updated 12:00 pm EST, Mon January 3, 2011
Freescale i.MX 6 brings quad-core ARM Cortex-A9
Freescale today previewed its new processor architecture for smartphones and tablets. The i.MX 6 design can use one, two or four cores running ARM's latest Cortex-A9 architecture at speeds of up to 1.2GHz. At such speeds, it can not only power 1080p playback, even at 60 frames per second, but record it at 30 frames per second or play back 3D video while still keeping HD level output.
The graphics core is relatively fast as it has up to four 3D shaders (effects processors) operating at once. It has its own dedicated 2D acceleration at the same time and supports relatively exotic connections for mobile, such as 3D-capable HDMI 1.4 and e-paper displays. Android is a probable focus as it has hardware support for VP8 video codec that Google now uses in its HTML5-friendly WebM format.
Sampling for processors based on i.MX 6 in 6Solo, 6Dual and 6Quad variants should start later in 2011, but Freescale hasn't said when it expected the devices to ship on a wide scale and hasn't named customers.
The chip could get wide adoption for Android but unlikely to be used by some phone and tablet creators that make their own ARM processors, including Apple and Samsung. However, it points to the likely direction for these companies, since both of them are expected to be using Cortex-A9 processors this year and may go to dual-core designs at the same time. NVIDIA is already supplying dual-core Cortex-A9 through the Tegra 2.