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9/24/2010
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Marvell Unveils Triple Core ARM Processor

The Armada 628 is aimed at smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices that require low-power application processing.

Marvell has introduced a triple-core ARM processor for smartphones and tablet computers that the company claims has the horsepower to drive full high-definition 3D video while maintaining long battery life.

The Armada 628, unveiled Thursday, is a 1.5 GHz application processor that comprises three Marvell-designed CPU cores running the ARM instruction set licensed from the U.K. chip-design company of the same name. The low-power demands of ARM-based processors have made them the favorite of mobile phone makers worldwide.

While low power remains a key criterion, makers of smartphones and mobile devices are also looking for more processing power, as people increasingly use the devices to drive applications downloaded from the web. Marvell's latest processor is the company's attempt to meet both demands.

The Armada 628 can deliver dual-stream 1080p 3D video and graphics, Marvell said. At the same time, the processor can play more than 10 hours of full high-definition video or 140 hours of music on a single battery charge, while providing 3 GHz of computational power.

The Armada 628, which features 1 MB of system level 2 cache, incorporates a number of Marvell's most advanced processing and power management features. The tri-core design integrates two 1.5 GHz symmetric multiprocessing cores and a third 624 MHz core optimized for low power, the company says.

The third core is designed to support routine computing tasks and acts as a management processor by handing over bigger workloads to the other two cores. The overall design of the Armada 628, according to Marvell, delivers PC-class performance without crossing the power restrictions of smartphones and tablets.

"The architecture is analogous to a hybrid muscle car," the company said in a statement. "The ARMADA 628 is intended to perform like a race car engine on demand, while still delivering the frugal gas-mileage of a hybrid automobile."

The new tri-core processor is the anchor component of a system-on-chip design that comprises six other processing engines to support 3D graphics, 1080p video encode/decode, high-fidelity audio, advanced cryptography and digital photo processing.

The Armada 628 supports USB 3.0 connectors, which can transfer data between devices at speeds 10 times faster than the USB 2.0 standard. The processor supports LP-DDR2 or DDR3 system memory up to 533 MHz and includes a display controller capable of driving two displays simultaneously.

Standard support important for playing mobile games include DirectX, Open GL ES 2.0 and Open VG 1.1.

The Armada 628 supports several mobile operating systems, including Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Google's Android, Linux and Windows Mobile. The processor also supports Adobe Flash and the HDMI standard for connectors to play content on a digital TV or other consumer electronics.

Marvell did not name any hardware vendors planning to release products incorporating the new chip. The company said the Armada 628 is available for sampling to manufacturers.

Marvell and other makers of ARM processor continue to push the envelope with the technology, as Intel moves aggressively to drive its x86 Atom processors in computing devices smaller than netbooks, most of which use Intel's low-power processor. To date, however, Intel has yet to make a dent in the smartphone market, with the tablet computer market too young to tell who will become the dominant player.

Marvell competitors include Qualcomm and Samsung.

FURTHER READING:

Marvell Debuts Passive Optical Network Chips

Microsoft, ARM Expand Licensing Agreement

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