First there were dual-core chips, then quad-core mobile chips.

So what’s next? MediaTek has already announced an eight-core chip, so that would seem a logical place to go.

Nvidia Tegra K1

However, Nvidia decided to skip a few steps. The company has announced a 192-core mobile chip, dubbed the Tegra K1.

To be fair, that figure largely reflects the number of graphics engines, a category that had already been seeing a fair bit of core inflation in recent years. In terms of main CPU cores, the K1 comes with either two or four CPU cores.

“We’ve brought mobile computing to the same level as desktop computing,” CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said during a press conference at CES on Sunday night.

Another version of the chip, the Tegra K1 VCM, designed for cars, is expected to boost Nvidia’s automotive presence. Huang said that the company is already in 4.5 million cars, but additional design wins will see Nvidia in more than 20 makes of cars and upward of 100 models.

The supercomputing power, Huang said, is needed for safety features, such as real-time collision avoidance systems that can improve over the life of the car.

The Tegra K1 is based on the same Kepler graphics engine that powers Nvidia’s high-end desktop computing chips.

Now all we need is someone to come up with what to do with all of those little engines that could.

Gaming is the likely beneficiary of all that horsepower; Nvidia did say that Epic Games would bring the next version of its Unreal PC game engine to Tegra K1.

So what do all those cores produce in terms of performance? Huang said that the K1 has more graphics horsepower than either the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, and uses a fraction of the power.

As for when the K1 will show up in products, Nvidia said the quad-core version, which uses 32-bit ARM A15 engines, will be in products in the first half of the year. A 64-bit-capable chip, using two cores based on ARM’s latest v8 engine, will be in products in the second half of the year.

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