Nvidia’s Tegra 64-bit K1 SoC with Denver CPU spotted in Android source

Nvidia’s Tegra 64-bit K1 SoC with Denver CPU spotted in Android source

The upcoming Nvidia Tegra K1 (64-bit) System on a Chip (SoC) featuring Denver GPUs (Tegra 132) has been spotted in the Android source code. The chip is an iteration of the Tegra 124 K1  (32-bit) SoC we reported first about in 2013 which was the first Nvidia Tegra SoC featuring Kepler based GPU cores.

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The Android source code mentioning the 132 SoC confirms that it indeed features 2 ARMv8 Denver 64-bit CPU cores. The 64-bit Soc shares the same GPU as the 32-bit 124 SoC with a GTK20A core based on Nvidia’s Kepler technology. We couldn’t spot any differences between the two and one release note mentions that the Tegra 132 SoC shares the same SoC components as Tegra 124.

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The sourcecode mentions several Nvidia boards on which the 132 SoC appears, including Exuma, Norrin, Loki, Laguna, Bowmore and TN8. Many of these boards can also be found with configurations using the 124 SoC indicating that besides the SoC not many adaptations were required for the 64-bit SoC to become functional. Norrin is likely a Chromebook as the developers mention it’s a Google reference board in a Chromium OS discussion group.

When investigating (and you’ll probably also notice this if you start browsing the code) one particular piece of code drew our attention.  There’s a lot of mentioning of a backdoor which we found concerning given the recent news on the NSA spying on users.

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However it would be too obvious for any chip manufacturer and secret service to make the backdoor so easy to spot. From other CPUs we could gather that this is likely a way to monitor parts of the CPU and has nothing to do with remote spying (although we’d welcome second opinions of security experts).