There are not a huge number of announcements chasing the smart TV SoC market, given that MediaTek and its MStar subsidiary seems to have it pretty much taped, with around 70% market share and rising. So, when MediaTek announces a new generation of chips, they are more or less designed from a list of requirements from the entire market.
Back in 2011 when MediaTek bought MStar Semiconductor it came on the back of Broadcom and Intel both pulling out of TV SoCs, and a variety of bankruptcies and sale of other providers such as Trident and Zoran. Today only struggling Sigma Designs seems to maintain a presence in Smart TV SoCs in the West, alongside MediaTek, and there are residual Asian efforts from LG, Panasonic and Realtek in Taiwan, all on a tiny market share.
This week MediaTek announced its Ultra HD TV SoC supporting Dolby Vision, as well as an alternative called Hybrid Log Gamma, a form of High Dynamic Range (HDR) designed by the UK’s BBC and Japan’s NHK – that way it covers all bases. The SoC is called simply the MT5597 and the company says that any TV worldwide can use this chip.
It is not surprising that MediaTek told us that already several top TV manufacturers have selected the SoC to power next generation devices due out at the end of Q2, imminently. IT offers software support for two operating systems, Android TV 7.0 and Linux OS.
The chip features 64-bit ARM Cortex processors, and the company claims that the UX is good, although surely that’s for the TV designer to establish, and it offers optimal power consumption.
Chips in the past always slowly take on-board more and more of the feature set of an end user device. It happened with the PC, and it has happened with the phone, so it makes sense that the UI will get bound to the OS/SoC in the TV market.
All the graphics power comes from an ARM Mali450 GPU, and the SoC can decode both VP9 and HEVC codecs for 4K streaming using 10bit color depth at 60 frames per second – the default next gen set of specifications. Getting screens to keep up with that is another matter.
But the real trick here is being able to work with any popular broadcast modulation. As SoCs get more and more power, they can adopt software defined RF features, and this chip can digest signals from ATSC, DVB-T/S/C/T2/S2, DVB-C, DTMB and ISDB-T broadcast standards.
The technology reserves transport stream inputs for external demodulators for other countries or areas. MT5597 makes it possible for TV makers to port the same UI to worldwide TV models easily.
“With the MT5597, MediaTek continues its legacy of enabling manufacturers with leading technology solutions to help build the best digital TVs on the market,” said Joe Chen, Executive Vice President and Co-COO, MediaTek. “Built to provide a premium feature-set in the mainstream product range, MT5597 gives TV makers the power of choice with MediaTek’s unmatched display, picture quality technologies and global demodulation support.”
Significant cost savings are possible by only having to develop one worldwide platform and the flexibility to choose from a wide variety of panel options preserves picture quality.
The MT5597 also offers protection against motion judder using 4k Motion Estimation, and all the major HDR specs – Dolby Vision, HDR10, and the BBC HLG. Slowly this market is moving to a monopoly position about as clear as Intel’s dominance of PCs.