AUSTIN, USA: Freescale Semiconductor is helping drive down the cost of next-generation eReaders with its i.MX508 applications processor, the first system-on-chip (SoC) to integrate advanced ARM Cortex-A8 technology together with the newest hardware-based display controller from E Ink.
Freescale’s highly integrated i.MX508 processor is designed to deliver the performance, energy efficiency and system cost savings necessary to help OEMs evolve and grow the dynamic eReader product category.
With the ARM core running at 800 MHz, the i.MX508 provides twice the rendering performance of Freescale’s previous eReader processors, resulting in faster page turns and snappy responsiveness for consumers. The increased processing capability also gives manufacturers the additional performance to add features like advanced touch solutions and the ability to run other value-added applications.
The i.MX508 is notable for its support of next-generation eReader panels, which are expected to feature larger dimensions, faster page turns and significantly better resolution. The processor supports panel resolutions up to 2048 x1536 pixels at 106 hertz. Leveraging the ARM Cortex™-A8 engine, the i.MX508 processor has the potential performance to quickly handle complex image manipulations and color processing.
“Freescale ended 2009 with a strong market share lead in applications processors for eReaders, and now we are cementing our leadership in the eReader space with the introduction of the i.MX508 device,” said Bernd Lienhard, vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Multimedia Applications Division. “Working closely with E Ink and our customers, we are able to offer an integrated silicon solution to facilitate lower eReader retail prices and enable the next phase of growth in the eBook market.”
By integrating the E Ink display controller, the i.MX508 reduces part counts and lowers costs associated with electronic paper display control functionality by as much as 50 percent compared to systems without an integrated controller. Freescale’s i.MX508 processor also helps OEMs lower costs by integrating dual USB/PHY and cost-effective raw NAND memory.
“The integration of the ePaper display controller into the newest i.MX processor will help lower costs while enabling the next generation of E Ink display-based eReaders – a great combination for customers,” said Sriram Peruvemba, vice president of marketing for E Ink.
The i.MX508 is the latest addition to Freescale’s product roadmap for the smart mobile devices category, which is a fast-growing market segment that feeds consumer demand for low-cost, small-form-factor, long-battery-life products. The category includes smartbooks, eReaders, smartphones and other mobile consumer products.
“DisplaySearch forecasts that the worldwide eBook/eReader device shipment will triple that of 2009, increasing to over 14 million units in 2010," said Dr. Jennifer Colegrove, director of Display Technologies at DisplaySearch, a leading industry analyst firm. “Key to this growth will be improving the quality of the digital reading experience while simultaneously making it affordable. The results coming from the Freescale and E Ink collaboration are very encouraging.”
Longer battery life
The i.MX508 processor includes special power modes created for eReaders that allow the CPU and some peripherals to operate at full speed while rendering a page and then turn off to save power when they are not needed. As eReader panel resolution increases, the i.MX508 with its integrated display controller, offers lower power than software-based display controller solutions.
A complete solution
The i.MX508 processor is designed to work with Freescale’s flagship MC13892 power management/user interface integrated circuit to perform power and battery functions and facilitate user interface and control capabilities. Freescale also offers eReader OEMs the SGTL5000 stereo codec with headphone amp for audio coder/decoder functions, as well as the MMA8450Q, a low-power, 12-bit, 3-axis accelerometer for performing integrated sensing functions, such as portrait/landscape display orientation and motion detection.
Reference design for streamlined development
Freescale and E Ink have collaborated to create a reference design that allows customers to begin developing eReader products based on the i.MX508 processor right away using the i.MX51 device, which is shipping in production quantities today. The design is the latest in Freescale’s Smart Application Blueprint for Rapid Engineering (SABRE) series.
The SABRE platform for eReaders based on the i.MX51 device includes Freescale’s i.MX51 processor, a 6-inch E Ink Vizplex panel and a software version of the E Ink electronic paper display controller. Software developed by customers on the reference design can be easily ported onto the i.MX508, enabling faster time to market and optimal reuse of existing software.
The i.MX508 applications processor is expected to be priced at less than $10 in quantities greater than 250K units. Freescale plans to begin providing samples to select customers early in the third quarter of 2010. The SABRE platform for eReaders based on the i.MX51 is available for purchase now from Freescale. The suggested resale price is $1,995.