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The Tegra Effect

NVidia’s Tegra chip is responsible for the obscenely smooth performance of the ZuneHD. They got it right. Not only did they provide a fast chip but they optimized it (you know, fancy things like drivers). From their press release we get a good sense as to why the processor is so powerful.

Key to Tegra’s rich multimedia features are eight independent processors, each designed for a specific class of tasks – among them are an HD video processor, an audio processor, a graphics processor, and two ARM cores. The processors can work together or independently to minimize power consumption. The Microsoft Zune HD(2) uses the following NVIDIA Tegra technology to deliver a unique visual experience:

 * an HD video processor dedicated to HD video,  
providing unprecedented 
picture quality and ultra-smooth, vivid movie playback 
with low power consumption
* an ultra-low power graphics processor for a 
compelling and intuitive user interface
* NVIDIA nPower(TM) technology, which optimizes system
power use and enables extended HD video and MP3 playback

Why is this such a big deal? Well the Zune is running a similar operating system as Windows Mobile (likely something closer to Windows Mobile 7) but fundamentally the speed and quality should transfer to our phones, some of which we know will have NVidia chips in them. And the Zune HD’s performance when compared to your average Qualcomm chipset is a totally different user experience. There is hope out there for us that we will have an optimized chipset powering our phones. The 500+mhz chips in the Touch Pro line seem to be outclassed by a lot of other phones running at similar speeds and part of the reason is that they are simply lacking drivers and the incredible customization that Tegra has implemented.  NVidia noted that there are 50 active Tegra based projects in the works. That’s a nice piece of news to the industry and a warning to other chipmakers that have bogged down our phones over the last few years.