Intel Plucks 'Berryville' Chip For Set-Tops, Gateways

Intel, claiming to leapfrog the performance of chips currently shipping from Broadcom, is launching its fourth-generation system-on-chip for set-tops and media gateways that provides rich graphics comparable to a PlayStation3.

The Intel Atom CE5300, previously code-named "Berryville," is the chip maker's first 32-nanometer SoC, featuring a dual core with hyperthreading and virtualization, an advanced 3D/2D graphics engine, integrated power management, and an H.264 hardware encoder.

Keith Wehmeyer, general manager for Intel's set-top box platforms group, says the Berryville processor -- which is available in quantity today -- delivers 30% to 40% better performance compared with Broadcom's most recently announced SoC solutions.

"We've more than doubled the [central processing unit] performance with the CE5300," he said. "Today's set-top boxes are probably the most underperforming devices in the home."

Initial testing by Intel indicates the chip delivers performance comparable to a PlayStation3 game console, Wehmeyer added.

Intel restructured its Digital Home Group in early October. The company phases out its products for "smart TVs," such as those powered by Google TV platform -- but also formed the Service Provider Division, which targets solutions for service providers.

Operators including Comcast, France's Free, Liberty Global's UPC, Numericable and Telecom Italia have announced or launched products on Intel silicon. Comcast, for example, is gearing up for a launch in 2012 of the Xfinity X1 service, which uses a Pace set-top with Intel's CE4200 processor (known as "Groveland").

The more powerful CE5300 enables new applications, such as gesture controls, high-performance gaming, two-way videoconferencing and "sync-and-go" video transcoding for viewing on tablets or other mobile devices.

Intel's forthcoming Puma 6 chip, which provides DOCSIS 3.0 support for up to 1 Gigabit per second of bandwidth and up to six MPEG tuners, will be sampling later this year. The Puma 6, combined with the CE5300, is aimed at "headed" gateway solutions. Intel acquired the Puma line of DOCSIS silicon from Texas Instruments in 2010.

At IPTV World Forum in London this week, Intel will highlight the CE5300 along with various partners. Those include IPTV set-top maker Amino Communications, which will show the Amino Freedom Live Media Gateway, its first hybrid over-the-top media gateway, as well as the latest Opera TV Browser optimized for the Berryville processor.

Amino's Freedom Live Media Gateway provides transcoding and encoding capabilities with multiscreen distribution to deliver content to TVs, smartphones and tablets in the home. According to the vendor, the device can format content from a range of sources, OTT content delivered via the Internet, as well as deliver 3D gaming, user-generated content, VOD, traditional broadcast TV and HD videoconferencing.