Nvidia has a five-core quad-core named Kal-El - The UpStream

Nvidia has a five-core quad-core named Kal-El

posted Sunday Sep 25, 2011 by Jon Wurm

Nvidia has a five-core quad-core named Kal-El

During Mobile World Congress in February this year, Nvidia made a powerful showing with their super-powered mobile quad-core CPU, appropriately named Kal-El. It put the Tegra 2 and Core2Duo to shame according to the Coremark benchmark. Its 12-core GPU also blew us away with stunning 1440p game demos that made all of us here at PLuGHiTz Live! Radio think it could change the way mobile computing works, and as it turns out, we were right because Kal-El has a secret fifth core.

Wait, doesn't that mean Kal-El is masquerading around as a quad-core and Nvidia is outperforming Tegra 2 and Core2Duo by cheating? Well, it doesn't seem that way and here's why. Yes, Kal-El has five cores but the purpose and architecture of the fifth core makes it more of a core that's crippled by kryptonite than a super core. It does perform a function that seems to be unique to mobile computing, though, and you can find out all about that by reading on after the break.

Kal-El's fifth core was designed with power consumption and efficient workload distribution in mind, according to Mike Rayfield, the GM of Nvidia's mobile business,

Anything any dual core can do...I do it better with lower power in my quad core. It really did come into a lower power envelope than a dual core and much higher peak performance.

The fifth core was designed to be significantly slower than 4 high speed cores and uses different transistors that help prevent energy leaks, making it geared towards running lower intensity applications. The high speed cores have to be triggered for use but the theory is that by reallocating processing to a lower power core whenever possible, power consumption will decrease on average.

The other cores are high-speed cores. They burn more power, but you only turn them on when you need them...If that fifth processor turns on and burns even less power than anything else, then your average power for the use case goes down.

The inclusion of a gimp core that's designed for lower power computing seems like a good idea and if you didn't get to see it at Mobile World Congress you won't have to wait much longer. Tablets utilizing Kal-El can be expected holiday season 2011 and smartphones are expected in early 2012.

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