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July 31, 2013

Marvell Looks to Augment Chromecast with ARMADA 1500-mini Processor

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

The reports coming out around Google's (News - Alert) Chromecast are suggesting that this one may be ready to take on some of the most entrenched competition around, with smart TV systems, connected Blu-ray players, and a legion of set-top boxes already in play. But Marvell offered up something of a connection to the field, showing off its new ARMADA 1500-mini processor. The ARMADA 1500-mini is a big part of what makes the Chromecast so ready to play, and may well show up elsewhere before it's all said and done.

The ARMADA 1500-mini solution is part of the larger ARMADA 1500 family from Marvell (News - Alert), with the key exception being its smaller size and thus its ability to slip into a device that will plug easily into an HDMI port and remain in same. But it's not just about the size; it's also packing quite a bit of power into that tiny package.

The ARMADA 1500-mini is specifically optimized for low-power applications, like those of Chromecast. Moreover, it's also designed to deliver the kind of processing power that's necessary to do a lot of streaming video all from one spot, offering the ability to handle 1080p decoding, DRM support—an increasing necessity as far as content providers are concerned, the ARMADA 1500-mini can tackle a full array of choices on this front including both Playready and Widevine (News - Alert)—and several different video decoding methods, from H.264 to MPEG 2 / 4 and even a substantial lineup of digital audio systems. Thus, it's also extremely energy efficient, offering up its solutions in a fashion that can get by on minimal power input.

Nor is the Marvell ARMADA 1500-mini strictly about Google, either. Aside from Chromecast, some reports indicate that the ARMADA 1500-mini will be making the jump to other devices, like models in the smartphone, smart TV, and laptop lines, which makes sense given its comparatively low power consumption and its slim overall size.

Indeed, almost as important as the content available for such devices—which is shaping up steadily well according to current reports—is the hardware that's powering same. It's important for the hardware to operate cleanly and smoothly, operate well, and bring in the necessary levels of power to keep the whole thing running. After all, no one wants laggy video with lots of stops and starts; video needs to be presented without interruption and at the best resolution possible. While the resolution isn't the most important thing, it's certainly vital; given a choice between 480p video with no lag and 1080p video with occasional buffering, most would probably take the lower resolution.

The ARMADA 1500-mini looks to be a sound foundation from which the Chromecast can operate, but it's likely to prove to be only the beginning for Marvell's new processor. With streaming video becoming an increasingly popular addition to the overall entertainment ecosystem, devices like the Chromecast are likely to see big gains in popularity, and so too the chips to operate same.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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