Freescale refers to this reference design as the “Smartbook”, which is7.87 x 5.04 x 0.59 inches in size, with a 1024 x 600 resolution touchscreen. It has a i.MX515 processor with an ARM Cortex A8 core. It has 512MB DDR2 memory and from 4GB to 64GB internal storage. It is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capable, with support for 3G and RF4CE. It also has a 3 megapixel camera, a microSD slot, a USB2.0 port, a USB mini port, audio input/output, and a SIM card slot. The battery is charged via USB.
While the tablet itself looks good, though perhaps a tad small, its pricing makes it look even better. It’s reported that Freescale is positioning its tablet for the sub-$200 market. Not a bad deal, if the proof of concept bears out. We’ll know in a couple months, as rumor has it Freescale is looking to have its tablet available this Summer.
The e-Reader market has taken a turn, headed toward more expensive multi-purpose devices (e.g., Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s expected full-color multi-touch Kindle). This puts existing single-function e-Readers, which are priced relatively high, in some jeopardy. To keep the ‘pure’ e-Reader market alive and healthy, something cheaper and faster is going to be needed, and Freescale has obliged with a new chip, the i.MX508.
The i.MX508 strips all pretenses about function and focuses exclusively on e-reading. According to Freescale the i.MX508 “is the first system-on-chip (SoC) designed specifically for eReaders that incorporates a high performance 800MHz ARM Cortex™-A8 processor and an integrated E Ink® display controller, certified by E Ink to drive the newest and next generation Vizplex™ panels.”
Freescale says its new chip will decode a PDF file five-times faster than the ARM9 chip, and three times faster than the ARM11. Page turns are down to half a second. It supports low power DDR2 memory. And it is more energy efficient.
The i.MX508 also costs less then existing chips, about $30 less per unit. Ian King of Bloomberg.com figures this reduction in cost could lead to e-Readers in the $150 price range, perhaps by the end of this year.
There aren't too many companies with the infrastructure or financial backing in place to take on Intel in the desktop processor market, nor can there be much gumption after witnessing the struggles AMD continues to go through as the sole competitor. But in the fast growing netbook sector, all bets are off. VIA's Nano chip has emerged as a viable contender with a promising multi-core future, AMD is expected to unveil a chip for ultraportables at CES, and now yet another company looks to jump in the ring with a low cost processor of its own.
Freescale Semiconductor announced on Monday a new ARM-based chip from its i.MX line the company claims will finally make sub-$200 netbooks a reality.
"We see a huge opportunity in the netbook market as consumers demand more cost-effective and higher performing solutions,” said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Networking and Multimedia Group. “Our solution for netbooks will enable OEMs to develop compelling products that feature cell phone-like battery life at extremely aggressive price points."
Hit the jump to learn more about Freescales new chip.