Protocom overcomes portable constraints with hard-wired video SoC

Cupertino, Calif. — Protocom Technology Corp. sprung a full-duplex, hard-wired system-on-chip (SoC) audio/video solution today at the International Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES) in Las Vegas.

The GoldenREEL PR818S overcomes the low-bit rate, low power constraints of portable entertainment products such as digital camcorders, handheld personal video recorders (PVRs) and personal media players, said Isaac van Kempen, vice president of marketing at Protocom Technology.

The GoldenREEL PR818S codec and GoldenREEL PR828 encoder devices provide consumer OEMs full-range motion and higher resolution video for next-generation products, van Kempen said. Both the PR818S and PR828 are fabricated in .13 micron process technology and support the MPEG-4 Advanced Simple Profile (ASP) standard at up to NTSC/PAL (D1) resolutions.

“MPEG-2 compression by definition has limitations in video quality and frame-rates in portable products that result in a generally poor video experience for the user,” said Michelle Abraham, senior analyst at InStat/MDR (Scottsdale, Ariz.). “The growing expectation for quality digital video display within cell phones, personal media players and other mobile products will benefit from the introduction of Protocom's hard-wired implementation of MPEG-4 ASP video compression solution.”

Two years ago, also at CES, Protocom introduced the PR818A, the predecessor to the PR818S. This device was much different than the newer one in that it was a video only codec, without audio, van Kempen said. Furthermore, there was no embedded microprocessor and it was a different concept in silicon, he said. The PR818A, debuting today, was developed using a .18 micron CMOS process, instead of the .13 process.

Protocom went back to the drawing board for the PR818S to reduce power consumption and cost through optimization, van Kempen said. The newer CMOS process enabled lower power consumption (400 mW, versus 750 mW), more integration, and a 40% less cost difference, he said.

There is a pretty sizeable difference (50% reduction) in the actual die area size when you go from shrinking the die from .18 micron to .13 micron, as well as a difference in package size, van Kempen said. The package size for the PR818A was 16.5mm x 16.5 mm 380 BGA, compared to the new package size of 14mm x 14mm, also offered in a 380 BGA package.

The GoldenREEL PR818S is the industry's first single-chip full-duplex, hard-wired MPEG-4 silicon codec with ASP, according to van Kempen. The PR818S supports full frame rates of 30 frames-per-second with up to D1 resolution, adaptive differential pulse code modulation (ADPCM) audio and full transcoding capabilities to and from MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 (as well as other transcoding options.)

Protocom's MPEG-4 ASP solution is a significant advancement over current MPEG-4 Simple Profile (SP) solutions now on the market, van Kempen said. The integrated ARM922T core within the PR818S eliminates the need for a system host processor and provides system flexibility via firmware supporting various audio formats such as MP3, AAC and WMA.

“One benefit of providing a hardwired device, which is actual silicon in gate form so it isn't running any software, is a reduced clock rate that is proportional to power consumption (27 MHz),” van Kempen said. “Also, hardwired implementations can perform parallel tasks compared to dedicated softwire (S/W) tasks — and decoding is at least ten times simpler than encoding,” he added.

In addition to the PR818S codec, which is designed for use in digital video recorders (DVRs), PVRs and video/voice-over-Internet Protocol (V2oIP), Protocom is announcing the GoldenREEL PR828 encoder-only device. “By removing the decoder function, we can now reduce the cost by $3 when there is only an encoder requirement,” van Kempen said.

The PR828 encoder is designed for applications such as security/wireless and IP cameras. The PR828 provides a hard-wired encoder that is practical for products where PC/host decoding is preferred.

Protocom is also offering a universal engineering development platform, EMERGE, that is based on the GoldenREEL PR818S and provides the OEM developer significant savings in time-to-market and product creation. Emerge is a hardware platform solution that includes the PR818S as well as other semiconductor components from Philips, Micron and others.

Samples of the Protocom GoldenREEL PR818S and PR828 are available now. Production volume is expected by the end of this quarter.

The Protocom GoldenREEL PR818S full codec is priced at $22 in 100,000 pieces, and the Protocom GoldenREEL PR828 encoder is $19 in the same quantities.

Click here Protocom’s GoldenREEL data sheets.

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