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EETimes launches Editors’ Choice: Products of the Week

Editors' Choice

Welcome to the first of what is to be a weekly EETimes Editors' Choice product selections where we update you on what we consider to be the most outstanding products to come of out the minds of chip, component, board, module, development kit and software tool designers worldwide.

From a startup's renegade entrepreneur with a brilliant idea to dedicated field application engineers at the bleeding edge of customers' needs and next-generation design requirements, the devices and tools we will be highlighting in this roundup every week will pay homage to the engineers and designers behind them. In the process we will shine a spotlight on the best of the latest batch of products that we hope may turn out to be the solution you need for your next design challenge.

The Editors' Choice was born of frustration: As editors, we're in a unique position of being able to see dozens of new products cross our screens every week. Many of these make us stop in our tracks, for various reasons: the first instantiation of a new technology, the fastest processor, the lowest-power MCU, the smallest low-frequency inductor, a unique combination of all of the above. Or, it may just be plain 'cool'.

Whatever the reasons, we try and discuss it with the manufacturer and write it up for you to evaluate. The downside is that we, like you, are somewhat time constrained and see far too many of these ingenious devices go by without their due attention, but no more.

Every week, working with our products editor, Ismini Scouras, our team of editors will pull out one or two products that deserve extra attention. In some cases they may not have been able to write them up, but that does not mean they should go silently through. They deserve more than that. We'll provide you with our reasons for selecting them and links to more information. Below you'll see the products from this week that turned our heads.

We hope you enjoy this weekly addition to our editorial offerings. The Editors' Choice will also be featured in our weekly eeProductCenter newsletter. sign up here to make sure you get your copy every Friday.

As with all 'choices,' there will be opinions. Feel free to voice yours in the Comments box below. Maybe you tried the previous generation of these devices and it proved to live up to its promise—or not. Maybe the company's service and support let you down? Supply issues? Whatever your opinion may be, now's the time to voice it.

Best regards,
Patrick Mannion
Editorial Director, TechOnline

PROCESSORS

ARM preps tiny core for low-power microcontrollers

The hottest offering this week emerged from ARM, with its new Cortex-M0 processor core. According to Steve Bitton, technology analyst at TechInsights, “it's a good step in the right direction towards putting 32-bit processing capability into more low-power, size-limited designs.” He goes on to add, “at just 12,000 gates, and code compatibility with the popular Cortex-M3 core, ARM continues to make in-roads as the processor for low power microcontroller or mixed-signal devices.”

However, he notes that it's not a slam dunk for ARM, pointing out that it has strong competition against Microchip, Atmel, and Renesas in the small low power microcontroller space, and XAP and MIPS in the synthesizable core space. “But with the current ARM design ecosystem and familiarity, ARM will be tough to beat.”

Low-cost DaVinci does H.264 at 1080p

In the DSP space, both Kenton Williston of DSP Design Line and Cliff Roth of Video/Imaging Design Linecited TI's DaVinci TMS320DM365 processor, the first low-cost DaVinci processor to support H.264 encoding at 1080p. Williston said “the chip is cool not only because it can do 1080p, but it also has face recognition built in.” Roth pointed out that “TI hasn't just lowered the cost of DaVinci video and increased processor speed, it has also added connectivity that helps reduce space and power consumption in portable media devices and cameras, and lowers BOM.”

Apparently you all agreed: This story got the most views from you on www.eeproductcenter.com this week.

Gennum coax video interface delivers uncompressed HD for surveillance, industrial imaging applications

Roth also highlighted Gennus' Aviaa video interface. “Digital video is great, unless you've got infrastructure that's already built for analog. Gennum's new HD video interfaces bridges the gap, providing a way to transmit HD video over traditional coax cable,” he said. As a result, this enables surveillance and industrial video applications to upgrade to HD without the added expense of IP video, and without the compromises that compression requires, Roth added.

RF

Software speeds RF design

RF has seen much activity this week and several of our editors identified products in that sector. For starters, href=”http://www.rfdesignline.com”>RF Design Line editor, Janine Love, pointed to Agilent Technologies' SystemVue 2008.12, a new platform for electronic system-level (ESL) design that delivers modeling, design-flow improvements and baseband IP libraries that aim to cut months from physical layer (PHY) design time for high-performance communications algorithms and system architectures in both wireless and aerospace/defense applications.

“SystemVue aims to streamline radio design and make it easier to work on software defined radio solutions, an oft sought after, and challenging, goal. For those working on PHY design, it's worth a closer look,” Love said.

Point-to-point embedded 240-to-960 MHz RF link gets feature-rich TX/RX front end

And Planet Analog editor Bill Schweber said that for “its high integration and performance on both transmit and receive ends greatly improving link budget,” Silicon Labs' EZRadioPro family of RF chips deserves a closer look. The line provides extra link budget due to sensitive front end, higher power PA, despite ultra-low-power design, he said. It also includes internal functions, which significantly off-load the companion microcontroller (MCU) and minimize overhead.

ADI expands RF chip line

In the RF segment, I think it's hard to ignore Analog Devices' latest announcement. This week, the company rolled out five single-channel RF mixers, one of which covers the widest operating range of 10-MHz to 6000-MHz. Dubbed ADL5801, this mixer is suitable for both transmit and receive signal paths. It achieves 27-dBm IIP3 with 10-dB single sideband noise figure and provides a conversion power gain of 1.5 dB, reducing the need for an additional IF amplifiers.

What is unique to the ADL5801 is an on-chip input power detector that can be used to adjust the mixer bias. This adaptive bias feature allows for optimal high IP3 performance when presented with large unwanted interferers, often referred to as blocking signals. When blockers are no longer present, the ADL5801 automatically switches to a lower power operating mode, which is essential for high-dynamic range applications within satellite communications, wireless base stations, point-to-point radio links, instrumentation, and military equipment.

NETWORKING

Synchronous Ethernet ICs lower line card/central timing costs

Embedded.com editor Bernard Cole cited Zarlink's latest chips, which support the synchronous Ethernet (SynchE) protocol. Similar to the IEEE 1588 PTP clocking protocol, SynchE “enables a wide variety of network and Internet-connected devices in both wired and wireless environments to operate in much more real time, and more importantly, deterministic, manner, unlike the more probalistic Ethernet-TCP/IP, which are neither,” he said.

BOARDS

RadiSys unveils Pico-ITX board for portable devices

I believe that another product worth noting is RadiSys' latest Pico-ITX board for its size and design. Aimed at handheld and portable equipment, Procelerant PICOZ500 measures 100 mm x 72 mm. What is unique to this system is its I/O scheme: I/O signals are routed to headers rather than connectors. This feature provides a lower profile and gives users application-specific enclosure options, allowing customers to easily add and route I/O via cables.

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