Freescale bets on eReaders with new i.MX50 chips

Semiconductor specialist Freescale has announced a trio of new members in its i.MX50 product family, betting heavily on the continued success of eReader devices in the face of growing interest in more powerful tablets.

The i.MX50 family officially launched last year with the i.MX508, a system-on-chip design which combined an ARM Cortex-A8 processing core with a hardware display controller for E Ink electrophoretic displays. It's a combination which provides an all-in-one solution for powerful eReader devices, and one which Freescale is hoping to build on with its latest entries.

The new i.MX chips fill in the gaps where the flagship i.MX508 is simply too expensive. The newcomers start with a low-end offering, the i.MX502, which provides LCD-based gadgets with reasonable processing power thanks to an 800MHz ARM Cortex-A8 processing core with 256KB L2 cache at a fraction of the cost of the current i.MX508.

The i.MX502 is joined by a slightly more capable unit, the i.MX503. While the CPU portion of the system-on-chip design is unchanged from its cheaper brother, the i.MX503 upgrades the graphics capabilities to include OpenVG 1.1 hardware acceleration at resolutions of up to SXGA+ for more impressive user interfaces.

Finally, the i.MX507 completes the range. Using the same central and graphics processing capabilities as the i.MX503, the i.MX507 adds an integrated electrophoretic display driver with the ability to run up to 4096 x 4096 resolution E Ink screens at the same time as an SXGA+ LCD display.

"Freescale is delivering comprehensive, optimised solutions with power savings and flexible design features, allowing customers one-stop shopping, ease-of-use and quick time to market," claimed Freescale's director of product marketing Ken Obuszewski. "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 company has confirmed plans to launch an evaluation kit to allow developers the chance to try the chips out in a real-world scenario before basing their product lines around them, along with an eReader reference design based on the higher-end EPD-equipped parts. The new i.MX50 chips are sampling now, with volume availability expected later this quarter.