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SoC platform aims at low-cost CE apps

Posted: 01 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:rick merritt? ee times? asic? consumer? battery?

LSI Logic Corp. has launched a new ASIC platform targeting battery-driven consumer devices that cost less than $149. LSI hopes that Zevio will attract custom ASIC business, eventually leading the company to new application-specific standard products.

Zevio uses a stew of mature preverified intellectual-property blocks along with a new 3D graphics core to generate a flexible soc platform. It targets what LSI Logic sees as an underserved market of GPS systems, electronic toys and other handheld products.

"All our customers are excited about the explosion in portable devices," said Umesh Padval, executive VP of consumer products for LSI.

The consumer appliance market LSI is addressing represents as many as 300 million units per year today and is poised to rise to 400 million by 2009, according to market watcher iSuppli Corp. Dataquest estimates that the systems market will be worth as much as $7 billion in 2008.

LSI Logic partnered with three Japanese companies for sections of the processor platform.

Koto Co. Ltd, a group of former Nintendo Game Boy designers, helped develop the 3D graphics core. Access Co. Ltd provided both its MicroMore version of the MicroItron operating system and its NetFront Web browser. And Hi Corp. contributed its Mascot Capsule 3D application programming interface, which is used in many cellphones.

"We're moving up the food chain from complete silicon and reference designs to a full software stack," said Abhi Talwalkar, president and chief executive of LSI.

The Zevio architecture is essentially a flexible set of 10 or more cores connected by multimaster versions of ARM Ltd's Amba and Amba-peripheral buses, supporting 12 or more ports. Available cores include a 150MHz ARM9, LSI's 180-200MHz 16bit ZSP-400 digital signal processor, a 3D sound processor and the 3D graphics core developed by LSI and Koto. Devices can be made in any of LSI's foundries, which include Semiconductor Manufacturing International, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and United Microelectronics.

The 3D core can process 1.5 million polygons/second at 75MHz. It fits into 200,000 gates and consumes just 0.25mW per megahertz in a 130nm process technology. Koto's engineers, who helped design the core, are known in Japan as the developers of the Bandai WonderSwan handheld game player, which has sold as many as 5 million units.

LSI also has available for Zevio a 3D audio core supporting 64 voices. It can be implemented in less than 80,000 gates and consumes 0.05mW/MHz. The core is designed to operate at 24MHz, producing 44.1kHz, 16bit PCM audio samples.

Given its low-cost targets, the Zevio architecture does not support Ethernet. Its 16bit SDRAM controller has been optimized for high performance at low cost, keeping banks of external memory open for fast cache-like accesses.

Implemented in RTL, the Zevio architecture aims to let systems makers go from concept to prototype in about six months.

Media players next
LSI is developing a video decode core for Zevio that will support H.264, Windows Media Video and other codecs that will allow future versions of the architecture to power portable media players. The company is also exploring support for the Linux and Windows CE operating systems.

At least two customers have Zevio-based products in the works, which should ship in the second half of the year. LSI Logic anticipates it could roll out its first application-specific standard products based on Zevio in 2007.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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