Nvidia Tegra Note paves way for more stylus-equipped tablets

Nvidia is making a bigger push into devices with the Tegra Note, though the chipmaker is stopping short of releasing its own tablet.

The Tegra Note is “tablet platform” for 7-inch, Tegra 4-based tablets, with prices as low as $200. Instead of merely providing the hardware blueprints, Nvidia will pre-load Tegra Note-based tablets with its own features and apps, and will handle over-the-air software updates for users.

In that sense, it's more than just a reference design for hardware makers to copy, but it's not a finished product like the Nvidia Shield gaming handheld. Nvidia wants its branding to shine through, but wants hardware makers to handle the production, sales, and distribution, and to add their own features.

The main attraction of the Tegra Note is its support for Nvidia's DirectStylus technology, which lets users create pressure-sensitive pen strokes with a basic passive stylus. The Tegra 4 GPU can also apply image processing to tell the difference between fingers, palms and various stylus tips. Essentially, Nvidia is trying to mimic the benefits of active digitizer tablets, such as Samsung's Galaxy Note, without the added cost of the digitizer.

Other specs for the Tegra Note include a 1280-by-800 resolution display, 5-megapixel rear camera, VGA front camera, 16 GB of storage, a Micro SD card slot and Micro HDMI output. The tablet's front-facing speakers will use Nvidia's PureAudio technology, which according to the company provide the widest frequency range in a tablet. For battery life, Nvidia promises 10 hours of video playback on a charge.

Pre-loaded software will include Nvidia's TegraZone gaming portal, various notetaking apps, and an Android version of SmugMug's Camera Awesome, a popular photography app previously exclusive to iOS. For accessories, users can get a cover stand, interchangeable stylus tips and Bluetooth game controllers. Previously, we'd hoped Nvidia would bring Shield's PC-to-Android game streaming to the Tegra Note, but that appears to be just wishful thinking.

It's unclear when or how Tegra Note products will come to market. Nvidia has announced several hardware partners, including EVGA and PNY Technologies in North America, but most of the partners aren't well-known consumer brands.

Nvidia says these partners will bring Tegra Note to market over the next few months “with features that speak to local consumers,” so it might be a while until we know exactly what a finished Tegra Note product will look like. In any case, it'll face tough competition from Google's new Nexus 7—which uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon chip—and a slew of other cheap Android tablets flooding the market.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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