STMicroelectronics: 720p MPEG-4 & AMD Mini-Xenos

Tuesday 12th February 2008, 11:30:00 PM, written by Arun

Also at the Mobile World Congress, STMicroelectronics announced a new chip capable of 720p MPEG-4 SP video and featuring AMD's next-generation OpenGL ES 2.0 GPU (the Z460), sometimes referred to as 'mini-Xenos' due to its Xbox360 heritage.

This chip is known as the STn8820, and it's sampling today with mass production starting in Q4 2008. It also seems to be the first chip based on the mini-Xenos. Here's a concise version of the chip's specifications, in the same style as in our NVIDIA APX article to simplify comparison:

• ARM11 CPU @ 528MHz, Single-Core.
• AMD OpenGL ES 2.0 GPU with OpenVG 1.1 Acceleration.
• 720p MPEG-4 Simple Profile Encode/Decode.
• D1 H.264 Baseline/MPEG-2/VC-1/DivX Encode/Decode.
• 8MPixels Camera Sensor support with Smart Imaging Accelerator.
• Dedicated hardware blocks for Audio & JPEG.
• Display interfaces for STN/TFT/Smart panels.

Overall, this seems very competitive with the latest high-end application processors from Texas Instruments and NVIDIA. It does feel slightly lower-end to us (lower ARM11 clocks, no support for 720p H.264, etc.) but that's not necessarily bad as long as it's positioned properly and power consumption is low enough.

The 3D cores in these various chips are obviously impossible to compare as no information about performance or power efficiency has been released so far for any of them. The STn8820's GPU does have one small but noteworthy advantage though: it sports a native accelerator for OpenVG 1.1, whereas the others presumably do that on the 3D core and with a little bit of CPU overhead. We don't know the trade-offs involved here so we won't publicly speculate on how much it helps.

From a financial perspective, the STn8820 does have an advantage against both the APX and the OMAP: it is bundled with a single analogue chip (the STw4820) that integrates power management, audio analogue and touchscreen functionality (plus other minor stuff). NVIDIA would use three third party chips to deliver that functionality, while TI would need both their standard analogue chip and an extra one for touchscreen handhelds.

The company claims that this kind of integration "saves as much as 30% of the Bill-of-Materials and 40% of the device footprint" compared to discrete analogue components. Pricing for the STn8820 and STw4820 combination is $37 in quantities of 10,000.

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ati ± stmicro, minixenos, z460, 720p

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