PORTLAND, Ore.—Freescale Semiconductor Inc. claims to be the first chip maker to offer quad-core processors for high-end consumer electronic devices, including recording/playback of 3D video, augmented reality, mobile gaming and driver-information systems. The company's new i.MX6 series offers three price/performance levels with one-, two- and four-core models, allowing original equipment manufacturers to design once, but deploy many models.
"We are the only processor manufacturer who has a multi-core platform available in three flavors, one-, two- or four-cores," said Glen Burchers, Freescale's marketing director for the consumer segment. "By offering single-, dual- and quad-core processors, OEMs can do the software one time and spin out three different products at the good, better and best segmentation levels."
Freescale is already targeting e-readers, shipments of which were projected to top 11.5 million units in 2010 and rise to 35 million by 2014 according to In-Stat LLC (Scottsdale, Ariz.). Touchscreen tablets, according to In-Stat, will likewise rise from 13.7 million units in 2010 to over 58 million in 2014. Freescale claims its new i.MX6 offers these OEMs a five-fold speedup over its current generation of i.MX processors that already power the lion's share of the e-reader and touchscreen-tablet markets.
"Freescale processors now power 11 Android-based shipping tablets and we will be showing a total of 23 tablets at CES," said Burchers. "And that is in addition to our leadership in e-readers, where we supply the processors for the first, third and fourth most popular e-readers—the only one we are not in is the Barnes and Noble [Nook]," said Burchers.
The i.MX6 dual and quad versions also include three separate graphics cores—a 3-D core, a 2-D core and a bit-blip engine to off-load the 3-D graphics core for gaming apps. Both high-end processors can handle simultaneous playback and recording of 1080p stereoscopic 3-D video, as well as the tactical overlays required for augmented reality apps. Complex augmented reality apps can dedicate one core to location calculations, one to processing live video and a third to overlaying the tactical information on the live video feed.
All i.MX6 models use the latest ARM Cortex-A9 cores running at over 1GHz using a system-on-chip platform with common software and development tool compatibility, integrated power management, integrated I/O and pin compatibility within previous i.MX processors. Freescale claims that the ultra-low-power of its i.MX6 will allow mobile consumer electronic devices to extend their battery power for up to 24 hours of HD video playback or 30-plus days of standby power.