NXP Announces New, Single Chip LCD TV Platform

On 12/04/08, NXP Semiconductor announced their new, single-chip LCD TV platform, the NXP TV550.  This is the first TV platform manufactured in 45nm CMOS low-power process technology. Engineering samples scheduled for 1Q09.

The TV550 platform incorporates the PNX85500 processor and integrates NXP’s proprietary Motion Accurate Picture Processing (MAPP2) technology. This single SoC handles all the new High Definition audio codecs like Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio along with the more familiar codecs from Dolby and DTS. The part also handles the video codecs for the decompression necessary to process MPEG2 and MPEG4 encoded signals.  In addition, one of the target markets for the chip are those LCD TVs that are looking to increase their frame rates to 100 Hz (Europe) and 120Hz (North America) for better rendering of fast moving video action sequences. Consideration was also given to the current trend towards LCD backlighting in LCD TVs with sectional backlight dimming enabled.

Since this is a platform, other functions can be added as more features are required.

A further twist is the ability to add NXP’s latest hybrid silicon tuner, the TDA18272, which adds the ability to receive and decode standard definition NTSC and high definition ATSC signals. To top all this off, NXP has also added hooks into the platform so that their TDA9996, HDMI 4-port switch can be added if desired.

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All-in-all, it is an impressive accomplishment to be able to integrate all this functionality onto a single chipset and also offer the ability to add more features through additions to the base platform. This starts to look like the way other silicon manufacturers will go in the future to address the needs of TV manufacturers to reduce costs while continuing to add capability and new feature sets.

All this functionality is aimed at bringing the rich feature sets found on high-end HDTVs downstream to more moderately priced LCD HDTVs. With today’s deteriorating economic conditions, and the prospect that consumers worldwide will reign in their spending this holiday season, a product that both reduces chip count and cost while offering features found only on higher-prices HDTVs will be greatly appreciated by HDTV manufacturers. It appears NXP has succeeded in this area.

Looking further into the future of the HDTV market, some trends and areas for focus become apparent.

  • As the US transitions from analog TV broadcasting to full digital broadcasting, people are going to want to be able to view two or more HD signals at the same time. This is possible today, but not while using picture-in-picture (PiP) features. (Only one standard definition and one HD picture can be viewed using PiP now). It would seem therefore, that HDTV  sets that would allow the viewing of more than two ‘pictures’ at the same time using PiP would be a feature people are going to be looking for and willing to pay for. This will require two or more silicon HD-tuners in each set and is an opportunity for new designs and additional integration.
  • Meeting the needs of LCD HDTV manufacturers to support 100 and 120 Hz frame rates is important, but it is doubtful this will be as far as manufacturers will go. What about 200Hz and 240Hz frame rates? Some manufacturers are already experimenting with advanced frame rates. This would seem to be another area for further new designs and silicon.
  • Given that the dream of many people today is to eventually set up their own home theater – with a HDTV, high definition DVD player, high definition satellite or cable STB and all connected to an audio-video receiver with at least a 5.1 surround sound system.  Such a system brings its own set of issues to the living room. One of which is the time lag incurred when switching from one TV channel to another. This is due to the need to decompress the audio and video signals to be displayed on the HDTV. It takes anywhere from 2-4 seconds for this to happen depending on how the system is connected, over component cables, over HDMI, etc. One area of improvement for HDTV aficionados would be to reduce this to a more manageable level – to maybe one second. This will not happen unless silicon manufacturers are able to look at the entire system (the home theater) and how people use it. Admittedly, this is not a show-stopper for most people, but it can be irritating if you do a lot of channel-surfing (who doesn’t).

All the above areas and more become possible as the amount of processing power continues to rise in silicon targeted at the HDTV market. The last point made above is a good example of this since the time lag mentioned is mostly due to the need to process the signal into its correct form and also to perform the handshaking between the connected devices for HDMI, HDCP, etc.

This makes a good argument for increasing use of multicore-based silicon and fully integrated platforms like the NXP TV550.

Semico believes this will be a path many silicon solution providers will likely pursue.

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