A new focus on Android gaming has emerged at Google's I/O 2014 event, with Nvidia's Tegra K1 processor showcasing the raw processing potential of the next wave of mobile technology. TK1 - integrating the same Kepler architecture as the current GeForce desktop graphics cards - theoretically has more rendering horsepower than the last-gen consoles, a claim Epic has put to the test by producing a brand new real-time Unreal Engine 4 demo.
Dubbed "Rivalry" - and re-using some assets from the now legendary Samaritan demo - the new showcase uses the same rendering pipeline as the full desktop version of the engine, currently being deployed on PC, Xbox One and PS4 projects. The demo, which combines Nvidia's hardware with Epic's engine and new extensions to Android, utilises high-end features such as deferred rendering, physically-based shading, image-based lighting, HDR tone-mapping, and even tessellation for smoke effects.
The claim that mobile technology has reached "console" standards has become something a cliché in recent years, but in terms of raw specs alone, Tegra K1 has the numbers to match the boast. It features one SMX - a cluster of 192 CUDA codes - thought to be running in the region of 950MHz. Compare and contrast with the GT 640M found in the PC-based Razer Edge gaming tablet: that has two SMXs at just over half the clock speed and is capable of running Crysis 3 at better than console settings. If that sounds too good to be true, maybe it is - John Carmack says that we should "take Nvidia's comparisons between their K1 SoC [system-on-chip] and consoles with several grains of salt."
Kepler is a proven technology, but questions surrounding K1's performance concern the power of the ARM CPU cores, memory bandwidth, thermal management (which can see throttled performance), plus of course Android itself. Despite boasting some pretty impressive specs, Amazon's Fire TV console failed to impress us in terms of performance, for example.
Hopefully we'll be able to get hands on with the new technology soon: Tegra K1 is set to debut in the Chinese MiPad - an Android tablet that looks remarkably similar to the iPad mini with Retina Display, with benchmarks suggesting a 2x performance increase over Apple's A7 technology. The Xiaomi product has recently been seen running Frozenbyte's Trine 2 - a game initially released on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 before gaining Wii U and even PS4 ports - and it looks good.
The question of Android's suitability as the basis for a gaming platform is something that Google sought to address at yesterday's I/O 2014 keynote with the reveal of Android TV - a new fork of the OS designed to offer a unique, unified ecosystem for Smart TVs and extenders such as micro-consoles.
Razer and Asus are working on games-based Android units, while Android TV itself offers tighter integration with existing devices, allowing you to use them as controllers or remotes, for example, while an HDTV-optimised user interface and voice control are also set to be a key features. Widespread adoption of Android TV shouldn't be a problem - it was also revealed that all Sony, Phillips and Sharp HDTVs launching in 2015 are based on the new revision of the OS.
Developer access to early builds of the next Android - including a preview of Android TV - should be available later today ahead of a full release later this year.
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