Samsung Orion Dual Cortex A9 Application Processor Debuts

Samsung Electronics' Orion processor is designed to handle rich media applications like HD video playback and 3D games; it features a pair of 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 cores.

Semiconductor solutions specialist Samsung Electronics has introduced its 1GHz Arm Cortex A9-based dual-core application processor, code-named Orion, for advanced mobile applications. The dual-processor chip platform was designed specifically to meet the needs of high-performance, low-power mobile applications including tablets, netbooks and smartphones.

Orion will be available to select customers in the fourth quarter of 2010 and is scheduled for mass production in the first half of 2011, though the company said the processor will be demonstrated at the seventh annual Samsung Mobile Solutions Forum in Taiwan this week.

Designed using Samsung's 45-nanometer low-power process technology, Orion features a pair of 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 cores: Each comes with a 32KB data cache and a 32KB instruction cache. Samsung also included a 1MB L2 cache to optimize CPU processing performance and provide context switching in a multitasking environment. In addition, the memory interface and bus architecture of Orion supports data-intensive multimedia applications including full HD video playback and high-speed 3D action games.

For design flexibility and system bill of materials (BOM) cost reduction, Orion integrates a set of interfaces commonly used in mobile devices to configure various peripheral functionalities. For example, with this processor, customers have the choice to use different types of storage, including NAND flash, moviNAND, SSD or HDD, providing both SATA and eMMC interfaces. Customers can also choose their appropriate memory options, including low-power LPDDR2 or DDR3, commonly used for high performance. In addition, a global positioning system (GPS) receiver baseband processor is embedded in the processor to support location-based services (LBS), a popular component in a growing number of mobile applications.

"Consumers are demanding the full Web experience without compromise while on the go," said Dojun Rhee, vice president of marketing for Samsung Electronics' System LSI division. "Given this trend, mobile device designers need an application processor platform that delivers superb multimedia performance, fast CPU processing speed and abundant memory bandwidth. Samsung's newest dual-core application processor chip is designed specifically to fulfill such stringent performance requirements while maintaining long battery life."

The application processor incorporates a portfolio of multimedia features implemented by hardware accelerators, such as video encoder/decoder that supports 30fps video playback and recording at 1080p full HD resolution. Using an enhanced graphics processing unit (GPU), the company said the new processors are capable of delivering five times the 3D graphics performance over the previous processor generation from Samsung.

Orion also features an onboard native triple display controller architecture that complements multitasking operations in a multiple-display environment. A mobile device using the Orion processor can simultaneously support two on-device display screens, while driving a third external display such as a TV or a monitor, via an on-chip HDMI 1.3a interface. Orion is designed to support package-on-package (POP) with memory stacking to reduce the footprint. A derivative of Orion, which is housed in a stand-alone package with a 0.8mm ball pitch, is also available, the company said.

Samsung announced two 1.4-micron CMOS imagers, the S5K4E5 and S5K2N1, adopting backside illuminated (BSI) pixel technology. Designed to have advanced performance capabilities in low light scenarios, each imager is optimized for target applications such as smartphones for the S5K4E5 and digital still cameras (DSC) and digital video cameras (DVC) for the S5K2N1. In contrast to the front-side illumination technology, backside illumination collects photons from the backside of the pixel. The reversed structure moves the photodiode to the top, maximizing photoelectric efficiency as the light is not scattered through the metal wiring and dielectric layers, which causes the loss of photons.