Android tablets in 2012: the onset of Tegra 3

Despite being called a fad by some two years ago the tablet juggernaut shows no sign of slowing. It’s actually taking over computing. As tablets keep on eating into sales of more traditional PC desktop and laptop computers vendors are continuing to develop the technology producing even more formidable devices with more of the functions of traditional PCs.

This year we’ve already seen the ultra-high resolution of the new iPad and we can expect to see Android tablets move progressively into the Full HD 1920 x 1080 space but at the same time the more powerful processors inside them have been re-engineered to promote longer battery life. Voice input methods like Siri will make navigation and data input even easier without keyboards. Relatively small onboard storage of tablets will be mitigated by the cloud offerings now provided by several vendors. A new operating system in Android 4.0 will help bring the tablet experience even closer to the desktop.

But even more exciting the evolution of tablets may have already resulted in the creation of the computing device that will reshape computing in the next decade: the hybrid tablet which can function as a standalone tablet but can turn into a super slim laptop when docked with an accompanying keyboard dock.
We first saw the concept when ASUS launched its Transformer tablet/keyboard hybrid last year but in 2012 ASUS has refined the vision with the Transformer Prime. The key is that by itself the tablet is a stunningly powerful thin and stylish device – but when attached to an equally stylish keyboard dock it turns into a tiny Ultrabook-like laptop which gives you all the practical advantages of a keyboard and trackpad.
Combining with Android 4.0 in several new tablets is NVIDIA’s new Tegra 3 processor – which delivers massive improvements in performance and battery draw.

Tegra 3 is not an incremental improvement in power for tablets. It’s a punch to the face compared to the light slap from its predecessor. It has five times the raw performance of the Tegra 2 inside many 2011 tablets. Based on the ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore microarchitecture it trumps the Tegra 2 in everything including computational performance graphics video and audio support.

But although it’s a quad-core processor it actually has a fifth low-power core designed to take over when the tablet is not doing taxing work — such as web surfing or playing music — ensuring tremendous battery life. The new processor also packs a 12-core graphics processing unit that has almost three times the graphics performance of Tegra 2 and which supports screen resolutions of up to 2560 × 1600 pixels as well as 3D. As a result Tegra 3-powered tablets can deliver more PC-like games. And for things like web surfing Tegra 3 also delivers better JavaScript and Flash performance.