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Google adds Nvidia (Tegra K1) and Marvell processors to Project Ara

Posted: , by Florin T.

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Google adds Nvidia (Tegra K1) and Marvell processors to Project Ara
Google earlier this year announced that Rockchip would be one of the companies providing processors for Project Ara handsets. Now, Google revealed that it teamed up with two other chipset makers: Marvell and Nvidia.

Google and Quanta (one of the hardware manufacturing partners) created two separate Project Ara reference designs - one based on a Marvel PXA1928 processor, and another one using Nvidia’s Tegra K1 (which, by the way, powers the HTC-made Google Nexus 9 tablet). For now, however, Google isn’t showing any of the two designs.

Initially born as an idea by Motorola and Phonebloks, Project Ara was acquired by Google when the Mountain View giant bought Motorola Mobility in 2012. The initiative aims to provide Android-based modular smartphones that feature parts which can be easily swapped - so users can have truly customized handsets.

Google will announce more details about this initiative in January (next month), when it also expects to start selling the very first Project Ara device. Google intends to keep “the bill-of-materials cost of a basic, entry-level Ara device” in the $50-100 range - though this doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll be able to buy the final version of the device for such a low price. 

In case you missed it, here’s the latest video showing a working Ara prototype (called Spiral 2).


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posted on 19 Dec 2014, 21:09 1

1. theguy2345 (Posts: 1196; Member since: 24 Jun 2014)


It looks pretty cool. This means phones are becoming more like actual computers, which means you can flash different OSs on it. That will truly be an accomplishment when I can do that.

posted on 19 Dec 2014, 23:08 1

5. vincelongman (Posts: 4164; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)


With PCs you can build one for half or quarter the price of buying a prebuilt one

So hopefully we can build a flagship phone for just ~$300

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 08:17

10. mixedfish (Posts: 1154; Member since: 17 Nov 2013)


You already buy 'flagship' prebuilt phones for ~$300.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 17:57

22. vincelongman (Posts: 4164; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)


Then even better, hopefully $150?

posted on 19 Dec 2014, 23:48 1

6. sgodsell (Posts: 3358; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


Good luck with the other OS's like Apples iOS, or Microsoft's WP working like Ara. Android works here because its an agnostic platform to begin with from day one. Both iOS and WP are not. That's not to say that they can't do it, but right now both Microsoft and Apple would have to open up their OS's a lot more. Look at Apple only supports their CPUs, and Microsoft only supports certain Qualcomm CPUs. Android on the other hand supports every CPU known to man. Not to mention every piece of hardware.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 01:58

7. Iodine (Posts: 1308; Member since: 19 Jun 2014)


Why should Apple iOS need to support anything other than the very best Systems on chips available ? Because of cost ?

And why should Apple even try to make such an fragmented device when their moto is "Integrated and simple" ?

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 14:28 1

17. sgodsell (Posts: 3358; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


If you think Apples closed system with their proprietary chips is the best. Then that's up to you, if you believe that. Cost in the long run will be better then any other smartphone or small device out there. When users can buy a new screen, camera module, battery, CPU and ram, and ultimately replace a broken or outdated component with ease. Can you do that today? Absolutely not. This is true innovative technology that will not only help the individual, but ultimately help to reduce waste on this planet.
Iodine I think you will need a little iodine for your hurt pride and wounds when you ultimately see how wrong you are.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 05:49

8. Bertelgeus (banned) (Posts: 126; Member since: 15 Oct 2014)


You are so delusional.

It's really unfortunate that a Lego fetish happens to be one of the Google executives, wasting tons of resources on such a doomed project.

Agnostic? Is an*l s*x better because it works on both genders?

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 14:52 1

18. sgodsell (Posts: 3358; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


Bertelgeus I think you are the one who is truly delusional. I always love people who will say things like, this is a doomed project. Yet they can never use their words to ever explain why. Maybe its because you hate Google, or your IQ is so low. Either way Android is truly positioned for project Ara because it is an agnostic platform. Maybe you don't know this but from day one Android and the vast majority of its apps can run on almost any CPU. This gives Android the advantage when it comes to Ara. Look at Apple and iOS only support its specific CPUs ONLY. Microsoft's WP currently only supports certain Qualcomm CPUs ONLY. Microsoft did release universal apps with 8.1, but the current apps are not universal apps. Windows 10 will bring more unification. Even Apple is adding Apple swift, but Android has been this way from the start.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 23:32

24. Bertelgeus (banned) (Posts: 126; Member since: 15 Oct 2014)


The Java VM is just a nuisance. Hardly anything serious is written in Java anyway, even on Android where it's the default.

Java is a failed experiment that has been harming the IT industry.

posted on 22 Dec 2014, 00:30

33. j7urner (Posts: 10; Member since: 26 Nov 2014)


java is the best programming language for the most part, ^^ this female dog probably writes in python

posted on 21 Dec 2014, 08:55

29. TinkyWinky (Posts: 6; Member since: 03 Dec 2014)


Can i ask you why do Microsoft WP's support certain CPUs only and Apple's iOS only their CPUs? Is that a technological issue rather then market's environment?

Moved by curiosity. Ty

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 18:44

23. Exempt1 (unregistered)


How is this doomed in anyway? Everyone seems excited and curious about the project, and if it becomes what it seems; building your own smartphone that is perfect for you, at a cheaper cost, how is this not genius?

Imagine smashing your phone, or a new camera sensor comes out. The next day, you go to your local phone shop, pick up the new part off the shelf, then bam, instant upgrade without forking out for another £300+ on a whole new device for little upgrades/fixes on your current one. It's the perfect way to move forward with technology. Samsung are already doing something similar with their TV's, the Evo Box, and it makes so much sense with just that.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 23:39

25. Bertelgeus (banned) (Posts: 126; Member since: 15 Oct 2014)


If everything worked out of the box, the Android vendors would make tons of money. But they don't because putting different parts together is an extremely taxing job especially for Android where noone has a freaking clue why things don't work the way they are supposed to.

And now they want to go further with modular parts?

Good luck.

posted on 19 Dec 2014, 21:22 2

2. Tziggy14 (Posts: 442; Member since: 02 Sep 2014)


If Google partners with the right manufacturers and advertises this well. This might have a chance at being the first moonshot project to be successful. I can't wait to see what's next.

posted on 19 Dec 2014, 22:41

3. RareCandy (banned) (Posts: 61; Member since: 20 Nov 2014)


i think im pass, thanks but no thanks google :)

posted on 19 Dec 2014, 23:07

4. Ashoaib (Posts: 3229; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)


wow, this is ugly. I think it will take 5 more years to come up to a good level

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 09:06 3

13. Scott93274 (Posts: 4279; Member since: 06 Aug 2013)


Its not nearly as ugly as every iPhone I've ever seen once people put them in their cases.

posted on 22 Dec 2014, 00:33 1

34. j7urner (Posts: 10; Member since: 26 Nov 2014)


i wish i could find a stat on this, but i swear atleast nearly half of iphone users have their phones stuffed in bejeweled cases.

posted on 23 Dec 2014, 16:01

36. Scott93274 (Posts: 4279; Member since: 06 Aug 2013)


Ha! yeah, people love their ugly cheap plastic cases.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 05:54

9. Bertelgeus (banned) (Posts: 126; Member since: 15 Oct 2014)


nVidia? Marvell? So, all the losers are gathering at Ara to save what's left to save.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 08:40 1

11. CanYouSeeTheLight (Posts: 1116; Member since: 05 Jul 2012)


IDK about you, but the only losers i see are the ones dissing huge companies that honestly couldn't care less about you in the comments section of a website.

The Nvidia K1 is the only SoC out there that can match the A8X and that is a feat by itself considering Apple always has the best tablet SoCs around.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 08:58

12. Bertelgeus (banned) (Posts: 126; Member since: 15 Oct 2014)


Oh, and why didn't make it to a smart phone yet? Cuz its power efficiency sucks. Given to nVidia's history throughout Tegra's iteration, no single vendor is willing to take the risk working with nVidia ever again. nVidia is the true loser in this segment.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 09:19 1

14. RandomUsername (Posts: 808; Member since: 29 Oct 2013)


Power efficiency is pretty good, actually. The problem is the GPU, it emits to much heat for a phone.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 11:53

15. renz4 (Posts: 317; Member since: 10 Aug 2013)


the problem with tegra is lack of integrated baseband/modem. that reason alone why qualcomm was quite dominating in smartphone market. if tegra really is suck you won't see them on google device. not just one but two. but nvidia already move their focus else were. chasing commodity market is not their goal. that is even true to their graphic card business. do you know why Qualcomm interested with automotive? because they see nvidia was able to gain success in that area.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 14:58 1

20. sgodsell (Posts: 3358; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


This is the beauty of Ara. If you want to use a Qualcomm or other CPU and ram, then change it for another module. No one is holding a gun to you to buy that processor module.

posted on 21 Dec 2014, 16:55

32. CanYouSeeTheLight (Posts: 1116; Member since: 05 Jul 2012)


Why didn't the A8X make it to a smartphone yet? Because they are both tablet made chips.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 13:02

16. Iodine (Posts: 1308; Member since: 19 Jun 2014)


K1 can match Apple A8X, but at what power level ?
Is it a feat that an i7 is way faster than A8X considering how much more power it consumes ? No.

There is some information on the web and I think it's safe to say that A8X consumes way less power and that despite having high-clocked 128-bit memory interface - way faster and more power hungry than what tegra K1 has.

And talking about the article, how google wants to put Tegra K1 and run it so fast, without a mini-fan module ?

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 14:55 2

19. sgodsell (Posts: 3358; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


The Nexus 9 uses a k1 processor. It has no fan and it runs really fast and cool.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 23:47

26. Bertelgeus (banned) (Posts: 126; Member since: 15 Oct 2014)


I'm going to order a Nexus9 today for developing purposes.

But keep in mind that a tablet isn't a smart phone. The difference is huge. Even Intel is trying to get a foothold only in tablets first.
nVidia totally messed up with Tegra1~3, and they'll never earn enough money only with tablets to cover the cost developing the K1.

SoC industry is one of the toughest.

posted on 21 Dec 2014, 00:53

28. renz4 (Posts: 317; Member since: 10 Aug 2013)


that's why they never target smartphone/tablet only with their tegra. tegra has been in automotive since the early years of tegra. you can say even before they got any tablet/smartphone equipped with tegra. now with their unified architecture finally integrated into tegra they can branch out for more application like this one:

http://defense.ge-ip.com/news/ge-works-with-nvidia-on-tegra-k1-based-high-performance-embedded-computing-solution/n3093

posted on 21 Dec 2014, 09:06

30. TinkyWinky (Posts: 6; Member since: 03 Dec 2014)


Can you clearify me the part where you say there is an huge difference between a smartphone and a tablet?

Cause to a consumer's view like me, it does look like a size difference only.

Ty in advance.

posted on 21 Dec 2014, 13:48

31. Iodine (Posts: 1308; Member since: 19 Jun 2014)


Yeah a size difference. A bigger device means more headroom to dissipate your chip heat, which means more power hungry chips can be put into bigger devices.

That's why tegra k1 is only in tablets.

posted on 21 Dec 2014, 00:49

27. renz4 (Posts: 317; Member since: 10 Aug 2013)


don't forget that A8X is based on 20nm process where as TK1 is based on 28nm. on 28nm process TK1 is one of the most efficient design.

posted on 20 Dec 2014, 17:22

21. thegeneral7010 (Posts: 328; Member since: 10 Dec 2014)


in my opinion i think that untill now the exynos 7 octa is the processor of the year.

posted on 23 Dec 2014, 15:14 1

35. Stuntman (Posts: 835; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)


I'm looking forward to when it will become commercially available.

posted on 23 Dec 2014, 16:04

37. Scott93274 (Posts: 4279; Member since: 06 Aug 2013)


I would be much more interested in buying this if they had a tablet solution. There are several smartphones out there that have features that you just won't get with this type of device... but I still would love to have one in tablet form.

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