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NEC, Renesas ready application processors

Posted: 10 Feb 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:processors? arm 926? 389mips? 216mhz? nec electronics?

NEC Electronics and Renesas Technology Corp. separately announced application processors aimed at the still-wide-open smart phone market.

NEC introduced its multicore application processor Tuesday (Feb. 8) at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, using three instantiations of the ARM 926 processor and a proprietary NEC "SPX" VLIW signal processing core.

Renesas said it has developed the SH-Mobile3A chip, based on an on-chip DSP and a SuperH RISC core that delivers 389MIPS at 216MHz. The Renesas product, the latest in a series of applications processors, begins sampling in April at a sample price of $48. The NEC co-processor is sampling now at a sample price of $50, and moves into volume production in the first half of 2006, an NEC spokesman said.

Masao Fukuma, vice president of research and development at NEC Corp., said NEC decided to use three ARM cores so that power consumption could be controlled by dividing the workload among them, and keeping frequencies for each core relatively low. The frequencies can be scaled back from 200MHz to as low as 12MHz.

One of the three cores can be dedicated to security, with the other two handling applications processing. NEC is developing dynamic frequency scaling technology, and a low-power, seven-transistor SRAM architecture, that will be applied to future versions of the MP211, Fukuma said. NEC Electronics is producing a 130nm version of the MP211 applications processor now, but will shift quickly to a 90nm version, he added.

With the market for TV-enabled phones and mobile handhelds expected to take off beginning this year, the Renesas co-processor supports a variety of digital TV broadcasting formats, including DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handheld) and DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) standards.

The SH-Mobile3A also has a built-in camera interface that supports resolutions up to 5 megapixels, and allows the captured images to be displayed on a television set, the company said.

Tom Starnes, the microprocessor and DSP analyst at Gartner-Dataquest, said the Omap co-processor from Texas Instruments, and the Xscale product line from Intel Corp., have gained early acceptance in the smart phone and PDA markets. But he said the market for smart phones is in its infancy, and noted that "a lot of companies are working now to develop smart cell phones" that can display broadcast video.

Starnes applauded NEC's decision to base its application processor on the ARM 926 core. "ARM rules big time in the handset market. The fact that NEC put three Arm cores on their offering, with a form of hierarchical control among them, is an unusual approach that may prove to have some advantages."

- David Lammers

EE Times

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