Intel's New Set-Top Chip Packs More Punch
Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is introducing a media processor called Berryville, aiming to give set-top boxes and video gateways the kind of performance that's typically seen in video-game consoles.
Formally named the CE5300, the chipset is Intel's first media processor built on 32nm technology (its earlier CE4100/Sodaville and CE4200/Groveland processors used 45nm) and a dual-core processor, allowing Intel to more than double performance and beef up a 2-D/3-D graphics engine that can support some advanced gaming and videoconferencing applications.
"Until now, the set-top box has been the most underperforming [device] in the home," says Keith Wehmeyer, Intel's general manager of set-top platforms.
A feature called hyperthreading lets the 5300 support four simultaneous sequences/programs, Wehmeyer says. An H.264 B-picture hardware encoder allows the gateway to stream video to other devices on the home network, such as a tablet or another TV, at a lower bit rate without affecting video quality.
On the cable front, Intel initially plans to integrate the CE5300 with the Puma 5, a Docsis 3.0 chipset acquired from Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN). (See Intel Snares TI's Cable Modem Business .)
Wehmeyer says the 5300 is ready for high-volume manufacturing. Intel is demonstrating the chipset at this week's IP&TV World Forum in London.
Why this matters
The 5300 will boost set-top and gateway performance as MSOs migrate video services to IP, launch more graphics-rich applications, and support more apps, including the user interface, in the cloud.
It's a strong indicator that Intel will continue to focus on pay-TV service providers, despite rumors that it may soon compete with them by offering subscription video services that are delivered over-the-top. Some of its bigger pay-TV customers include Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) (for its Horizon gateway), France's Iliad (Euronext: ILD) and Numericable-SFR , and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which is using Intel's earlier-generation processors in the X1 box made by Pace plc .
The new chip also serves as fair warning to fellow set-top chip competitors, such as Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Entropic Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ENTR) and Sigma Designs Inc. (Nasdaq: SIGM), that Intel is not going away anytime soon.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable