Samsung's Orion chip promises mobile boost

Orion is a dual-core, ARM-based chip that Samsung says beats it predecessor on speed, graphics, memory and video capabilities. The semiconductor is coming to Samsung devices in early 2011

Samsung has given details on its next-generation chip for mobile devices, codenamed Orion.

The chip, announced on Tuesday, is designed for high-performance, low-power mobile applications on devices such as tablets, netbooks and smartphones.

Orion will be one of the first dual-core processors for mobile devices to come to market. The chip integrates a CPU, GPU, supporting caching infrastructure, global positioning system (GPS) receiver, and HDMI-output onto a single circuit.

The 45 nanometer dual-core chip is based on ARM's Cortex A9 architecture. It has a shared 1 megabyte L2 cache designed to reduce latency in displaying and recording video. 

Orion has a GPS-receiver baseband processor embedded into it to support location-based services.

It will demonstrate "superb multimedia performance, fast CPU processing speed, and abundant memory bandwidth ... while maintaining long battery life" Dojun Rhee, Samsung Electronics' vice president of marketing said in a statement.

The chip, available to certain manufacturers in the final quarter of 2010, is scheduled for mass production in the first half of 2011.

Orion is the successor to Hummingbird, Samsung's high-end chip for mobile devices, which sits inside smartphones such as the Galaxy S.

Hummingbird is capable of recording progressive-scan high definition (HD) video in a resolution of up to 1280 by 720 pixels (720p), while Orion is capable of 1080p playback and record. Hummingbird also integrates a graphics processing unit (GPU) that can calculate up to 90m graphical calculations per second, while the Orion is slated to ship with a GPU five times as powerful.

The chip can support two on-device display screens and can drive a third external display through an on-chip high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI).

Orion joins a race for the next-generation of mobile devices and will stand against offerings from both Intel and Nvidia.

Intel is developing both the Moorestown and Medfield architectures for smartphones, which will be low power, 1.5-1.9GHz chips. Intel aims to start shipping Moorestown in the second half of 2010, and Medfield in 2011.

Nvidia's offering, Tegra 2, the successor to its low power system-on-a-chip Tegra, has similar specifications to Orion, with a duel-core 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 architecture, and 1080p HD video playback. LG's Optimus Series of smartphones will ship with Tegra 2 in the fourth quarter of 2010.



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