible for tegra (and was announced by nvidia long ago).

    • nafhan
    • 12 years ago

    At this point, the iPod is a bit entrenched. If it’s anywhere near the price of an iPod touch, I don’t think it will sell at all. At this point, better features and a lower price are necessary to even compete.
    Still, it sounds awesome. I’ll at least check it out when my $100 30GB Zune dies (hopefully that won’t be for a while)!

    • cocobongo_tm
    • 12 years ago

    Ok…ok…720p encoding / decoding? Is that H264 encoding / decoding? Or MPEG2?

    What’s the performance of the [presumably] H264 encoder on Tegra? Is is realtime? At what bitrate will it encode the videos? I mean…you could have 720p at what….1Mbps…but that’s…well….laughable. For good quality H264 on 720p frame size you need to bump up proceedings to at least 8Mbps. (In fact the H264 standard is placing the 720p frame size beginning with 14Mbps!!)

    Same questions for the H264 decoder on Tegra? Is that H264 Baseline (no CABAC – instead uses CA-VLC that’s easier on the CPU but lower compression rate) and H264 Main Profile (CABAC all the way)? And again – what’s the maximum bitrate at which it can decode 720p streams? ‘Cause that’s like saying it all then.

      • engti
      • 12 years ago

      emm….. on a 480×272 screen?

        • ew
        • 12 years ago

        *[<...and Microsoft will even offer a docking station that will enable 720p video output via HDMI.<]*

      • Ricardo Dawkins
      • 12 years ago

      Check the videos and podcast in HD definition format from the Zune Marketplace and you will get the answers to most of your questions.

      BTW, the HD content will be played on the device and downscaled in real time to match the device display resolution. ๐Ÿ˜€

      oh, and you can’t beat OLED unless you go AMOLED. ๐Ÿ˜€

        • ImSpartacus
        • 12 years ago

        Well AMOLED is next to unusable outside. How does OLED perform outdoors? Which is more expensive?

      • maxxcool
      • 12 years ago
      • squeezee
      • 12 years ago

      ยง[<http://www.nvidia.com/object/product_tegra_apx_us.html<]ยง It does 720p with baseline H.264 and MPEG-4 Simple Profile; WMV/VC-1 support depends on what version of the chip they use. Aside from that inforworld article i can't find any other references to maximum bitrate, but max framerate is 30FPS.

    • cocobongo_tm
    • 12 years ago

    I think the Pantless Knights have a thing or two to say about the Zune ๐Ÿ™‚

    “[…]
    Tiger’s fast as hell
    But Leopard’s got the boom
    Time machine is mad mean
    you’re absurd – what’s a zune?
    […]”

    • NeronetFi
    • 12 years ago

    I have always wanted a Zune but the price is what gets me.

    • Farting Bob
    • 12 years ago

    I would consider it as my next mp3 player purchase but its likely to be quite expensive and my 32GB Zen has plenty storage, long life and all the features i need, so it could be a while before i even consider something else.

    • jstern
    • 12 years ago

    The HDMI docking station and 720p video sounds very intriguing to me. I would not have even considered the Zune.

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