Texas Instruments unveils quad-core OMAP 5 SoC

Texas Instruments has announced its latest ARM platform, the OMAP 5 series - and it packs some serious power into a tiny chip, promising tablets that can truly deliver on their hype.

Designed as the company's latest attempt to draw the focus away from Nvidia's increasingly popular dual-core Tegra 2 design, the OMAP 5 series features a clever asymmetric design: two high-power ARM Cortex-A15 cores rub shoulders with lower-power ARM Cortex-M4s.

The idea is that when an application needs raw power, or access to facilities missing from the Cortex-M4 design like hardware virtualisation extensions, it can call upon the Cortex-A15 chips. The rest of the time, the Cortex-A15s drop into a sleep state and let the significantly lower power Cortex-M4s run the GUI and background tasks.

It's not the first design to take such an approach: back in September, Marvell launched the Armada 628 which included two 1.5GHz 'main' processing cores with a lower-power 624MHz core for much the same reason. TI's design, however, is in an entirely different league.

Designed for next-generation tablet and smartphone devices, the OMAP5430 and OMAP5432 can be clocked at up to 2GHz and include multi-core PowerVR SGX544-MPx graphics hardware with 2D and 3D acceleration capabilities. With the ability to address four individual cameras and up to four displays, the OMAP 5 series holds serious promise.

TI's design also includes support for full HD video playback and recording, churning through 1080p video at 60 frames per second without breaking a sweat - and even managing stereoscopic 3D 1080p at 30 frames per second. Each of the four camera inputs can cope with 24 megapixel stills, too - or 12 megapixel 3D image capture.

Based on a 28nm process size, TI claims that the OMAP 5 series offers the lowest power consumption of any chip in its class. Given the specifications on offer, it's hard to think of a chip that actually competes with the company's creation - at least, until Nvidia makes good on its promise of a quad-core Tegra 3 design.

The reduced process size means that TI has been able to really cram the hardware into the OMAP 5: despite all the above, the PoP-packaged OMAP5430 measures just 14mm square - and the BGA-packaged OMAP5432 barely larger at 17mm square.

Thus far, TI hasn't named any customers for the OMAP 5 platform - but with the specifications on offer, expect to see some extremely impressive tablets in the none-too-distant future.