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Multimedia-oriented mobile apps processor runs Linux

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

3DLabs is sampling a unique mobile applications processor supported initially under Linux 2.6. The DMS-02 combines a pair of ARM9-EJ cores with 24 FPUs (floating-point units). It targets portable digital entertainment, portable navigation, video conferencing, automotive infotainment, video… surveillance, and high-end mobile handsets.

3DLabs is best known as a vendor of PC graphics chipsets — which would explain its expertise with FPUs. The company decided to refocus on the “digital media silicon” market earlier this year, however, according to the EE Times. The U.K.-based company also changed its name to “3DLabs Semiconductor,” and began seeking investors to help it spin out from Creative Technologies, of Singapore, which acquired it in 2002.

The DMS-02 is 3DLabs's first general-purpose mobile applications processor. It's built on 130nm process technology by an unspecified foundry partner.

3DLabs claims the DMS-02 to be the first handheld digital media processor capable of rendering H.264-compressed high-definition 720p video content — although Marvell makes similar claims about its PXA320, an ARM11-based chip built on 90nm process technology that began shipping in volume today.

In addition to a pair of ARM9-EJ cores at an unspecified clockrate, the DMS-02 features three arrays of general-purpose FPUs, each with eight processing elements clocked at 100MHz. 3DLabs supplies libraries aimed at optimizing various algorithms for parallel execution across the array, enabling developers to write normal ARM code.

DMS-02 function block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

Alternatively, developers can use an “Array Development Kit” (ADK) to extend the libraries or add their own routines that exploit the DMS-02's extreme parallel processing and floating point capabilities. The chip's floating point processing elements accept SIMD (single instruction multiple data) instructions that are described as “CPU-like.”

3DLabs notes that the DMS-02's pool of FPUs should be “equally adept” at executing a wide variety of algorithms, including video, image, audio, 2D/3D graphics, and signal processing tasks. This flexibility suits the chip for applications where technology changes rapidly, the company says, citing software GPS, software defined radio, digital media broadcast, and physics processing for game engines.

Additional touted DMS-02 features include multi-level caches, three bi-directional video stream ports, 32 or 64-bit mobile memory for up to 1.6 GBytes/s bandwidth, and peripheral interfaces to LCD panels, CMOS sensors, IDE disks, USB OTG, flash memory, and audio DACs.

An FAQ with many more details about 3DLabs's FPU-based approach can currently be found here.

Evaluation board

DMS-02 eval board
(Click to enlarge)

The DMS-02 is available with a small evaluation board that supports a range of LCD sizes, including the 4-inch, 480×272 touchscreen with 24-bit color pictured at right. Touted board features include:

  • DMS-02 media processor
  • USB 2.0 and OTG 1.0a interfaces (2 A-type, 1 mini AB)
  • 128 MB Mobile DDR memory module
  • 3 video stream ports – VGA/TV Out Module fitted as standard
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • CompactFlash slot
  • Audio DAC
  • Stereo headphone, microphone, line-in, and SPDIF connectors
  • SPI, I2C, I2S, and general interface headers
  • 100-pin General interface header
  • Configurable power supply
  • 2 UART connectors
  • 32MB NOR flash (NAND Option)
  • IDE disk drive
  • Chassis, PSU and cables
  • Optional Modules
    • Digital video out module (Panel Link Transmitter up to 1600×1200)
    • CMOS camera sensor and lens module (High-speed 2048×1536)
    • Range of LCD modules, including 4-inch 24-bit 480×272 touchscreen
    • 128 MB mobile SDR memory module


The DMS-02 is available now for customer evaluation. An evaluation board is also available.

The chip is OS-agnostic, but is currently supported only under Linux 2.6. A Linux-based software development kit for it is available with CODECs and APIs for H.264, MP3, AAC, JPEG, and OpenGL ES, 3DLabs says.

A reference design for a portable media player based on the DMS-02 is promised soon.

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