It took about a year for Nvidia Corp., a leading developer of graphics technologies, to win its first major contract with its Tegra system-on-chip device. Microsoft Corp. recently confirmed that the next-generation Zune HD portable digital media player from the software giant is based on Nvidia Tegra system-on-chip.
“The Zune HD does have the Tegra chip in it, which is so sick. So much better battery life, graphics acceleration. I mean, this thing is like a mini laptop in your hand. It is so awesome,” said Matt Akers, software development engineer in test at Microsoft’s Zune team.
Microsoft indicated that Zune HD will use flash memory instead of hard disk drive. In addition, Zune HD will be equipped with OLED multi-touch screen with 3.3" diagonal and 480x272 resolution. Unfortunately, no additional technical details have been revealed so far: capacity and pricing of flash memory inside Zune is unknown; it is also unclear whether the new Zune HD supports 802.11n Wi-Fi or relies on older-generation 802.11g.
The main feature that will distinguish Zune from its competitors, such as Apple iPod Touch, will be HD radio, which provides high-quality music experience. By contrast, Apple iPod does not support any radio at all. Another important feature of Zune HD is gradual integration of Xbox Live and Zune store services into one. For example, the device will be able to output video in 1280x720 resolution (720p) to HDTVs, something, for what relatively high processing power is required and which Nvidia Tegra provides.
Nvidia Tegra 600-series SoCs feature ARM11 central processing unit core, GeForce graphics core with programmable pixel shader and programmable vertex shader support, build-in low-power DDR memory controller, NAND flash memory controller, high-definition video processor that supports MPEG 4, H.264, VC-1/WMV9 decoding, H.264 and MPEG4 encoding and features some other capabilities. Besides, Tegra 600 and Tegra 650 support two displays, 12MPixel camera sensor, USB, Parallel ATA a variety of display outputs, including HDMI, as well as other necessary interfaces.
Nvidia Tegra line of SoCs for handsets and mobile Internet devices (MIDs) was announced in early June, 2008. The product family was not exactly a success for Nvidia: despite of the fact that the company expected handset makers to start adopting Tegra by the end of 2008, netbooks powered by Tegra will be out only in the second half of 2009. But while the destiny of Tegra-based smartphones is still unclear, adoption of the chip for potentially popular Zune HD player by Microsoft is a good news for Nvidia.