Broadcom readies chips optimized for Android 4.0

Broadcom announced this week a set of 3G smartphone chips that have been designed specifically to exploit Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. The new silicon especially focuses on improving Android graphics performance.

The chips are aimed at the growing Android mobile market worldwide, offering handset makers a choice of pricing and performance, with one- and two-core ARM-based processors. All three are highly integrated "system-on-a-chip" or SOCs.

"Ice Cream Sandwich is a spectacular improvement over Gingerbread, [the previous release]," says Bob Rango, senior vice president for Broadcoam's mobile and wireless group.

See all the breaking news out of Mobile World Congress

"Graphics performance is more important than CPU performance for Android 4.0," Rango says. "Our graphics processing is all Broadcom silicon, and it conforms to the OpenGL standards."

Another optimization is support for dual-band Wi-Fi - including the 5-GHz band as well as the more common 2.4 GHz - and support for the Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi Direct specification, which is designed to let two or more clients directly and securely connect to each other, without requiring an access point to mediate. A cell phone can wirelessly link to a widescreen TV or a tablet to desktop PC (and its attached monitor) to share a video, for example.

The new SOCs also implement a new Bluetooth 4.0 standard, Bluetooth Low Energy. Rango says BLE lets a Bluetooth-equipped peripheral operate with a dime-sized battery for a year. The peripherals can be a range of telemetry and other monitoring devices that can share data with a smartphone or tablet. "Bluetooth 4.0 enables this entire ecosystem," he says.

The new BCM21654G uses a single 1-GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor, with integrated 7.2/5.8 Mbps HSPA modem and low-power VGA video support.

The BCM28145 and BCM28155 are dual ARM Cortex A9 cores cranked up to 1.3 GHz, and 21/5.8 Mbps HSPA+ modems. The former supports HD 720p, the latter 1080p video, through the chipmakers VideoCore technology, which effectively offloads graphics from the application processor. Broadcom says the chips have the lowest-power HD playback and camcorder capabilities up to 1080p. The integrated HSPA+ modem supports up to 21Mbps downstream, and 5.8Mbps upstream.

For these products, Broadcom switched to a low power 40-nanometer process technology from a 65-nanometer, which cut power needs by 40% to 50% and a more compact and integrated product: the SOC incudes radio frequency (RF), a power management unit (PMU) and an advanced connectivity suite. The vendor also reduced latency in memory and the bus architecture, contributing to a more fluid and responsive user interface.

The new chips make use of Broadcom's VideoCore technology, which in effect offloads the phone's application processor. Broadcom says these ICS phones have the lowest power HD playback and camcorder capabilities up to 1080p. Rango says phones with these features will be available within six to nine months.

Also common to all three is the imaging, via Broadcom's latest Image Signal Processor. Changes include support for cameras up to 42 megapixels, capturing images in very low light, and a "wide dynamic range" for the sharpest images.

The SOC consolidation will make possible lower-priced phones, with the price by about one-half, to about $300 retail, Rango estimates in the second half of 2012.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Cox

Network World

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?