Intel dials in 45nm for TV chip gambit

TechOnline India - September 24, 2009

Intel Corp. formally announced its first 45nm system-on chip—the CE4100 or Sodaville--at the Intel Developer Forum, its second swing at a device aimed for TVs and other digital living room systems.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Intel Corp. formally announced its first 45nm system-on chip at the Intel Developer Forum Thursday (Sept. 24), its second swing at a device aimed for TVs and other digital living room systems. The CE 4100 aka Sodaville marks a significant stepwise upgrade in Intel's efforts to be part of the rapid evolution of digital TV.

"User experiences on the TV have been frozen for the last 10-15 years," said Erik Huggers, a BBC developer who created a novel Web player for the broadcaster's content, speaking in a video clip at an IDF keynote. "The TV can be a gateway to infinite choice" with the right Web links, he said.

"We need innovations in technology, user experience and business models" to deliver an Internet-enabled digital TV experience," said Eric Kim, general manager of Intel's digital home group, introducing the new chip.

The CE 4100 is a follow on to Intel's first SoC for TVs, the Canmore chip announced last year at IDF. The new chip replaces an 800 MHz Pentium M core with a 1.2 GHz Atom, increasing L2 cache from 256 to 512 Mbytes.

Eric Kim shows the 45nm Sodaville chip

Sodaville will dissipate between 7 and 9W, down from 9.8W for Canmore. But it will have about the same performance at an estimated 3600 Dhrystone Mips.

In terms of media, Sodaville adds a hardware accelerator block. It is capable of decoding two simultaneous MPEG2, H.264 or VC1 streams at 1920x1080-progessive pixel resolutions at 60 frames per second. It also has two 533 MHz audio DSPs.

High end versions of Sodaville bump graphics data rates to 400 MHz. They also have a 36-bit A/V in capability for passing through HDMI signals.

The chips boost serial ATA support from the 1.5 to 3.0 Gbit/s version. It also supports both supports DDR-2 and -3 memory and includes NOR and NAND flash controllers. It does not support PCI or Express, but uses two USB 2.0 connections as an expansion bus.


The Intel CE 4100 includes a 1.2 GHz Atom core and an optional 400 MHz graphics accelerator
Click on image to enlarge.

The chip fits in a 27x27mm package and runs a variant of Linux that will migrate over time to Intel's Moblin. Three ODMs will have reference four- and six-layer board designs available by the end of the year.

In one presentation, an Intel marketing engineer suggested the company will roll versions optimized for IPTVs, cable set-top boxes and other CE devices when it delivers 32nm versions sometime next year or later.

Kim said he has design wins both for Sodaville and last year's Canmore but can't name names because consumer OEMs don't like to pre-announce systems.

Malachy Moynihan, a video strategist from Cisco Systems, said the former Scientific Atlanta group is testing Sodaville chips but "we aren't ready to make any announcement yet." The Cisco set-top group develops its own Sparc-based SoCs and uses merchant processors from Broadcom and others.

{pagebreak}Separately Kim showed he is working on a software strategy of supporting multiple environments.

Intel announced it has about 15 new applications running on its Widget Channel co-developed with Yahoo. The apps include widgets from the Associated Press, Netflix and Showtime.

"We have a number of players writing widgets, but now what is clear is the need for a full applications development framework for TV," said Kim, showing Adobe Flash 10 running on a Canmore system.

Eric Kim, General Manager, Intel Digital Home Group

"Adobe Flash has the largest Internet development community behind it, and we believe Flash will play a key role in shaping the interactive TV experience," Kim said.

"I think it will be commonplace in the future for consumers to access third party applications on their living room TVs," said David Wadhwani, general manager of Adobe's platform business who joined Kim on the IDF stage.

Flash 10 will be available on Intel's chips before April.

Separately, startup Transgaming demonstrated a service it will deliver in partnership with service providers to bring PC games to Linux-based Canmore and Sodaville systems. The gametree.tv service will be available early next year.

"We are very intrigued with the ideas of running true PC games even though our architecture is running Linux," said Kim.

In a separate keynote, Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner talked about stereo 3DTV.

Mark Francisco, a chief technologist at Comcast, said Cable labs has lobbied the HDMI Licensing group to support the so-called over-and-under multiplexing spec. The spec let's cable broadcasters code into one virtual channel the left and right eye data needed for stereo 3D.

Rattner also hosted a demo of a novel stereo 3D technology for LCD TVs based on LCOS displays and laser optical light sources from startup HDI (Los Gatos, Calif.) shown in the video below.

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