Specifically, the Nexus 9 will be the first device to run Android 5.0 Lollipop, which notably incorporates support for 64-bit CPU architectures. And making the most of that support at the heart of the Nexus 9 will be NVIDIA's (NASDAQ:NVDA) 64-bit Tegra K1 superchip. This confirms speculation of as much in recent weeks, and is undeniably huge news for NVIDIA for two main reasons.
A much-needed win
For one, the Nexus 9 is the first device to feature the 64-bit version of NVIDIA's Tegra K1, which itself is an ARM Holdings v8-based beast with dual 2.3 GHz Denver CPUs, and 192 Kepler GPU cores. That's a huge relief for NVIDIA shareholders, who still remember last year's painful Tegra 4 delays, which enabled Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 to win a coveted spot in Google's second-gen Nexus 7 tablet.
For perspective, the first-gen Nexus 7 was powered by NVIDIA's Tegra 3 and proved a solid win for the graphics-chip specialist when it ramped to sell as many as 1 million units per month by the end of 2012. If the Nexus 9 proves anywhere near as popular, it'll go a long way toward propelling NVIDIA's fast growing -- albeit still-unprofitable -- Tegra segment into the black.
Follow the leader?
But wait, you say: Why only two CPU cores? The short answer -- as NVIDIA explained back in August -- lies in both the Denver cores' seven-way superscalar micro-architecture, as well as its Dynamic Code Optimization process, which optimizes larger, frequently used chunks of code on the fly into smaller bits which can be recycled as often as needed. The end result, NVIDIA says, is that the 64-bit Tegra K1's dual CPUs are able to achieve "significantly higher performance than existing four- to eight-core mobile CPUs on most mobile workloads."
To be sure, when Geekbench benchmark results surfaced for the Nexus 9 on Friday, many were stunned that it significantly outperformed even the new A8 processor used in Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones. To be fair, however, it remains to be seen how the Tegra K1 will stack up against Apple's seriously impressive A8X processor, which is set to power the upcoming iPad Air 2.
Nonetheless, even Geekbench developer and Primate Labs founder John Poole was stunned enough by the Nexus 9 to call its single-core score "insane," while noting that "an entry-level Mac Pro (2012)" only scored slightly higher:
Nexus 9 Geekbench Result: http://t.co/WdMg4dpLOK 1903 points single-core score is insane. An entry-level Mac Pro (2012) scores 1925.— John Poole (@jfpoole) October 16, 2014
What's more, Poole elaborated that this doesn't account for the fact Geekbench isn't optimized for 64-bit builds of Android just yet. When that happens, he thinks the K1 will end up with a single-core score somewhere closer to the 2,100 range.
Whether that proves enough to technically claim best-in-class status ahead of Apple's A8X remains to be seen. But keeping in mind NVIDIA also boasts of the K1's leading power management features along with its PC-class performance and console-class game abilities, the Nexus 9 might very well represent a perfect gateway example for what the K1 can offer to aspiring manufacturers seeking a bleeding-edge processor for their next-generation devices.
If that happens and other tablet makers follow suit, the Nexus 9 could ultimately prove one of many big wins for NVIDIA's Tegra K1.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple and NVIDIA. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A and C shares), and NVIDIA and owns shares of Apple, Google (A and C shares), and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.