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Nvidia targets Intel Atom with ARM-based system-on-a-chip

Tegra revved

Nvidia has announced its attempt to split Intel's Atom: Tegra, an ARM-based system-on-a-chip product for handheld internet access gadgets that's capable of crunching 1080p H.264 HD video.

Well, that's the Tegra 650 - a lesser model, the 600, only runs to 720p. Both chips will output at those resolutions - respectively, 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720 - through an HDMI 1.3 port if one's built into the host device.

Both chips' video processing component - the HD Audio Video Processor, as Nvidia calls it - can encode video at 720p, and support an array of standard music formats and JPEG for photos. It can be connected to a camera sensor of up to 12-megapixel resolution.

An on-board Ultra-low Power (ULP) GeForce graphics core provides 3D graphics through the OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics API.

The 600's ARM 11 core runs at 700MHz, while the 650's is clocked at 800MHz.

Nvidia said devices equipped with the Tegra series of SoCs to debut "late 2008", but comments made by executives suggest it's hoping manufacturers will have product out in time for Christmas.

Intel launched the mobile internet device version of Atom - aka 'Silverthorne' in April. It's pitch is that the Atom line not only consume very little power but by using the x86 instruction set are immediately compatible with almost any application written for a PC.

That contrasts with the ARM world, where CPU aside, perhaps, there's far less compatibility across devices - one reason why Flash playback isn't ubiquitous, for instance. However, thanks to ARM's power efficiency, it has gained huge traction in the mobile device market.

Atom currently comprises a processor and a separate integrated chipset. Intel has promised a system-on-a-chip version, codenamed 'Moorestown', in the 2009/2010 timeframe.

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