Remember Project Kal-El, NVIDIA's first mobile quad-core CPU with 12 GPU cores that was announced back in February of this year? The one that was supposed to be 5 times faster than the current generation Tegra 2, which you can find in such devices as the Motorola Atrix 4G, the LG G2x/2X, the XOOM, the ASUS Transformer, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and pretty much all other modern tablets.

As the Kal-El chip progresses towards completion in the 2nd half of 2011, NVIDIA put together a 4-minute video demo featuring a Kal-El powered tablet running Honeycomb and a little game optimized to use 4 cores, called Glowball. The live 4-CPU tracker on the bottom left side of the screen shows how the load is distributed between the individual processors.

The game itself uses no pre-built animations, rendering lighting and movement physics in real-time, all without breaking a sweat. OK, OK, maybe there is some sweat, but the engineer demoing Glowball mentioned production units are expected to be 25-30% faster. I must say I was very impressed with the life-like physics of everything that was demoed, especially when the ball rolled through the hanging carpets. The potential of using such high-quality engine in games is huge - this is like watching the evolution of desktop and console gaming all over again and anticipating the next Portals and Half-Lives.

The most interesting bit happens to be around 2:05 in the video where 2 of the 4 cores are purposely disabled, showing just how much choppier things get on a [now measly] dual-core CPU. Indeed, the difference is quite apparent, though I have to remind myself that Glowball was created to push the quad-core processor to its limits and was highly optimized to use all the cores - something you may not see in most apps and games for a while.

I applaud NVIDIA's effort to keep moving ahead without so much as a breather and look forward to the first devices utilizing Kal-El, hopefully all running Ice Cream Sandwich, by Q4 of this year. I have a feeling Santa will be a very busy guy this holiday season.

image image image

Source: YouTube via NVIDIA

P.S. Wow, that title sure had a lot of hyphens, didn't it?

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • Álmos

    About time for NVidia to show something impressive.

  • makabra

    Awesome, but now my Asus transformer and Thunderbolt became old technology.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Your Thunderbolt was old technology before you even bought it with its single-core CPU. But don't feel bad - Kal-El won't be available to put your other devices to shame until the end of the year. And that's like 15 years in human time.

      • Darius_bd

        "And that’s like 15 years in human time." Muahaha xD

        Regrettably, our pockets dont run like we were saving for 15 years ;>

  • James

    Wow looks seriously impressive, though not looking forward to the serious fragmentation...I loathe to use that word but come on. Guys like Chainfire are doing an awesome job getting Tegra 2 games working on other dual-core phones but the masses will never know about that and feel bummed cos they cant play the games on their new phones...oh well, guess I'm going to have to ask for a raise and just always have the new tech ;)

    • Lucian Armasu

      Did Intel wait for AMD to catch up? As the Android ecoystem matures, I'm sure we'll see game engines and such that will standardize games for different chips.

  • Tijl

    Usually you would do physics simulation (especially the cloths) on the GPU, not the CPU.

    So technology wise this demo lives about 5 years in the past.

    • Lucian Armasu

      How do you know it was done only on the CPU? Do PC games run only on the GPU?

      And 5 years into the past of PC gaming it's a big deal when you have this technology on tablets and mobile phones.

      • Tijl

        Erm. Because they say so in the demo?
        Aside from that, FPS drops in half when they switch from 4 cores to 2, they make an explicit point of that.
        But if you look at the scene, you see there is nothing that would require much CPU, it's fairly static. It should be able to run on one core. On the PC side where nVidia doesn't make CPUs they would show you the same demo and say "look, the CPU usage is almost nothing, even when we switched it to just one core!".
        What this hides is that there is currently no "good" way on Android to implement GPU physics, or any other kind of serious GPU computations. No CUDA, no Open CL. Not even direct access to shaders (or even Cg) or other binding you normally could use that would give lower level access (eg Direct X). You'd have to implement all this within the limits GLSL which is really quite limiting.
        So you end up simulating 4 pieces of cloth using 4 CPU cores, when you have a GPU capable of simulating dozens without breaking a sweat. That is kind of sad.