Freescale expands its family of i.MX50 chips, goes beyond e-readers this time

We had a feeling that Freescale was onto something when it debuted the i.MX508, a system-on-a-chip that carried the promise of $150 e-readers (and the reality of $129 ones). Given that, we can see where the execs at Freescale would be feeling a bit heady, and might wonder where else they could help push down prices. That's exactly what we have here: the outfit is trotting out three new i.MX50 processors and, as you can see in that handy chart up there, they all sit even lower in the lineup than the low-cost i.MX508. Like the i.MX508, they all pack an 800HMz ARM Cortex-A8 processor, among other similar specs. The new i.MX507, in particular, resembles the i.MX508 in that it's designed to work with E Ink displays, though it lacks graphics acceleration, and Freescale imagines it'll instead find a home in outdoor signs and smart labels. Moving on down the line, the i.MX502 and the i.MX503 were both intended for devices with LCD -- not electronic paper -- displays, with the latter offering OpenVG graphics acceleration. If Freescale's predictions are on the money, you'll find the lower-end i.MX502 in DECT phones and vending machine displays, and the i.MX503 in personal navigators and medical monitoring tablets, among other use cases. For now, companies are sampling the chips, but they'll start shipping later this quarter for a song -- less than $10 for the i.MX502 at volume cost. Full PR after the break, and lots more technical details at the source link.

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New Freescale i.MX platform extends to advanced, low-power display applications

i.MX50 processors with software and dedicated power management IC provide single-source solutions that streamline development and help speed time-to-market

AUSTIN, Texas, Jul 11, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Building on its leadership in the eReader market and strong penetration into consumer and general embedded spaces, Freescale Semiconductor FSL -2.33% is expanding its portfolio of i.MX applications processors that integrate hardware-based display controllers and ARM(R) Cortex(TM)-A8 cores with three new members of the i.MX50 product family that enable compelling end devices featuring LCD and/or electronic paper displays (EPDs). Combined with Freescale's complementary new MC34708 power management IC (PMIC), this highly optimized platform helps speed time to market and allows customers to buy right-sized, easy-to-use solutions for their specific applications.

The incorporation of hardware-based display control technology is a hallmark of the i.MX50 product family. Freescale announced the initial member of the family last year with the introduction of the i.MX508 system-on-chip (SoC). Designed to bolster and extend Freescale's processing leadership for the growing eReader market, the i.MX508 was the first SoC to integrate advanced ARM Cortex-A8 technology with a hardware-based display controller from E Ink.

Offering high resolution, easy readability and exceptional energy efficiency, EPDs allow systems designers to create exciting new display-based products that deliver ultra-low power consumption and extremely long battery life. EPD technology is ideal for applications such as digital signage, kiosks and home/office automation equipment for which "always-on" functionality is essential.

Freescale's i.MX50 family of applications processors provides optimal design flexibility and efficiency. Ample memory bandwidth helps i.MX50 processors enable faster memory connections for optimized system performance. Integrating an enhanced pixel processing pipeline (ePxP) and the OpenVG(TM) hardware accelerator, the devices allow customers to display advanced graphics and UIs with minimal CPU overhead. An integrated, enhanced LCD interface offers maximum display flexibility, supporting even the simultaneous deployment of EPD and LCD displays in a single end product. The i.MX50 processors support LCD displays with resolution up to 1280 x 1024 pixels (SGXA).

"Freescale is delivering comprehensive, optimized solutions with power savings and flexible design features, allowing customers one-stop shopping, ease-of-use and quick time to market," said Ken Obuszewski, director of product marketing for Freescale's Multimedia Applications Division. "Our new i.MX50 devices offer an outstanding solution for simplified display applications, and now with a comprehensive portfolio to choose from, customers can pick the best option for their specific product needs."

The i.MX508 is currently in production, and the additional i.MX50 products are sampling now, with volume availability expected to follow later in Q3 2011. The i.MX502 is the lowest-cost processor offering, and at less than $10 USD (MSRP), provides support for high performance, LCD-based applications such as vending machines and DECT phones. The i.MX503 supports OpenVG acceleration and is ideal for portable products requiring more advanced user interfaces such as medical monitoring tablets and PNDs. The i.MX507 and i.MX508 products both support the EPD controller, with different levels of graphics capabilities for targeted EPD markets.

"E Ink is collaborating with Freescale to integrate hardware, simplify design and lower overall system costs," said Giovanni Mancini, director of product management for E Ink Holdings. "This collaboration is creating new markets for ePaper/semiconductor solutions."

Freescale plans to offer an i.MX50 evaluation kit (EVK), as well as an eReader reference design. Both development solutions include customized board support packages to streamline development.

Complementary power management IC

Freescale's commitment to system-level development support for the i.MX50 family also includes power management technology. Designed specifically for use with the i.MX50 family as well as the i.MX53 product line, Freescale's new MC34708 PMIC features a high level of integration targeted toward single-cell Li-ion applications. The MC34708 incorporates a number of power supplies to support the i.MX processor, as well as an array of system peripheral ICs. An integrated dual-input switching charger allows for faster charge time from either direct input supply or USB input, where it supports auto-charge modes compliant with the universal charging standard. An integrated mini/micro-USB switch allows for porting of audio, UART and USB through a single connector, reducing system cost and enabling a more streamlined aesthetic design. Additional features include a coulomb counter, general purpose 10-bit ADC, real time clock with backup battery and charger, indicator LED drivers and six GPIO ports.

The MC34708 PMIC also can be used in a number of non-battery powered applications where the charger buck is used for supplemental supply generation. A family of products designed to target varying levels of integration aligned to specific end applications are planned to follow the MC34708.

Development support

Freescale's i.MX50 and MC34708 solutions are available as reference designs with full software BSPs and backed by integrated technical support. The i.MX50 EVK is a single board solution with optional display add-ons. Freescale also offers a Smart Application Blueprint for Rapid Engineering (SABRE) platform for eReaders reference design and Linux and Android(TM) software for fast time to market.

Availability and pricing

Samples of the i.MX502, i.MX503 and i.MX507 are available now and start at $9.97 USD suggested resale for 10K units. The MC34708 also is sampling now and is available in both 8mm x 8mm 0.5mm pitch BGA and 13mm x 13mm 0.8mm pitch BGA versions. The 10K suggested resale on the 13mm x13mm device is $4.04 USD, with the 8mm x8mm device at $3.74 USD in the same volume. The i.MX50 EVK, SABRE platform for eReaders, and supporting software are also available now from Freescale. For more information, visit