Rockchip announces RK2918 ARM chip

Support for Google's open-source VP8 video codec received a boost today, with Chinese fabless semiconductor firm Rockchip announcing the RK2918 CPU - the first to include hardware VP8 acceleration on-chip.

The chip, designed for mobile Internet devices, portable media players, and tablets, is based around an ARM Cortex-A8 processing core running at speeds of up to 1.2GHz and featuring 512KB of L2 cache and the powerful NEON SIMD (Single Instruction Multiple Data) engine.

The integrated 2D and 3D accelerated GPU supports OpenGL ES 2.0 and Open VG, and promises throughput of up to 60 million triangles per second - but it's the media playback performance that is of most interest.

As well as support for hardware decoding of H.264, RealVideo, WMV, AVS, H.264, and MPEG4 video at resolutions up to 1080p, the chip adds full decoding acceleration for Google's open-source VP8 video codec - the first system-on-chip design to include such support, despite murmurs from x86 giant Intel that support might be added to future Atom chips. Accelerated encoding is also included for H.264 video, from the integral camera interface for dual 5 megapixel sensors.

As a system-on-chip design, the RK2918 also integrates support for DDR2, DDR3, or mobile DDR memory, in-built 24-bit ECC for MLC NAND flash storage, three USB ports, two SD ports, eight-channel audio with SPDIF output, and an Ethernet port. Interestingly, Rockchip has also included a TS port for mobile or terrestrial TV reception - although it's unlikely that the RK2918-based devices which hit our shores will include this feature, due to low demand for mobile TV.

The company claims that the chip is fully certified for use with Android 2.3 and 3.0, which will please the numerous OEMs currently planning yet more Android-based tablets to take on Apple's iPad - but means that the RK2918 will be going up against devices such as Nvidia's Tegra 2 platform.

Prototype devices based around the RK2918 and featuring Internet TV playback are on show at Rockchip's CES booth now, but the company has yet to indicate when the chips will be shipping in volume - or what the first consumer-level product will be to use them.