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4K UHD over USB-C designed for handsets

15 Mar 2016  | Jessica Lipsky

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Lattice Semiconductor and MediaTek see a bigger picture for 4K ultra-high definition (UHD) on mobile devices, debuting a reference design for 4K UHD over a USB Type-C connector. Their effort marks another step toward letting smartphones take over jobs of PCs and set-top boxes.

Lattice paired its USB Type-C port controllers and MHL transceivers with MediaTek's Helio X20 mobile processor to deliver "a console quality gaming experience and home entertainment on the latest 4K TVs."

"It's a lot of data over a small connector. A lot of data needs very fast fire rates, but a lot of system issues can be found in routing through this external connector," said Abdullah Raoug, Lattice senior product line manager.

USB Type-C has several advantages, including reversibility and the ability to deliver power, data and display over a single link. Lattice's design is also capable of over 100W smart charging, 10 Gbytes/second data rates and supports multiple video modes.

The reference design reduces the number of wires on a PCB, potentially reducing crosstalk and increasing signal integrity, Raouf said. Some competing technologies need four different channels to route a 4K UHD signal where Lattice/MediaTek only requires a single channel, he noted. The reference design also has optional DSP compression that allows for a lower PHY rate, and thus better signal integrity with lower power consumption.

While the reference designs support MHL, designers can tune Lattice's controllers to operate with DisplayPort and Thunderbolt standards. Lattice's controller has 24 pins, 10 of which can be re-purposed for alternate modes or proprietary data transfer.

"As of right now, it doesn't seem like anybody is going to fold and disappear," Raouf said of the various interconnects, adding that MHL is used on more than 900 million devices.

The reference designs include accessories such as cables, docking stations, chargers and dongles. Raouf expects dongles to be the lowest-priced while charging docks will also be popular for the ability to create desktop-like functionality.

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