Nvidia to license phone graphics tech

Offers new media processors too

Update Nvidia yesterday unwrapped a pair of new graphics chips for mobile phones. The company also said it has begun to offer core mobile phone graphics technology for incorporating into handset makers' system-on-a-chip components.

The GoForce 3000 and 4000 chips provide "ultra-low" power consumption, the company said, courtesy of its nPower technology - no relation to the UK energy supplier, we trust. Nvidia's nPower dynamically clocks the chip according to workload and puts the video memory on the die - 640KB in the 4000, 320KB in the 3000 - to further reduce power consumption further.

The parts are fabbed using "custom low-leakage silicon transistors", to cut the amount of power wasted by chip components even when idling. The leakage power for these transistors is "up to 1000 times lower than that of generic processes for standby power measured in tens of microwatts," Nvidia claims.

Both chips provide hardware support for specific media processing algorithms, which helps yield a power requirement "as little as one tenth of the power of traditional hardware codecs and even less power when compared to equivalent software-based solutions", the company says.

The chips also provide CIF-quality video capture and playback with JPEG and MPEG hardware encode and decode. The GoForces support digicams with 8x anti-aliased digital zoom. The 4000 can work with a three megapixel cam, the 2000 with a two megapixel unit.

Both chips will handle MPEG 4 decode, but the 4000 will support MPEG encoding too. The 4000 supports a maximum screen size of 640 x 480, the 3000 480 x 320

nPower is also a feature of Nvidia's AR10 graphics core, which the company is offering under license, ARM-style. The core provides pixel shaders of the kind found on its desktop and notebook graphics chips, and offers hardware geometry acceleration. The AR10 supports OpenGL ES and Direct3D.

Essentially, Nvidia is targeting phone makers who want a greater control over the chips they put into their handsets. While they may be unwilling to incorporate an Nvidia GPU, they may be happy to license some of the technology and build it into their own silicon.

The AR10 is available for licensing now. The GoForce 3000 and 4000 have begun sampling, and Nvidia expects phones incorporating the chips to appear later this year. The company said Mitsubishi will be the first phone maker to offer handsets based on the GoForce series. ®

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