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Marvell ramps up Monahans mobile processors

Nov 29, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 15 views

The first XScale “Monahans” chip is shipping, with two to follow next quarter. Five months after acquiring Intel's PXAxxx line, high-volume consumer electronics chip specialist Marvell is shipping the PXA320 (“Monahans-P”) in a low-power production run clockable to 806MHz, with PXA300 (“Monahans-L”) and PXA310 (“Monahans-LV”) to follow in Q1, 2007, Marvell says.

Additionally, Marvell says it is shipping its PXA800 UMTS baseband processor, and the company's website suggests that PXA9xx-series basebands for GSM/GPRS are also available.

Monahans was developed by Intel as a third-generation mobile application processor, succeeding the Bulverde (PXA27x) and Cotulla (PXA25x) families — all codenamed for small towns in Texas. Based on an ARM11 core, the PXA3xx chip line will ultimately include a wide array of software-compatible models with various power characteristics and on-chip peripheral and interface sets, Marvell says.

Marvell is best known for network interface cards — in particular WiFi and Bluetooth chipsets. The company took an interest in the mobile phone applications and baseband chip market earlier this year, acquiring Intel's PXAxxx line of mobile phone chips — including applications processors and basebands — in June. It also acquired a phone chip business unit from UT Starcom.

The PXA320 — first Monahans chip

The PXA320 targets “feature handsets, advanced smart phones, and a wide array of portable consumer web browsing devices,” according to Marvell. Built on 90nm process technology, the PXA320 has previously been demonstrated clocked up to 1.2GHz. However, the initial production run is a low-power batch limited to 806MHz.

Like other Monahans chips, the PXA320 features dynamic voltage and frequency scaling capabilities, along with Intel's “Wireless Speedstep” and “Instruction Power Manager” IP (intellectual property). Marvell says the PXA320 offers adequate processing headroom for complex applications, along with the ability to sustain long battery life.

Additional touted features include:

  • 256 KB L2 cache
  • 32-bit DDR memory interface
  • Wireless MMX 2 accelerating technology, described as “a 2D graphics accelerator and a 768 KB frame buffer designed to support VGA resolution streaming video”
  • Intel's “Enhanced Quick Capture” technology supports camera sensors up to 5 megapixels (MP)
  • Peripheral interfaces for connection of WiFi, WiBro, WiMAX, and Bluetooth v2.0 radios

Other forthcoming Monahans chips

Marvell is currently sampling two other PXA3xx chips, with volume availability expected in Q1. Both are said to be software-compatible with the PXA320.

The PXA300 (“Monahans-L”) is positioned as a low-cost chip optimized for high-volume handheld devices, including GPS receivers and other handheld devices, in addition to mobile phones. It will clock up to 624MHz, and may be pin-compatible with the PXA320, as it appears to have many of the same interfaces. It has a 16-bit DDR interface, Wireless SpeedStep, Wireless MMX, Enhanced Quick Capture, and support for lots of radio chip add-ons.

The PXA310 (“Monahans-LV”), meanwhile, adds video capabilities — it appears to share the PXA320's VGA video capabilities. It will clock up to 624MHz, and will be available in modules stacked with NAND flash and DDR RAM, Marvell says.

Additional touted features of Monahans processors, in general, include include:

  • “MusicMax” and “VideoMax” power management profiles
  • Advanced codec support, including H.264, to enable D1 (30fps at 720p) capture and playback in some models
  • Higher video resolutions supported in future PXA3xx chips
  • Platform enabling solutions available for Linux, Microsoft, Palm, and a “spectrum of RTOSes”
  • Existing ARM-based applications can be ported quickly to the PXA3xx family, Marvell claims

Also shipping — the PXA800 UMTS baseband

Marvell is also shipping the PXA800 baseband processor, formerly codenamed “Hermon.” However, the company offers no details about the baseband as of yet, on its publicly accessible website. The website does list a few details about the PXA9xx GSM/GPRS baseband processors, also apparently shipping.

Marvell COO Weili Dai stated, “The PXA3xx series coupled with our UMTS and 802.11 communications technologies places Marvell at the heart of the mobile market.”

Sam Arditi, SVP of the cellular and handheld group at Marvell, noted that “Ramping three products in the Marvell PXA3xx family virtually at the same time gives [the company's] customers the flexibility to address different markets with an optimized product either for MIPS, video, or cost — all with extremely low power consumption.”

Intel began sampling Monahans chips nearly two years ago — in March of 2005. As a result, a variety of board-level computers, development kits, reference designs, and commercial Linux implementations have been announced for PXA3xx-series chips. Refer to the Related Stories, below, for details.

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