At one time, not even really that long ago, a single 600 MHz processor chip was considered pretty respectable, and hardly anyone gave a second thought to screen resolutions, as we resigned ourselves to the fuzzy displays in our hands and pockets. After all, these aren’t full computers, and no one expected the performance or graphics to measure up to them, right?

Boy, have things changed. Advancements in mobile tech are absolutely racing along. Take mobile gaming, for example. With it getting more complex, more beautiful and more immersive, no wonder people are drooling over screen resolutions — like junior high school boys checking out their first centerfolds. And with many of us now actually using our smartphones and tablets like laptops, performance matters more than ever, spawning the question, Can processor technology keep up?

Yes!, NVIDIA says emphatically. The company put out a set of whitepapers addressing just that, some of which cover its much-anticipated Kal-El processor. If you’re a hardware spec hound, and the mere mention of this next-gen, quad-core mobile processor gives you chills, then check this out: How about a hidden fifth core? That’s right — according to the company, there’s yet another core stuffed in there! This “companion core” runs at an extremely low energy consumption, so when a user doesn’t need much power, Kal-El switches things around to accommodate and maximize the battery life. Says NVIDIA:

During less power-hungry tasks like web reading, music playback and video playback, Kal-El completely powers down its four performance-tuned cores and instead uses its fifth companion core. For higher performance tasks, Kal-El disables its companion core and turns on its four performance cores, one at a time, as the work load increases.

The notion of a quad-core processor alone was exciting enough, even prior to this announcement. It just handles overall energy consumption better than dual cores, while boosting performance for gaming, apps, web browsing, and multitasking, etc. Kal-El also boasts a 12-core GPU (graphics processing unit) that smokes the previous-gen Tegra 2, offering three times its graphics performance.

For more on this, along with a lengthy, but decent read explaining some of the finer points of multiple-core architecture, how it impacts the future of mobile technology, and indeed, NVIDIA’s take on it, you can check out the white papers for yourself here.

And now it’s time for a roll call: Who’s looking forward to getting their hot little hands on a Kal-El device? Chime in.

[via NVIDIA Blog]

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