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Nvidia adds 3-D engine to wireless processor

Posted: 23 Sep 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nvidia? 3-d core? goforce? wireless media processor? nokia?

Building on its experience as a provider of graphics processors for gaming systems, Nvidia Corp. has added a 3-D core to its GoForce wireless media processor line, giving designers an ability to add gaming capabilities to mobile phones and other handheld systems.

Since Nokia unveiled its N-Gage mobile-gaming platform in 2003, the wireless sector has been buzzing over the prospects of what mobile gaming will bring to the industry. That buzz intensified at the CTIA Wireless show in March, when Qualcomm Inc. said it would embed a 3-D graphics core from ATI Technologies Inc. into an upcoming baseband processor design.

While Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and other baseband-processing players investigate embedded cores, most designers are still relying on dedicated application processors to handle multimedia tasks. To date, most have used ARM7- or ARM9-based devices to handle certain media-processing tasks in software, while dedicated hardware acceleration blocks handle more complex tasks. Nvidia is taking a different approach with its GoForce family, however, by blending a set of dedicated hardwired cores and memory into an ASIC design, with the cores handling tasks like MPEG-4 encoding and decoding.

"Our chip is really a self-contained device," said Stuart Bonnema, technical-marketing manager for handhelds at Nvidia. "There's a lot we can do without leaving the chip."

The GoForce 4500 can do a bit more than earlier processors, as it combines a 3-D graphics core, dubbed Early Z, with other cores found in earlier GoForce designs. It contains a geometry processor that performs complex transform and setup calculations. The Early Z core optimizes graphics processing and related power consumption in a mobile device by identifying nonvisible sections of an image framesuch as a body hidden behind a treeand discarding them.

The GoForce 4500 also provides programmable shader technology, a 40bit color pipeline and multitexture support. The programmable shader technology allows developers to create complex scenes, while the 40bit pipeline provides colors to use to develop a scene. The multitexture support, on the other hand, gives developers an ability to apply up to four textures per pixel, thus allowing images to be rendered more efficiently to reduce power consumption, the company said.

In addition to the graphics engine, the GoForce 4500 comes with MPEG-4 and H.263 codecs, a JPEG core, a 64bit 2-D graphics engine, support for removable storage devices, an 8x digital zoom capability and 1,280KB of embedded 128bit SRAM.

Low in power

The device is also developed around Nvidia's nPower technology, which allows designers to implement techniques like dynamic clock gating to reduce overall system power. Through the dedicated hardware blocks and nPower, Bonnema said the chip will consume less than 30mW when performing MPEG-4-quality encoding.

The GoForce 4500 was developed in a low-leakage 0.15?m process and is delivered in a 12-by-12mm 168-pin BGA package. The chip is generally sampling now. Nvidia said it will be used by Gizmondo Europe Ltd in a handheld gaming platform that is expected to hit the market in the fourth quarter.

- Robert Keenan

EE Times

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