Thursday, January 8, 2015

New mobile SoCs announced at CES

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, USA this week, a large number of new devices as well as chips for various kinds of multimedia devices is being announced, including mobile SoCs for smartphones and tablets. Several of the newly announced SoCs use Cortex-A53 CPU cores.

Rockchip announces octa-core Cortex-A53 tablet SoC

Rockchip announced the RK3368 at the show, which is a tablet processor with eight Cortex-A53 cores clocked up to 1.5 GHz and an unnamed GPU supported OpenGL 3.1. Rockchip also claims 4Kx2K H.264/H.265 video playback capability and HDMI 2.0 display output supporting 4Kx2K resolution. Early information about this chip became available a few months ago, when it was codenamed "MayBach". Rockchip mentions support for Android Lollipop in its materials.

The quoted maximum clock speed of 1.5 GHz is not very high, but an up-to-date revision of the Cortex-A53 core should provide good CPU performance at that speed even for single-core, and the octa-core configuration will provide very good multi-core performance. At which foundry it is being produced in unclear; in the past Rockchip has been using the 28 nm SLP process at GlobalFoundries for its high-performance chips, although plans for chips produced at TSMC have been reported.

Most of the specifications suggest that the chip is targeted at the performance segment, more or less as a replacement for the RK3288 that is more suitable for tablets due to lower power consumption. Based on the fact that DirectX support up to 9.3 is claimed as well as OpenGL 3.1, the GPU is most likely a Mali-T760 GPU. The RK3288 already contains a performance-oriented Mali GPU, of which the exact nature is unclear. The memory interface is likely to be 32-bit dual-channel with support for LPDDR3, similar to the RK3288 and suitable for performance-oriented devices.

Allwinner announces low-cost quad-core Cortex-A53 tablet SoC

Meanwhile, Allwinner, Rockchip's archrival in the Chinese tablet processor market, announced the A64, a new low-cost tablet processor with four Cortex-A53 CPU cores. Allwinner quotes a price of $5 for the chip. The SoC appears to be the logical successor to the recently introduced A33 with Cortex-A7 cores, which is also a low-cost quad-core tablet processor that appears to have been less successful than anticipated. Allwinner also recently introduced an octa-core Cortex-A7-based SoC, the A83T.

The new SoC supports H.265/H.264 decoding in hardware, and is compatible with various types of DDR memory (presumably in a single channel 32-bit configuration). 4K HDMI output is also listed.

MediaTek announces Android TV and wearable device SoC platforms

Outside of the mobile space, MediaTek (which has long being prominent in the digital television SoC space, both through its internal division and through MStar, which it acquired not too long ago), announced a new digital television SoC, MT5595, with support for Android TV.  Sony will be using the chip in new LCD TV models. The chip has a big.LITTLE-type CPU configuration with two Cortex-A17 cores and two Cortex-A7 cores, and has hardware support for HVEC (H.265) and VP9 for 4K2K content streaming at 60 frames per second. As shown by the MT6595 smartphone SoC, MediaTek's Cortex-A17 implementation can provide very high single-core CPU performance, which is probably helpful in providing good performance and response times on the Android TV platform.

MediaTek has also announced an optimized solution for wearable devices based on Google’s Android Wear software. The MT2601 is equipped with a dual-core Cortex-A7 CPU up to 1.2 GHz and a single-core Mali-400 MP GPU, with support for display resolutions up to qHD (960x540). In several respects, these specifications match those of MediaTek's existing low-cost MT6572 smartphone SoC. MediaTek is touting the small die size and power efficiency of the new chip. It can be paired with various external wireless connectivity chips including the recently introduced MT6630 for Bluetooth (MT6630 also integrates advanced WiFi, GPS and FM radio functionality).

Sources: CNX Software (Rockchip RK3368), CNX Software (Allwinner A64), MediaTek (MT5595 announcement), MediaTek (MT2601 announcement)

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