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Quad-core chips boost tablet price vs. performance battle

New Asus $249 quad-core tablet set to take on cheaper tablets running single core chips

January 10, 2012 03:45 PM ET
Leader 7-in. tablet
Leader International marketing manager Yanbo Wu displays the company's 7-in. tablet that uses an ARM Cortex-A8 single-core processor. The tablet sells for $179. (Photo by Patrick Thibodeau / Computerworld)

Computerworld - LAS VEGAS -- Attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show here are seeing the tablet market splitting in multiple directions as the price versus performance battle intensifies.

Nvidia is pushing the performance of its quad-core Tegra 3 processor, which the company demonstrated Monday on a new Asus 7-in., $249 tablet. The Asus tablet will run the Android 4, or Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.

Asus officials did not disclose the release date for the new tablet.

Meanwhile, Leader International Inc., which launched last year, announced more quietly at CES that it plans to release a 7-in. tablet for $179 by the end of the current quarter. The Android 4-based Leader device will run a single-core ARM chip.

Tablets are everywhere at CES, and Nvidia is clearly working to put a premium on performance as device prices apparently fall rapidly.

But no vendor can ignore price, and that's why the Asus device was the headline at a Nvidia CES press conference set to tout the performance of the Tegra 3, which succeeded Nvidia's dual-core chip.

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang set the stage for the unveiling of the new Asus tablet by demonstrating the performance of its quad-core chip on the Asus Transformer Prime, a laptop and tablet hybrid with a detachable screen that was released late last year.

Huang ran photo editing and game playing applications on the Asus Transformer Prime, which also runs the Tegra 3.

The updated processor improves performance and also offers users a method for managing power through technology Nvidia has dubbed "variable symmetric processing." The technology allows the chip to shut down cores when the processing power isn't needed, thus improving battery life.

The Tegra 3 chip includes a fifth core that Huang described as a "Ninja core," a low-power core for less demanding tasks.

Jerry Shen, the CEO of Asus, didn't fully describe the capabilities of the new company's 7-in. tablet, but instead focused mostly on the price tag and the device's use of the Tegra 3 chip.

Separately, Yanbo Wu, marketing manager at Leader, noted that at $179, the company's 7-in. in. tablet "is cheaper than the majority of the tablets out there." The Leader device will have 4 GB of flash memory but will accept an SD card with 16 GB.

Leader's device will run an ARM Cortex-A8 single-core processor, and will have about eight hours of battery life, said Wu. The tablet is intended for everyday tasks, such as Web browsing and email.

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