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Electronic Design

In The Palm Of Your Hand

Cell-phone games have followed a progression similar to consoles and PCs, starting with primitive 2D, sprite-style graphics. But the technology is moving fast. In fact, cell-phone support already is heading into the 3D world. It's taking on architectures that were available only a few years ago in high-end PC-based graphics.

GoForce 5500 from nVidia incorporates advanced features like hardware-based alpha blending that allow for transparent interface and pixel shaders compatible with programming interfaces such as OpenGL and DirectX 8. Hardware H.264, MPEG, and JPEG encoders and decoders let these portable chips handle full-motion video while minimizing power consumption. The cell phones then can run off batteries, whereas PC video hardware comes with its own cooling fans.

Some trimming in the architecture is possible because of the small screen sizes, typically QVGA on a cell phone. Portable chips usually have 40-bit color precision versus 128-bit floating point. Still, these chips may target personal media players with XGA resolution. The chip architectures remain similar to their PC counterparts, but tradeoffs tend to give power usage a higher priority compared to maximum functionality.

Integration also is leading toward the incorporation of audio support in the VPU. This is due more to space and power savings than a real need to link support to video output.

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