The Allwinner A31, capable of decoding 4Kx2K video, is based on ARM Cortex-A7 CPU architecture and Imagination’s PowerVR SGX544 MP2 GPU. Xue explained that it’s the only quad-core chipset in the market that drives Retina display smoothly.
As for the A31s, Allwinner claims it is “the world’s first quad-core Cortex-A7 SoC designed specifically for phablets -- a cross between a phone and tablet.” The apps processor integrates a quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU with a fifth power-saving standby core. It includes PowerVR, a proprietary camera ISP with enhanced image quality and rapid image capture, and a custom low-power companion power-management IC designed specifically for this apps processor.
According to Allwinner, its highly-integrated custom low-power companion PMU, dubbed AXP221s, “provides 2.2A rapid charging capability, precise up to 1 percent power level detection, and a 21-channel, highly-efficient power-supply management system optimized for multi-core architectures.”
The Allwinner A20 SoC is based on a dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU and dual-core Mali 400 GPU. “This is essentially a replacement for our single-core apps processor,” said Xue. Designed as pin-compatible with Allwinner’s predecessor single-core A10, A20 is cost effective and it will simplify many OEMs/ODMs’ product design process, he added.
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Allwinner A31 block diagram
Of the estimated 55 million Chinese tablets shipped in 2012, Allwinner is believed to have shipped 27.5 million units of applications processors, followed by Rockchip at 10.5 million units and Via Technologies’ 5.2 million units.
The next logical question for Allwinner and all other Chinese apps processor vendors today is how long they think they can hang onto their standalone apps processor business without integrating baseband features into their chips.
Xue made it clear that Allwinner has a two-prong strategy. “We plan to pursue both -- combined baseband/apps processors and standalone apps processors.”
However, he also made the case for standalone apps processors, which will always survive in products such as gaming, imaging and communication connectivity apps. Further, he added, “As the world moves to LTE and LTE-Advanced, we believe that multimedia functions become even more important than before, and people want advanced standalone apps processors.”
How does Allwinner plan to get the baseband technology, then? To develop baseband chips on its own would require a significant investment. “Most likely, we’ll be licensing baseband IPs,” said Xue, who stopped short of naming a provider.
Allwinner is planning to spread its wings soon -- beyond tablets. The company is looking at three distinct markets in which to grow: the mobile Internet (including both tablets and smartphones), the home (multimedia TVs and smart TVs) and automotive.
The company’s latest A31, for example, can be applied in the tablet, smartphone and smart TV fields.
As for the home, Xue explained: “For us, it’s easier to get into the set-top business, rather than large-screen TV.” Such a set-top box will be used to receive “Over-The-Top” content -- broadband delivery of video and audio without the involvement of cable or satellite operators.
Allwinner also holds high hopes for the automotive market. Xue described automotive as increasingly “a center of wireless communication,” where his company needs to be.