updated 06:50 pm EDT, Tue October 13, 2009
Nintendo said due to use next Tegra chip
Nintendo's next-generation DS may be powerful enough to rival the current iPod touch in terms of power if a purported source is accurate. Contacts at BSN say NVIDIA has won a contract with Nintendo to use a variant of the Tegra chipset in a future handheld. Which model would be used is unknown, but it's still expected to be a single-chip design and may be a second-generation Tegra rather than the existing component.
Either model would give the DS a significant boost in performance and would even let the future device run legacy games if the dual-screen, touch-focused design continues onward. Nintendo so far has had to use two aging, slow (67MHz and 33MHz) ARM processors to drive the DS and could consolidate this into a single ARM chip that would reduce the size and cost of the system but still recognize older software. At a minimum, the addition would support much more advanced 3D as well as HD video decoding, both of which are present in the first widely available device to use Tegra, the Zune HD.
The next generation of Tegra, however, is more likely to be based on the same Cortex-A8 or better architecture as the processors found in the iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch and may support their features or more. NVIDIA is now building its future chipsets on a very efficient 40 nanometer process as well and may provide the added speed without significantly impacting battery life.
How soon Nintendo will announce the deal isn't evident, but any action is unlikely before February, the rumored target month for the Tegra sequel's debut. Nintendo is also more likely to reserve any announcements of its own for gaming events like E3 in mid-June and may hold later still if it wants to wait for a more finished product.
The Japanese console creator is known to be one of the most conservative in the business and has left the core DS hardware largely unchanged since 2004, adding only features like larger screens, cameras and an SDHC card slot.
While successful for most of that period, the strategy may have cost Nintendo its lead of the handheld gaming space. It admitted in a conference call that the iPod touch impacted sales as some buyers picked the usually more expensive but also faster and more flexible Apple hardware as their gaming systems. Where the iPod has better performance, multi-touch and a large but also low-priced store, the slower DSi still depends on single-input stylus or finger touch and has a smaller download store, DSiWare. Most DS games aren't present on DSiWare and are often multiple times costlier than iPod equivalents.