Sean Wix is part of the technical marketing team at NVIDIA and was part of the CES demo team that helped unveil all the new tablet graphic technologies that NVIDIA was touting at the trade show. In this exclusive interview with NVIDIA, we discuss what some vendors are doing in the gaming tablet space, how NVIDIA is positioning themselves with their partners and what the next few years have in store for gamers interested in the tablet platform.GI: Sean Gibson of Gaming Illustrated at CES 2012 at the NVIDIA booth to talk about tablets and gaming. I’m with Sean Wix. Sean, can you introduce yourself and talk about what you do at NVIDIA?
SW: I’m Sean Wix. I do technical marketing at NVIDIA; I actually run our executive briefing center. So I’m in charge of doing all kinds of tech demos for execs as they come in to see different products.
GI: Very nice. So you’re the go-to guy when it’s crunch time.
GI: Very nice. Well, we’re seeing some really cool sneak peak stuff here. You’re touting console-quality gaming in a tablet.
SW: Yes, we definitely are. With Bladeslinger, THD, and Shadowgun you can see it. It’s amazing graphics fidelity and it’s a fantastic gaming experience.
GI: Talk about some of your tablet partners here. Is this going to be coming out with the NVIDIA logo or is it just a chipset thing.
SW: We still have a chipset so we have the ASUS Transformer Prime that’s already in the marketplace using Tegra 3. ASUS just launched a 7” tablet at $249 that’ll be using Tegra 3. We’re also showing the Acer Iconia Tab that’s Tegra 3, and the ZT 7 tablet is also using Tegra 3. Here at the booth there’s about six total design wins that are coming out or are out immediately following CES with Tegra 3.
GI: I’m looking at the graphics here as some people are playing. I agree – console level gaming, something you would see on the Xbox 360 is what I’m looking at basically.
SW: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s fantastically fun to play. I’ve been playing it all CES.
GI: Nice. So talk about the development process, talk about the quality that’s gone in. Obviously it’s one thing to develop a chipset for a laptop or even just a very ultra-lightweight laptop that weighs nothing – you’ve got to have a minimalist chipset. But it seems like a tablet’s just a whole other beast.
SW: It is. It’s a completely different architecture on the CPU side. It’s all ARM-based versus x86. So we have an ARM license and we develop an ARM CPU, and we integrate our technology to it and custom build a GPU for it as well.
GI: I’m seeing Windows 8 sneak-peak tablets here. Other platforms?
SW: We’re a hardware vendor so we sell Tegra 3 and if you want to run it on Windows 8 when Windows 8 comes out we’re going to fully support that. If you want to do a custom operating system based on Linux or something else we’ll support that. If you want to do Android we’re obviously there, too. We were the first tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich available on it.
GI: It seems like this could be a real game changer for everyone not named Apple.
SW: Yeah, it definitely could be. (Editor’s Note: Big smile from Sean Wix when he answered this!)
GI: Yeah, he’s smiling. He can’t give away anything. I know there’s some thoughts behind that. Certainly what do you think the reaction here at CES has been? With me it’s a wow factor. As a gamer, I really can’t believe I’m seeing this out of a tablet that’s being exported out to a 1080p monitor.SW: Yeah, that’s pretty much my first reaction to it, too – it was almost disbelief when I first saw this game. I haven’t had much time with this game before CES so to really jump into it now has just been a really stellar experience. As far as consumer interest in it, it’s been very, very popular. With the tablet’s form factor is just absolutely stunning; the Transformers Prime and the game support and everything we can do with it is just absolutely amazing to customers. And the more I tell people about it and all the power-saving technology we put into it, the more impressed and just “Wow” they are when they walk away.
GI: Yeah, that’s the scary thing – you don’t want to just drain these suckers. One of the big advantages of a tablet is that they last a long time. They’ve got amazing battery power. If you’ve got an amazing graphics chipset there’s some danger there.
SW: Sort of – not really.
SW: We can do everything on Tegra 3 faster and for less power than we can do it on Tegra 2. So inherently going from a single core or dual core to four cores we are actually able to save power. We run our cores at different voltages for their workloads, so if we can run our cores slower and spread load across multiple cores we can save power versus pegging one or two cores all the way and running them at max power. So the equivalent performance is the same but the power is less.
GI: Awesome. Well, I know you have a lot of dedicated PC gamer followers that will be very interested in this. Any final messages to them as they see some of this for the first time?
SW: One of the big things about NVIDIA is we’ve learned a lot from our gaming heritage and our gaming experience on G-FORCE, and that’s really translated into all of our other businesses including the tablet space. So we’re going to have some awesome gaming experiences on G-FORCE and we’re going to have really awesome gaming experiences on Tegra as well.
GI: Alright, Sean, well thanks so much for joining us on Gaming Illustrated.
SW: Thank you very much for having us.
Gaming Illustrated would like to thank Sean Wix and the entire NVIDIA team for their hospitality and time for this interview.