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Freescale’s Cortex-A9 SoCs include E Ink controllers

Jan 9, 2012 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

Freescale Semiconductor announced versions of its ARM Cortex-A9-based i.MX 6 chips that are equipped with E Ink EPD controllers, making the processors suitable for driving e-readers and low-cost tablets. The single-core, 1GHz i.MX 6SoloLite exclusively targets e-readers, while the dual-core, 1GHz i.MX 6DualLite is designed for a broader array of devices, including “media tablets.”

A year ago, Freescale announced its first ARM Cortex-A9-based system on chips (SoCs) with its i.MX 6 family. The single-core i.MX 6Solo, dual-core i.MX 6Dual, and quad-core i.MX 6Quad, began shipping later in 2011. All three processors are clocked at 1.2GHz and deliver 1080p60 video decode, 720p60 encode, and 3D video playback at 50Mbps, says the company.

Now, Freescale has announced two scaled-back versions of the single- and dual-core models. The single-core i.MX 6SoloLite processor is designed for next-generation e-reader tablets. Here, the SoC is filling the role played by Freescale's Cortex-A8-based i.MX508 processor, which powers millions of e-readers, according to Freescale.

The dual-core i.MX 6DualLite, meanwhile, targets a broader array of devices including tablets, IPTVs, IP phones, medical patient monitoring systems, and home energy management solutions, says Freescale.

Like the earlier i.MX 6 processors, the Lite versions support Windows Embedded Compact and Linux, as well as Linux variants including Android, Ubuntu, and Linaro, says Freescale. Because the processors are software-compatible with each other as well as other i.MX 6 devices, designers can save time and money simultaneously developing e-reader and tablet products, says the company. This scalability is said to help device manufacturers adjust designs to meet evolving market demands.

i.MX 6SoloLite

Like the i.MX 6Solo, the i.MX 6SoloLite integrates an ARM Cortex-A9 core running at up to 1GHz with a 2D graphics processor and display controllers for E Ink EPD and LCD-based panels. (The 6Solo was the only first generation model to offer the EPD controller.)

The i.MX 6SoloLite offers 256KB of L2 cache compared to 512KB for the 6Solo, and it lacks the latter's 3D graphics accelerator. On the other hand, it adds a "simplified power management structure" that will eventually be integrated across the i.MX 6 series, providing greater power efficiency, says the company. Like the original 6Solo, the 6SoloLite supports 32-bit DDR3 and LPDDR2 memory at 400MHz, says Freescale. 

i.MX 6DualLite

The i.MX 6DualLite offers two ARM Cortex-A9 cores running at up to 1GHz, clocked down from the 1.2GHz limit on the i.MX 6Dual. The SoC provides 512KB of L2 cache instead of 1MB, but similarly offers Neon, VFPvd16, and Trustzone support, and is capable of 1080p video processing, says Freescale.

Like the 6Dual, the 6DualLite offers integrated 2D- and 3D graphics acceleration, but it offers only one 2D graphics engine instead of two, and provides only one 3D shader instead of four, according to Freescale. Whereas the 6Dual provides dual-channel, 32-bit LPDDR2 memory support at 533MHz, the 6DualLite tops out at 400MHz, says the company. The 6DualLite, however, offers similar support for 64-bit DDR3/LVDDR3 memory running up to 800MT/s.

The i.MX 6DualLite lacks its older sibling's SATA-II controller, says Freescale. However, it does stand out by providing the new E Ink EPD controller, which is missing on the 6Dual as well as the 6Quad. The 6DualLite also supports HDMI, LVDS, MIPI, and PCI Express interfaces, says the company.

Unlike the i.MX 6SoloLite, the i.MX 6DualLite is said to be pin-compatible with previous i.MX 6 processors. Both the 6SoloLite and 6DualLite will be supported with reference designs, software development kits, and turnkey development technologies, says the company.

According to Freescale, i.MX 6 processors have already been adopted in some 25 customer engagements. The SoCs are said to be used in applications including a tablet-like touch sensor interfaces for farming vehicles, an airline seatback infotainment system, and displays for advanced test/measurement equipment, military/aerospace communications systems, and next-generation medical equipment. i.MX 6 processors have also been used by five of the top six e-reader OEMs, as well as multiple tablet manufacturers, claims the company.

In October, Mentor Graphics announced it was bringing its Genivi-compliant Mentor Embedded Linux In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) Base Platform platform to the i.MX6 processor.

Stated Bernd Lienhard, vice president and general manager of Freescale's Multimedia Applications Division. "The newest additions to the i.MX 6 series offer our customers an even broader range of compatible applications processors, spanning a range of cost, price and feature sets for optimal flexibility."


Freescale plans to begin shipping its i.MX 6 Lite series devices in volume quantities in the second half of 2012. More information may be found at Freescale's i.MX 6 product page.

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