Nvidia's Tegra X1 SoC has 8 CPU cores, Maxwell graphics

Nvidia's next-gen Tegra processor debuted during the company's pre-CES press conference this evening. Dubbed Tegra X1, the chip formerly known as "Erista" brings Nvidia's Maxwell graphics architecture to what CEO Jen-Hsun Huang described as a "mobile superchip."

The Tegra X1 combines 256 shader processors with an eight-core CPU "in a 4+4 configuration." The 64-bit CPU uses a big.LITTLE combination of four ARM Cortex A57 cores and four A53 cores. Huang didn't disclose clock speeds, but he did reveal that the thermal envelope is about 10W. The chip is built on 20-nm fabrication tech, and it can play 4K video at 60 FPS using either the H.265 or VP9 codecs.

According to Huang, the Tegra X1 doubles the performance of its K1 predecessor within the same thermal envelope. It's unclear whether Huang was referring to the quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 version of the K1 or to the dual-core Denver variant, but either way, the X1 looks like a substantial upgrade over the current generation.

Here are the relative performance figures Nvidia showed comparing the Tegra X1 to its predecessor and to the Apple A8X SoC from the iPad Air 2:

Nvidia claims the Tegra X1 is the first mobile chip to deliver a teraflop of floating-point throughput. Unlike previous Tegra chips, the X1 supports floating-point datatypes with 16 bits of precision, otherwise known as FP16. This format should require less power to process than the FP32 format used by the Tegra K1.

Huang showed the Tegra X1 running the Unreal Engine 4 "Elemental" demo, whose HDR lighting requires floating-point processing. The demo system wasn't actually visible on stage, but the chip was apparently running within the X1's 10W thermal envelope.

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