Is the tegra 2 a Disappointment?

The tegra 2 is the reference platform for Honeycomb implementations, used in all current and announced products on that platform.

There was tremendous hype and expectations about this chipset: A dual-core Cortex A9 processor with a nvidia-special GPU — who knows graphics better than nvidia?

When the tegra 2 was first made available for production, almost a year ago, dual cores were a big step forward, the product being a clear leader.

It isn’t a leader anymore. Everyone is coming out with dual-core and soon quad-core processors, many with more features and functionality, and graphics competitors have created formidable opponents like the core-scalable PowerVR SGX545 and the Qualcomm Adreno 220.

This leaves a generation of Android tablets unable to compete at the high-end. The “reference platform” model — a largely homogenous ecosystem of hardware — is the opposite approach than what has made Android succeed. Android has always been about many vendors betting on different approaches and technologies, the best winning. This is the reason the Android smartphone market has evolved so rapidly.

What leaves me most disappointed about the tegra 2 is the absolutely abysmal video decoding capability of the device (and the software using that hardware, a situation made dramatically worse if you try to moralize WebM into the equation).

An ideal world is one where you simply drop your library of video files onto your tablet — no special downgrade encoding necessary — and they run flawlessly. Instead, and yet again, many Android devices are hobbled with a second-rate video decoder that seems to have trouble running pretty much anything.

Not all Android devices suffer this handicap. Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphone has always been a decoding superstar, and I expect only better things from the Galaxy S II. I would be very interested if Samsung put the Exynos into a tablet. Samsung is now pushing out Gingerbread updates to European Galaxy S devices, and is quickly proving themselves to be a premiere Android vendor.

nvidia needs to iterate quickly. The Tegra2 3D with boosted specs, and then the Tegra3, can’t come quickly enough. The slow adoption of the first chipset has put them a generation behind.

Of course this isn’t deadly for Android tablets. After the initial hype subsides, most tablets become portable, power-sipping, convenient internet appliances. For that you don’t need to have a powerhouse, but it is a problem for media consumption.