Nvidia outs Tegra 3 'Kal-El' quad-core ARM SoC

Nvidia has confirmed the long-rumoured news that its next-generation Tegra system-on-chip design, codenamed 'Kal-El,' will be the first quad-core ARM design to reach the mass market - and bring a many-core GeForce GPU along for the ride.

During a demonstration of the chip's potential at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Nvidia's Michael Rayfield unveiled a prototype Android tablet running a Kal-El processor - the codename for Tegra 3 - and made some bold claims about its potential.

Featuring four ARM-based CPU cores tied together with a 12-core GeForce GPU, the Kal-El system-on-chip design promises performance significantly better than anything currently available. According to Nvidia's own figures, the chip will perform around five times faster than the company's current Tegra 2 platform.

To back its performance claims up, Nvidia used the Coremark benchmark to compare the Kal-El SoC to the last-generation Tegra 2 design - and threw in one of Intel's Core 2 Duo processors for kicks. While the Tegra 2 scored a mere 5,840, beaten handily by the high-power x86 Core 2 Duo T7200 at 10,136, the Kal-El chip beat both with an astonishing score of 11,352.

Perhaps the most impressive demonstration of the increased power available from Kal-El was in video playback. During the demonstration, the prototype tablet was used to play back 1440p - significantly higher resolution than 'full-HD' 1080p - video on an external 2650x1600 display. Rayfield claims that this graphics power will lead to 10.1-inch tablets with a display resolution of 300dpi - around the same as Apple's much vaunted 'retina display' on the iPhone 4.

While Nvidia's Kal-El isn't the first quad-core ARM processor to be announced, the company claims it will be the first to enter the market. Sampling to OEMs now, Rayfield claims that production of Kal-El based devices will start in August - meaning consumers can expect a rash of super-tablets in time for Christmas.

Nvidia also unveiled its Tegra roadmap at the event, promising Kal-El this year to be followed by Wayne, Logan, and Stark in the following years - with Stark offering a claimed 75x performance boost over current Tegra 2 designs.

If the naming convention rings a bell, it's because Nvidia is apparently running with the current trend to declare dual-core and better mobile devices as 'superphones' and 'super-tablets.' Kal-El is Superman's birth name, Batman's true identity is billionaire Bruce Wayne, The Wolverine was once known as Logan, and Iron Man is former arms dealer Tony Stark.

You can check out the web browsing performance promised by Kal-El in the short video below - but it sounds like you won't have to wait long to get your hands on a super-tablet yourself.