Freescale i.MX 6: up to 1.2GHz quadcore chips for tablets/smartphones

Jan 3, 2011
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Freescale i.MX 6: up to 1.2GHz quadcore chips for tablets/smartphones

Manufacturers often get criticized for showing off new hardware at CES and then not shipping it for months, but new chips are even more frustrating; they can take a year or two to go from fanfare to retail. Freescale is whetting our appetite with the new i.MX 6 series, a range of single, dual and quad core application processors based on up to four ARM Cortex A9 cores, each motoring along at up to 1.2GHz. The company reckons the single-core i.MX 6Solo, dual-core i.MX 6Dual and quad-core i.MX 6Quad are up to five times as fast as the current-gen chips.

That's good enough to support 1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode and 3D video playback in HD, and twin cameras for 3D stereoscopic recording. Freescale has also used separate 2D and vertex acceleration engines, so that the UI is rendered independently and thus won't slow down when the system is loaded. Connectivity support includes HDMI 1.4, USB 2.0, gigabit ethernet, and more.

An optional e-paper display controller make the i.MX 6 series suitable for ereader duties, and Freescale is targeting the new chips at smartphones, tablets and in-car systems. Sampling will begin later in 2011, which means it's likely to be 2012 before we see commercial products using the i.MX 6 series.

Press Release:

Freescale delivers dramatic performance advances for tablet, smartphone, eReader, automotive infotainment and other hot consumer markets

Compatible i.MX 6 series scales from one to four cores and raises the bar with a new portfolio of high-performance, low-power multicore processors

AUSTIN, Texas – Jan. 3, 2011 – Freescale Semiconductor introduces the i.MX 6 series of quad-, dual- and single-core applications processors designed to deliver outstanding performance and scalability to manufacturers targeting the hottest selling smart mobile, automotive infotainment and embedded device categories.

Integrating one, two or four ARM® Cortex™-A9 cores running at up to 1.2 GHz each, the i.MX 6 series delivers up to five times the performance of Freescale’s current generation of applications processors. This performance provides additional headroom for unbounded user experiences in next-generation tablets, eReaders, smartphones, automotive infotainment systems and other exciting consumer and automotive products.

Potential applications include mobile devices featuring 3D video playback, desktop-quality gaming, augmented reality applications and content creation capabilities – all delivered in ultra-sleek form factors and with significant battery life advantages over many of today’s most popular mobile devices.

“Our i.MX 6 series offers consumers the novel and uncompromised online experiences they demand from next-generation connected consumer electronic products,” said Bernd Lienhard, vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Multimedia Applications Division. “Low power, cost efficiency, enormous processing headroom and unmatched compatibility are at the heart of the i.MX 6 series.”

The i.MX 6 series targets several of the fastest-growing application spaces in the consumer market. According to industry analyst firm In-Stat, standalone eReader shipments will grow from 11.5 million units by the end of 2010 to 35 million in 2014, while the firm’s forecast for mobile Internet tablets projects shipments to reach approximately 58 million in 2014, up from 13.7 million in 2010.

Scalability across single-, dual- and quad-core products is a hallmark of the i.MX 6 series. Common SoC IP building blocks enable series-wide software and development tool compatibility, while integrated power management capabilities, a broad range of integrated I/Os, and pin compatibility within package families reduce overall product complexity and development costs. Coupled with planned support for consumer, auto and industrial temperature requirements, the i.MX series offers OEMs fast time-to-value, enabling the rapid creation of complete end-product portfolios that can adjust and scale to meet evolving market demands and requirements.

“With the i.MX 6 series, Freescale offers the broadest and highest performance family of products based on ARM® Cortex™-A9 technology of any vendor in the mobile processor segment,” said Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat. “The i.MX 6 family provides OEMs with a power-efficient, scalable, and software-compatible solution that meets the demands of a wide range of consumer and embedded applications.”

Continuing to build on its advanced low-power design expertise, Freescale’s i.MX 6 series features industry-leading power consumption for demanding applications such as HD 1080p video playback. The i.MX 6 series can deliver up to 24 hours of HD video playback and 30-plus days of device standby time. Integrated power management capabilities reduce the need for external PMICs and help to ensure only those components required for a task are powered.

The i.MX 6 series is distinguished further by being one of the first applications processors to offer hardware support for the VP8 codec. "By incorporating VP8 compression technology into its advanced new i.MX 6 series of applications processors, Freescale is setting the pace for the consumer industry," said Jani Huoponen, hardware product manager for the WebM Project. "This hardware-based VP8 implementation gives Freescale customers the benefits of fully accelerated WebM support and outstanding performance."

The product series is comprised of the single-core i.MX 6Solo, dual-core i.MX 6Dual and quad-core i.MX 6Quad processors. Key technical features of the series include:

Industry-leading four-core design
Up to four ARM® Cortex™-A9 cores running at up to 1.2 GHz per core
Up to 1 MB system level 2 cache
ARMv7, Neon, VFPv3 and Trustzone support
Multistream-capable HD video engine delivering 1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode and 3D video playback in HD
Exceptional 3D graphics performance with quad shaders for up to 200 MTPS
Separate 2D and vertex acceleration engines for uncompromised user interface experiences
Stereoscopic image sensor support for 3D imaging
Interconnect: HDMI v1.4 w/ integrated PHY, SD3.0, multiple USB 2.0 ports w/ integrated PHY, Gb Ethernet w/ integrated PHY, SATA-II w/ integrated PHY, PCI-e w/ integrated PHY, MIPI CSI, MIPI DSI, MIPI HSI, and FlexCAN for automotive applications
Support for the VP8 codec
Support for one of the broadest ranges of major operating system platforms in the industry
Optional integration of an ePaper display controller for eReader and similar applications
Availability
Freescale plans to begin sampling i.MX 6 series devices later this year. Easy-to-use solutions come with complete reference designs, software and turnkey development technologies that simplify design. For more information about the i.MX 6 series, please visit www.freescale.com/imx .


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