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Transmitter ICs enable PC's shift to HDMI

Posted: 01 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RapidIO? serial buffer? Pre-Processing Switch? data sample processing? parallel DSP?

While enjoying rapid adoption in the consumer electronics market, the high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) is now starting to be incorporated into more PCs, enabling consumers to transmit high-quality digital A/V content, such as high-definition movies from HD-DVD or Blu-ray disc drives to HDTVs and other displays.

Hoping to spur further PC adoption, chipmaker Silicon Image Inc. rolled out a pair of VastLane HDMI transmitters that provide a single-chip solution for enabling PC manufacturers to drive digital output to PC monitors and HDTVs.

According to Silicon Image, the VastLane SiI1392-3 and VastLane SiI1932-3 offer performance of up to 340MHz, more than double the speed of the company's first-generation VastLane HDMI transmitters. The newest parts can support monitor resolutions including quad-extended graphics arrays of 2,560-by-1,600pixelsfeatured on Apple's 30-inch Cinema Displayor HDTV resolutions of up to 1440p (2,560-by-1,440pixels), according to the company. The products are capable of driving any of the biggest, highest-resolution PC monitors on the market with a single-link solution, the supplier said.

Brad Garofalo, product-marketing manager for PC products at Silicon Image, said the VastLane SiI1392-3 and SiI1932-3 are available at the same price point as their predecessors, but include advances like hardwired functionality that typically requires a separate discrete MCU and discrete transmitters directly into the devices' firmware, making them easier and less costly to implement. "These products allow a board designer or motherboard designer to place HDMI into their product at a very low price point," Garofalo said.

The additional speed offered by the next-generation devices is critical to driving high-end PC displays with a single-link solution, he said. To drive PC monitors like the Apple Cinema Display requires far greater performance than to drive even the most advanced HDTVs, he said.

Currently, vendors drive the high-end PC monitors via a dual-link application. With that approach, PC makers must "incorporate two interfacesa single link for low-end monitors and a dual link for high-end monitors," Garofalo said. The new VastLane parts, he said, enable a single interface to cover both ends of the spectrum. "If you can drive a 30-inch Apple Cinema Display at 10bit, that's got to be the bleeding edge for years to come," he said.

HDMI is backward-compatible with the Digital Visual Interface (DVI), enabling the VastLane SiI1392-3 and SiI1932-3 to tap into the large installed base of PC monitors with DVI inputs. According to In-Stat, that number will hit 106 million units this year, while the estimated installed base of HDTVs with HDMI inputs will reach 44 million.

The VastLane SiI1932-3 supports a transition-minimized differential-signaling input interface from discrete graphics-processing units. The SiI1392-3 supports Intel's SDVO interface with integrated graphics controller chipsets. PCs integrating the transmitters can be designed to meet Windows Vista Premium requirements and to comply with the latest high-bandwidth digital content protection 1.2 specification, according to Silicon Image.

HDMI transmitters' 340MHz speed gives twice the performance for PC monitors.

Garofalo said he was told by one PC manufacturer customer earlier last year that an HDMI interface was considered to be a high-end feature not long ago, but that it's now become a "checkoff" item. Garofalo said the new VastLane parts already have about 10 design wins, and that the company has already shipped thousands of samples.

The VastLane SiI1392-3 and SiI1932-3 are packaged as 64-pin lead-free QFPs and are currently available for sampling. Specific pricing information was not disclosed.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times




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