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HDTV-on-a-chip promises simpler system

Posted: 13 Dec 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Broadcom? HDTV chip? HDTV IC? TV-on-a-chip? TV IC?

Broadcom Corp. announced a "television-on-a-chip" which it touts as the first digital HDTV silicon solution to support full 1,080-progressive display resolution.

The BCM3563, Broadcom's first digital TV chip built with 65nm process technology, features two National Television Systems Committee/PAL video decoders, each supported by its own 3-D comb filter and motion-adaptive deinterlacing capability. The part also integrates video-processing functions for noise reduction, sharpness, dynamic contrast and color control, according to Broadcom.

Stuart Thomson, director of marketing for digital TV products, said the company set out not only to create a device that supports 1,080p, but that also integrates much of the functionality that customers preparing DTV implementations were putting around the BCM3563's predecessor, the BCM3560. The approach is intended to save customers cost--not necessarily on the chip itself, but in the entire digital TV design.

"We've stepped up the level of integration," Thomson said. "In the end, that's one of Broadcom's areas of expertise."

This integration, he said, enables the BCM3563's biggest value proposition: simplicity. Integrating so much functionality in a single chip simplifies overall system design, resulting in fewer chips, which in turn enables manufacturing benefits that arise from placing fewer components, Thomson said. "It doesn't get a whole lot simpler than this."

Thomson cited as examples support for picture-in-picture and the comparatively more recent picture-by-picture display modes. When picture-in-picture first became a popular feature on TVs, he said, users would typically watch secondary programming on a much smaller screen inset within the primary viewing area. Video quality was not an issue on the second screen, he said. But as TVs and displays have gotten larger, people often watch two sporting events or other programs simultaneously side by side, and video quality of both is critical, Thomson said. Thus, Broadcom designed the BCM3563 to support that usage model.

The BCM3563 is compatible with the NTSC analog standard, the North American digital terrestrial or Advanced Television Committee (ATSC) digital standard and the digital cable television standard, Broadcom said. In addition to the NTSC/ PAL demodulators, the chip features integrated ATSC and quadrature amplitude modulation demodulators.

The BCM3563 also supports capabilities such as integrated dual-link, low-voltage differential-signaling transmitters. The part supports direct PC input with auto phase and mode detection and dual component, three S-video, one RGB and five CVBS inputs. Additionally, the device boasts support for two 1,080p, 60-frame/ second HDMI and audio, including a five-band audio equalizer, independent audio output controls for analog and digital outputs, and several audio decoders, the company said.

Thomson said designers who are familiar with BCM3560 will likely feel comfortable with the BCM3563. "We've maintained a lot of similarities in the overall architecture," he said.

Full high-definition 1,080p is considered the highest-quality video display standard for HDTV, offering a display resolution of 1,920 by 1,080, or more than 2 million pixels. Electronics companies are deploying 1,080p in HD televisions, DVD players and videogaming consoles, such as the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 3. But the technology is still in its early stages; retail prices for 1,080p HDTVs remain high, and there is a dearth of content available that can take advantage of the increased resolution.

According to Thomson, the situation is expected to change within the coming year. Many early adopters will be purchasing 1,080p TVs this holiday season, and 1,080p is poised to go mainstream, he said. "Early adopters will say you've got to have it now, but if you go into Wal-Mart, you won't find that many 1,080p-capable sets," he said. "A year from now, it's going to be a very different situation."

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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