back to article Nvidia: phone GPUs to outplay current consoles by 2014

The smartphone killed the PDA, the MP3 player and the PMP - will it kill the games console next? Ask graphics chip maker Nvidia and it will undoubtedly say 'no', not least because it would rather like to sell lots of high-power GPUs to Microsoft and Sony. But it certainly reckons that, come 2014, smartphone graphics cores …


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  1. David Webb


    It's all well and good saying that, but what about battery life? My PS Vita will last a few hours playing high quality games but it doesn't really need to be always charged for phone calls, texts and the myriad other features you use a phone for, having PSV play times in a phone would mean you mostly need to have the phone plugged in to a charger which kind of detracts from the "mobile" in the name "mobile phone".

    Plus, touch screen controls would be a bit sucky, with a console you never need to look at the controller to push X and then Square, you can feel where they are, with touch screens as a controller you'd be spending a lot more time looking down than you would looking at the TV.

    Could they be as powerful though? Maybe, maybe it would be a good thing, cheap as chips GPU processing for laptops would be nice.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Battery

      Your phone can be plugged in when used for console gaming.

      In fact, your phone might not even me the controller, but take the place of the PS3 itself, and you get a separate wireless controller. Or something.

      1. Boothy

        Re: Battery

        For console gaming with a mobile device battery life is mostly irrelevant, it will be plugged into a doc with the HDMI output to the TV, a blue tooth controller and will charge while docked. The tech is already there and in use now.

        Only real issue atm is the devices aren't quite up to the current gen console levels yet (but not far off, and for some games doesn't need to be anyway, gfx ability does not a good game make) and the fact that most mobile games current expect you to be using a touch screen, not a proper controller, but that will change as controllers become more popular.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What an utter load of bollocks

    Considering the slow mobile GPUs nvidia is currently making, and the SGX543MP4 in the iPad 3, then according to their graph an iPad 3 already performs about the same as current-gen consoles. I'm pretty sure it doesn't, and I write lots of GPU code for it.

    Plus, they've utterly ignored the fact that by then current-gen consoles most likely won't be PS3s and XBox 360s. But I guess "Phone GPUs to outplay old consoles by 2014" doesn't sound so good.

    You know what nvidia's greatest success in mobile is? Their marketing. They throw stuff like this out regularly, and people think they make amazing products. The reality is that the marketing is the amazing product and the GPUs suck balls :)

    1. JDX Gold badge

      ignored the fact that by then current-gen consoles won't be PS3s and XBox 360s

      No they haven't. Read it again. It doesn't alter the fact that if a phone can equal a PS3/XBox360, it is a viable console replacement, considering the Wii is a generation behind and does pretty well.

      Also, the GPUs are slow due to power requirements. Presumably if they want to go this direction, a phone could have a chipset which has extra power when plugged into the mains... similar idea to Tegra3, sort of. The issue is then if you can pack enough CPU/GPU into a phone's volume without it catching fire. and the asnwer is probably going to be yes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ignored the fact that by then current-gen consoles won't be PS3s and XBox 360s

        It's a "viable console replacement" (depending on how you define it) already. Check youtube for the videos of people playing real racing 2 on a big TV via an iPad for example - the graphics are probably past what the wii can manage already (and it runs in full HD!). They're saying that mobile GPUs will outperform current consoles, not that it might be viable.

        Having a console-class GPU in a phone and just powering most of it down when it's not plugged in... yes, and how many developers are going to spend the time to do high-end graphics for a game that will be played 95% of the time on battery? The whole point here is that you'll have console quality graphics *in your pocket* for when you're at a bus queue/in the loo/bored at work. That idea would be almost pointless in practice. In reality the GPUs will be fast AND low power - and we'll just keep them running at speed.

        Anyway, I predict that the first GPU to pass current (non-wii) console graphics will be: an Imagination one, likely in an apple device (seeing as they use the highest-end GPUs). Followed by Nvidia about 2 years later.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: ignored the fact that by then current-gen consoles won't be PS3s and XBox 360s

          "That idea would be almost pointless in practice. In reality the GPUs will be fast AND low power - and we'll just keep them running at speed."

          At serious gaming levels, there reaches a point of diminishing returns--the sheer number of calculations involves means ANY GPU working on that level of graphics is going to start getting warm (just like ANY vehicular engine's going to have issues when you rev it over 7,000RPMs or so). Not even today's generations of GPUs have made much of a dent in the power envelope when they're running full tilt, pointing to the problem likely being fundamental to current GPU design--related to physics--and probably with us to stay barring some quantum leap in GPU tech.

  3. GregC

    Touchscreen as a controller?

    Yeah, well screw that. Touchscreen controls suck donkey balls.

  4. Chet Mannly

    Good for *some* users

    I play a lot of management type games (Madden et al) the ability to take the game with you would be awesome.

    BUT Clancy or GTA I doubt would be an option unless sony decided to make decent followup to that phone with an integrated PS controller. Not likely though, it would kill Vita sales...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. thesykes

    hmmm... no

    there you are, two hours into the latest greatest game, about to reach that final goal, win the world cup, kill the big bad boss.... and your mum rings to have a chat.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tardy to the party

    I looked at this back in December -

  7. Piro


    I actually think it's pointless.

    We're already at the stage where we have hardware that's more than good enough to display small games on a phone as a distraction from your day.

    I wouldn't even want extremely high powered hardware in a phone - I'd rather the phone was about the power of, say, dual core Krait, and no more, just getting process shrinks, therefore better battery life, and cheaper.

    I never want to plug my phone in to use it as a games console. It's just too 'disposable' for that. You might be playing on your Xbox 360 still, when it came out years ago. You probably replaced your phone several times. It would be a huge faff.

    In all honesty, even my single core Snapdragon in my Desire HD with Adreno 205 is adequete for anything I actually want to do on my phone, which is to say barely anything graphically intensive. If I had better hardware, I'd still be doing the same.. that is to say, not playing anything graphically intensive, because the form factor is tiring, and touchscreen controls are utterly hopeless.

    In summary, for tomorrow, I'd be more excited with longer battery life and less costly handsets with today's performance, than a pocket Xbox 360.

  8. Lamont Cranston

    I could imagine

    phone (in the Xperia Play mould) that could be plugged into a docking station to connect to a TV and proper controllers, to become a games console, in much the same way as the Atrix can become a laptop.

    I can't imagine wanting one, but I suppose it would be one less thing to get nicked, if someone broke in to your house whilst you're away.

  9. rickykemp

    Wait what?

    I already use my phone and tablet to play console games on the TV with my Bluetooth Phonejoy.

    Granted, GTA3 isnt lovely looking as per todays standards, but it is proper PS2 era graphics, smooth gameplay, and with HDMI out to a TV, its great.

    battery life doesnt come in to it, as using an MHL adapter it needs plugging in, so take the good with the bad.

  10. Steve 13

    Firstly, the phone hasn't killed the mp3 player, although it did reduce the market.

    But as described, playing at home, it could replace what would be then a generation old console. At home the battery life isn't an issue, you can plug the phone in, or dock it more likely to something with an hdmi output.

    By 2014 though the next gen of consoles will be out, and the mobile phone gpu will still be way behind. So, no, not yet.

    One day we'll carry around a powerful PC in our phone, and I won't be using a desktop here at home and a laptop at work to do development, I'll just dock the phone, and on that day it might have replaced the console as well... Not today though and not in 2014.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "One day we'll carry around a powerful PC in our phone, and I won't be using a desktop here at home and a laptop at work to do development, I'll just dock the phone, and on that day it might have replaced the console as well"

      This argument always works, so long as the PC doesn't increase in power and your workload doesn't increase in complexity. Both do, and the phone will always be 5 years behind the PC.

      Software is much more complex though - some phone/tablet software outperforms the desktop equivalent by a serious amount. Mostly because it's much simpler and it's better optimised, but if you don't need full-fat office a tablet equivalent can get you there a lot faster (so long as you have a keyboard...)

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge


        ...the pace of PC improvements has begun to slow. Part of it is the ongoing shift to multicore programming, which as it turns out isn't for all jobs (there are still some things you HAVE to do serially), so we're already running into a few walls here and there.

        In addition, home PCs aren't getting too much better because it's reaching the point of diminishing returns. Just how much power an average person needs to play back their favorite video clips at 1080p or so? Surf the web? Socialize? Upload to YouTube (IIRC they offer to do the grunt work if you don't encode it properly yourself). I believe we've already at that level for several years now, and now more power-conscious tech is catching up to the task, meaning it's becoming even less of an issue. There are already plans to turn the upcoming Raspberry Pi (supplies permitting) into a pretty-darn-good media box--cheap.

        Meanwhile, business complexity is also hitting a wall, since more complex work requires the services of better-skilled (and thus better-paid) techs in a market where the price of labor is being driven harder down than before due at least in part to employee glut. Also, the thin-client pendulum is swinging back into vogue right now with virtual desktops and cloud computing. In these cases, most of the grunt work is being done in the server room (where yes you need computing power but probably not as much as say a potent workstation in every office).

  11. Miek

    "But it certainly reckons that, come 2014, smartphone graphics cores will be able to pump out more pixels than today's consoles"

    And there I was, thinking that it was polygon counts that mattered!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Looking at it yes they will be at xbox level but there again the xbox would of moved on by then. Now taking the stepping into account and the small detail of software it will probably be nearer 2018 when they become viable. Though personaly I see them more as an extension along the lines of the Nintento new WI-u!? thats comming out.

  13. maccy

    Never mind about the battery,

    what about the heat? You can't touch a gpu when it's going full blast, so how are you going to hold a phone which uses the case as the gpu's heat sink?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Small Matter Of Storage

    The GPU's might be better soon but you still have an issue of storage for the games.

    You also have the fact that presumably Microsoft and Sony are developing the next gen of consoles as I type. So consoles will overtake again as soon as those are released because while they still have a restriction on cost, they have no real size restrictions. So a large power hungry chip set doesn't matter.

  15. Ross 7


    That's a *terrible* graph. First of all it's logarithmic, and so the general pop will look at it and think PC/console GPUs are gaining less power with each iteration. Secondly, the trend lines are clearly plotted by the marketing dept.

    Phone GPUs have jumped a lot since their introduction, purely because the tech was already there. However, whereas I can throw a 900W PSU in a PC (it is ridiculous how much power you need these days...) I'm fairly sure you're going to struggle with

    1. battery life; and

    2. heat

    trying to run more powerful GPUs on phones. At least I hope that's the case - I don't look forward to carrying a battery with that kind of oomph in my pocket...

    Yes, phone graphics are really impressive right now, but no, we won't be seeing Frostbite 3 on them.

  16. consolegeek

    turn it on it's head........

    Why do we still pay £300+ for new consoles when phones on contract are given away for free....

    Especially if the graphs are to be believed as correct and mobiles will out perform consoles within 2 years, if this is the case surely Microsoft and Sony will have to rethink their console strategy.

    1. qwarty

      Re: turn it on it's head........

      Because if the £300 console lasts 5 years, thats £5/month for as many users as fit into our living rooms. Contract != free.

  17. john devoy


    I'l go out on a limb and say nVidia are talking out of their backsides; given the problems they have cooling current massive pc gfx cards i cant see them solving it in 2 years so you get the same performance in a tiny sealed unit.

  18. Matt_payne666

    headline should read....

    In a few years time phone gpu's to outperform 10 year old consoles...

    I can well belive it, and the current crop of Android and ios machines are way ahead of the ps2 and game cube...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: headline should read....

      The PS2 will always be ahead of smartphones, not in CPU/GPU power, but in having a decent sized screen to play on oh and touch screens suck. doesn't matter how they try to dress it up, the controller is always king.

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