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Snapdragon move over.. We might hear much more of this company

September 24th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Coming to a smartphone or tablet near you… It can deliver dual stream, 1080p 3D video on mobile devices without expensing much battery life. In fact, an Armada-equipped smartphone would be able to play 10 hours straight of 1080p HD video or 140 hours of music on a single charge. Pretty impressive stuff…
Any company who can achieve that is worth a look. The company is Marvell Technology Group (MRVL), it’s the company that supplies the chips for the Blackberry.

Marvell Unleashes 1.5 GHz Triple-Core Mobile Processor
Mark Kurlyandchik – September 23, 2010 8:03 AM

Because three chips are better than two

While dual-core smartphones have been touted as the wave of the near-future by companies like Samsung and LG, chip manufacturer Marvell has leapfrogged the others with the announcement of the world’s first tri-core processor.

The Armada 628 is an “ultra-low power, ultra-high performance” 1.5 GHz three-core processor that is the “first to feature 3D graphics performance with quad unified shaders for 200 million triangles per second delivered on mobile devices,” Marvell announced in a press release this morning.

The holy trinity of the Armada is made of two symmetric multiprocessing cores with a third, ultra low-power core that is designed for routine tasks. The third core acts as a system manager “to monitor and dynamically scale power and performance.”

The Armada 628 is also the first to incorporate a System-on-a-Chip (SoC) design with three ARM cores and six additional processing engines, totaling nine dedicated core functions. It can deliver dual stream, 1080p 3D video on mobile devices without expensing much battery life. In fact, an Armada-equipped smartphone would be able to play 10 hours straight of 1080p HD video or 140 hours of music on a single charge.

“Marvell’s groundbreaking tri-core architecture is a unique solution to a long-time problem—how to achieve enterprise performance without breaking the limited power budget of smartphones, tablets and other mobile consumer devices,” said analyst Linley Gwennap in the press release.

Some other key features of the Armada 628:

  • Up to 1.5 GHz for the two main cores and 624 MHz for the third low power core
  • “Heterogeneous multiprocessing” with “hardware-based Cache Coherence”
  • 1 MB System Level 2 Cache
  • Platform leading multimedia capabilities, including support for both WMMX2 and NEON acceleration; and a highly optimized pipelined VFPv3 floating point engine
  • High performance, integrated image signal processor (ISP)
  • Ability to project images on multiple simultaneous displays
  • 2 LCDs
  • 1 HDMI
  • 1 advanced EPD controller
  • Peripherals support: USB 3.0 Superspeed Client, MIPI CSI, MIPI DSI, HDMI with integrated PHY, UniPro, Slimbus, SPMI

The Armada 628 will also be the first mobile CPU to offer USB 3.0. It is compatible with RIM OS, Android, Linux, Windows Mobile, and full Adobe Flash. The CPU is currently available for sampling to customers. No word yet on when we can expect it to power smartphones or netbooks in the U.S. market.

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We have to say that this is hugely impressive, on paper. Not even Intel chips support USB3.0 yet, for instance. Could they take on the established mobile chip makers (or designers, as ARM doesn’t produce its own chips) Qualcomms, the Samsungs and ARM’s of this world? 

If they can, they arrive at exactly the right time, with the smartphone, and tablet markets exploding (demand for flash memory is expected to fourfold on these, for instance!)

Analysts have guessed their earnings pretty accurately, so we can take their $1.62 for next year (99c this year) with some degree of comfort.

It hasn’t really been going anywhere this year:

Some more interesting stuff:

More interesting is that the 3 year chart also shows little progress. Of course this is largely due to the recession (depression?), but not such a surprise as in 2007 it was still loss making and their main business (systems on a chip, or SoC, for the harddisk market is a rather mature market).

Still, we think that with chips like the Armada featured in the article above, this company could very well be set for more exciting times. We have to wait a little to see the acceptance of the Armada, but you have to keep in mind this is no start-up, but an established company with serious customers. That usually helps acceptance of what seems to be leapfrog technology like the Armada.


Tags: MRVL

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Roger // Sep 24, 2010 at 4:20 am

    Interesting

  • 2 admin // Sep 24, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Yes, Roger, that was our first reaction as well. And our second..