NovaThor™ U8500

The Xperia™ sola, Xperia™ P and Xperia™ U are powered by the NovaThor™ U8500 platform from ST-Ericsson, which is the first OpenGL ES 2.0 conformant, multi-core GPU that provides 2D and 3D acceleration with performance scalable up to 1080p resolutions.

The NovaThor™ U8500 consists of the DB8500 dual core ARM® Cortex™-A9 SoC (system on chip) with ARM® Mali™ 400MP graphics and a built-in HSPA+/4G 14Mbps modem, as well as peripheral chips that handle audio, USB, power and SIM card functions. This platform Integrates a single chip and a dual core 1GHz application processor. It’s also the first integrated smartphone platform that offers symmetric multi-processing dual core technology in combination with a high-end 3D graphics accelerator, to enable high mobile computing and graphics performance.

A symmetric multi-processing-enabled (SMP) platform allows different processes to be split among several processors based on performance and power requirements. For example, a smartphone running multiple applications simultaneously can spread applications across different processors, while individual computer-intensive applications can also exploit multi-processing by means of software multi-threading. This is a well-known technique used for PCs and high-performance computing, now being used in the Xperia™ sola, Xperia™ P and Xperia™ U.

Symmetric multi-processing (SMP) = more efficient power consumption
One huge advantage of SMP in mobile applications is more efficient power consumption, which will be very apparent to the end user. Multi-processing uses lower voltages and will allow users to do much more on a single battery charge.  Instead of a single processor running at full capacity to complete a task, multiple processors can work half as hard enabling the entire chip to run at a lower temperature, creating less leakage. This allows an SMP system to deliver the same level of CPU performance one might expect from a larger and faster uni-processor CPU, while using less power.

ARM Cortex-A9 processor for increased power efficiency and peak performance

ARM Cortex A9 MP Core

Cortex-A9 MPCore architecture.

The chipset of the NovaThor™ U8500 platform incorporates the ARM Cortex-A9 processor, with key features that include increased power efficiency with higher performance for lower power consumption. ARM’s MPCore technology incorporates design flexibility and advanced power management techniques to operate within thermal contrainsts and tight mobile power budgets. The processor also has the ability to share software and tool investments across multiple devices. The Cortex-A9 implementation in the U8500 platform is also power optimised, which is important for thermally-constrained devices such as mobile phones. The Cortex-A9 uses a hard macro implementation that delivers a peak performance of 4000 DMIPs while consuming less than 250mW per CPU when selected from typical silicon.

Mali™-400MP provides the complete graphics stack for embedded graphics

ARM® Mali™-400 MP architecture.

On the NovaThor™ U8500 platform it’s possible to get close to console-quality gaming graphics thanks to the Mali-400 MP GPU. It’s the first OpenGL ES 2.0 conformant, multi-core GPU that provides 3D acceleration with performance scalable up to 1080p resolutions. The Mali™-400 MP supports 3D, shader-based and fixed function graphic and is based on open standards (OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0). Among the general architectural features of ARM Mail:

  • Advanced tile-based deferred rendering and local buffering of intermediate pixel states for reduced memory bandwidth overhead and lower power consumption.
  • Efficient alpha blending of multiple layers in hardware for unlimited number of blended layers without additional bandwidth consumption or unexpected performance drops.
  • Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) using rotated grid multi sampling for significantly higher quality and performance than alternative oversampling methods.
  • Integrated Memory Management Unit (MMU) based on standard ARM MMU which allows virtualisation of GPU memory resources and fine-grained memory protection.
  • Fully autonomous GPU that enables maximum parallelisation of CPU and GPU tasks.
  • Independent CPU and GPU power management to maximise battery life, and minimise heat dissipation.

Complex apps with multi-threading? No problem!
As the performance and processing capabilities increase in mobile devices, this allows for more complex development that can be written in a more parallel way, such as multi-threaded applications. These types of apps are ideal for achieving the true benefits of SMP. Threads make up the processes in applications, do not need to keep going back to the OS for resources, and multiple threads can run at the same time on multiple cores. With SMP, software apps (like web browsers) that are multi-threaded see increased performance, faster response times and an overall improved user experience.

Want to know more? Key developer resources and more information from ST Ericsson

ST-Ericsson Developer homepage

ST-Ericsson Developers site.

If you’re a software developer interested in leveraging NovaThor™ technology, here are some ST-Ericsson resources available to you. The Igloo open source community is a collaborative site that accelerates the development of system and software innovations for Android, Ubuntu and Linaro embedded devices based on ST-Ericsson’s platforms. You can also get information from the ST-Ericsson Developer Community site, which provides downloadable reference and user manuals, as well as licensing for application developers. Additional technical information, including RSS feed subscription, is available on the ST-Ericsson technology blog.

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