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DTV SoCs allow versatile connectivity design system

Posted: 19 Sep 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DTV SoC? cable connection? digital video?

Broadcom Corp. has released a pair of SoC devices for the U.S. DTV market that include multiformat decoding, Ethernet network connectivity, a 3D GUI, and 3D color management.

The chips, BCM3548 and BCM3549, have expandable design capabilities from entry-level to high-end, helping TV makers to enhance the DTV from a commodity display device to a differentiated, connected entertainment system, according to Broadcom.

Stuart Thomson, senior director of marketing for DTV, Broadcom, said the chips leverage Broadcom's legacy of offering chips for digital cable and satellite STBs, as well as Blu-ray disc players. The new chips are similar to the design of the Broadcom BCM3556 DTV chip, introduced last month, which supports digital video broadcast-based platforms to address European and Asian markets.

"From a processing standpoint, the designs are very similar," Thomson said. "The real difference is at the front end, particularly the type of demodulation used," he added.

Thomson noted that Broadcom is currently focusing on creating the TV as part of the connected home, enabling customers to access content from the Internet. "To accomplish that, you need the connectivity," he stressed.

The BCM3548 and BCM3549 include home network connectivity via integrated Ethernet MAC and PHY capabilities that help users to connect with multiple home networking devices, according to the company.

Viewing comfortably
While Thomson said he believes that in some ways, "the whole war of the living room and who dominates was overplayed," he said consumers would continue to demand the ability to watch videos from Websites like YouTube on their TV sets. "Why would I want to go to my den to watch this on a 19-inch screen?"

Thomson recognized that the low-bit video that proliferates on the Internet will never look perfect on today's large, high-end TV screens.

"The truth is that it's difficult," Thomson said. "If the information isn't there in the first place, it's difficult to make it up. You can do some smart things by interpolating what data is available, but you are never going to make HD out of something that you shot with an SD camera and then it got compressed three times before it got to the screen."

Thomson noted that the quality of many videos in the Internet is improving, thanks to professionally produced videos created specifically for sites like YouTube and the proliferation of HD video cameras among consumers.

According to Broadcom, the BCM3548, BCM3549 and BCM3556 offer advanced multiformat decoding in support of HD advanced video coding, H.264, VC-1, audio video standard and MPEG-2 streams.

"Each chip also integrates features that let TV vendors to create differentiated products, including a 3D graphics core that provides consumers with a GUI for flipping, rotating, moving or manipulating images," Broadcom said.

"The chip also has a high-powered CPU with a MIPS dual core processor to provide consumers with a fast and responsive 3D GUI and allow TV manufacturers to add additional compute-intensive applications," Broadcom said.

According to Thomson, the CPUs offer about 1,100 Dhrystone MIPS. "That power is there to run the chip and run the applications that our customers would put on top of it," he said. "When you start adding additional functionality, performance is always a concern," he added.

"The BCM3548 supports WXGA display resolutions, while the BCM3549 supports the full 1080p HD resolution," Broadcom said. Each integrates a 3D color management system, as well as digital, analog and mosquito noise reduction, it added.

Both devices integrate an advanced picture enhancement processor to improve picture sharpness and perform picture post-processing functions, the company noted. "The PEP engine is programmable and can be optimized by TV manufacturers to meet their respective quality requirements," it noted.

The BCM3548 and BCM3549 are now sampling to early access customers, Broadcom said.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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