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Nvidia's Upcoming Quad-Core Kal-El Chip Has Special Fifth Core

Nvidia has published two white papers about its next generation Tegra processor code-named "Project Kal-El," and it looks like the Superman chip has a lot more going for it than we first thought. The first of the white papers reveals that the quad-core chip actually has five cores. The fifth core, known in Nvidia's parlance as a "companion core," is built using a low-power silicon process that performs tasks at low frequency such as standby mode and video and music playback.

The companion core is put to work on processes that don't require a lot of heavy lifting, like the aforementioned video and music playback. When you want to play a 3D game, the companion core is automatically disabled and its four high-performance cores begin to power up. But they don't all just switch on at once. Instead, the cores power on one by one, scaling as their work load increases. Nvidia also says that this "Variable SMP" processor architecture is operating system transparent, meaning developers won't have to go back to the drawing board to take advantage of this new tech; it'll just work.

In the second white paper, Nvidia focuses on Kal-El's power consumption, or lack thereof. According to the document, the chip's variable SMP architecture makes it more power-efficient and delivers more performance per watt than competing single- and dual-core processors. If that wasn't enough, the company claims its super-powered chip also includes a new 12-core GPU that triples the graphics performance of the Tegra 2.

The way things are shaping up, it's looking more and more likely that the Kal-El chip will be a true mobile powerhouse. The only downside is that we'll still have to wait a while to get our hands on one. Check out the video below to see the Kal-El in action.