updated 10:50 am EDT, Tue October 2, 2007
Broadcom Mobile HD Chip
Semiconductor firm Broadcom today introduced the BCM2727, a new multimedia processor it says will unlock features that were previously impossible on portable devices. Based on the company's new VideoCore III architecture, the chip is the first to have the processing power to both decode and encode HD video in real-time without consuming excessive power. The new hardware can play 720p video in the demanding H.264 format for up to five hours using just a cellphone-sized battery and can record at the same resolution for up to three hours, according to Broadcom's estimates.
The raw image performance also allows for other feats previously thought impractical for small devices. The BDM2727 can process a 12-megapixel still photo with image stabilization, red eye reduction, and other real-time correction effects. It even adds significant 3D abilities: up to 32 million triangles per second can pass through the processor. For the first time, a mobile chipset also has HDMI 1.3 video output support and can relay both audio and video to an HDTV at full quality instead of settling for analog. An inherently programmable platform also means that device makers can write or rewrite code to handle new formats and features over time, according to the company. Samples of the BDM2727 are said to be available now to companies willing to test and use the chip for devices to launch next year.
Although no specific customers were mentioned in the announcement, Broadcom indicated that the technology could drive a number of handheld devices such as cellphones and portable media players, many of which have previously been limited to analog-quality video resolutions and only simple 3D effects. Apple and similar portable media player manufacturers have frequently relied on media co-processors to help process video and add visual effects, such as those found in the fifth-generation iPod. The iPod classic and third-generation iPod nano may both use such processors based on teardown photos but have not been readily identified; photos of the iPhone and iPod touch have suggested that neither currently depends on a secondary chip for image processing.