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64-bit STB SoC supports 4K video and Android TV

Apr 27, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 2,022 views

Marvell announced an “Ultra” version of its Android-focused Armada 1500 STB SoC that advances to a 64-bit, quad-core Cortex-A53 foundation for 4K delivery.

The Armada 1500 Ultra (88DE3218) is designed to “enable PayTV operators and set-top box (STB) manufacturers to cost-effectively deliver small form factor devices with feature-rich 4K entertainment and gaming services,” says Armada. As with earlier Armada 1500 system-on-chips, it’s primarily focused on Android, with specific support for Android TV

The last time we checked in on the Armada 1500 line was in Dec. 2013 when Marvell announced the Armada 1500 Plus. The Plus model upgraded the original Armada 1500, which fueled a number of Google TV products. It was similarly based on a dual-core Cortex-A9, but used an ARM-licensed design rather than Marvell’s own re-interpretation of Cortex-A9. It also boosted graphics to a Vivante GC1000 GPU, and improved the security coprocessor.

Armada 1500 Ultra block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Since then, Marvell has introduced a quad-core Armada 1500 Pro, which moved up to a quad-core, Cortex-A9 design with a more advanced Vivante GC4000 GPU. Marvell also launched a similar Armada 1500 Pro 4K version with an enhanced version of its Qdeo Video Processor that supported 3840 x 2160 (UHD) resolution at 60 frames per second with 10-bit HEVC video decode.

The new Armada 1500 Ultra moves to a much faster 64-bit, ARMv8 quad-core Cortex-A53 design with 14K DMIPs performance. The Ultra features yet another enhancement to the Qdeo coprocessor. Like the Pro 4K, it enables 4K TV with 3840 x 2160-pixel, 10-bit HEVC decoding, but it also adds VP9 decoding, as well as 1080 PiP + transcoding.

Other Armada 1500 Ultra features include a more capable, octa-core Vivante GC7000XS GPU for 3D, as well as a 2D Vivante GPU. The GC7000XS is said to integrate hardware tessellation and geometry shaders that support new gaming features in the Android 5.0 based Android L AEP (Android Extension Pack).

Like the Pro 4K, the Ultra provides a dedicated security engine with secure boot, Trusted Rendering Path, full TrustZone, and video watermarking support. As with the Pro 4K, the coprocessor supports conditional access systems (CAS) security solutions from Verimatrix.

The Armada 1500 Ultra supports Marvell’s Avastar 88W8897 (2×2 WiFi-ac) and 88W8864 (4×4 ac) solutions, but also supports a variety of third-party communications technology, including LTE, ZigBee, and Powerline equipment. The SoC’s smaller 15 x 15mm package enables more compact STB designs as small as 75 x 75mm, says Marvell.

As with the Armada 1500 Pro 4K, there was no mention of Linux support, which is provided with the Armada 1500 Pro. However, the Armada 1500 Ultra provides an SDK for the Android TV platform, as well as RDK, which we believe refers to the Comcast Reference Design Kit.

The Armada 1500 Ultra isn’t the only Android TV-ready SoC. In March, French IPTV provider Free unveiled a Freebox Mini 4K STB based on a Broadcom BCM7252 Ultra HD SoC. The BCM7252 incorporates dual “Brahma15” cores that are equivalent to Cortex-A15 cores.

Further information

No pricing or availability was announced for the Armada 1500 Ultra (88DE3218), which will be demonstrated this week at TV Connect 2015 in Marvell’s booth MR30. TV Connect is being held in London at ExCeL London from April 28-30. More information may be found at the Armada 1500 Ultra product page.

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