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NeoMagic Corporation (NASDAQ:NMGC), a provider of Applications Processors for multimedia-rich mobile phones, wireless personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other mobile handheld systems, has debuted its MiMagic 6 is the first Applications Processor capable of delivering fully-featured, on-chip 3D graphics acceleration. NeoMagic is a contributing member of The Khronos Group, Inc., which has defined the OpenGL ES emerging industry standard 3D interface. NeoMagic's MiMagic 6 enables a new generation of high performance 3D and gaming capability on hand-held devices without adding cost, size or weight. The MiMagic 6, with its massively parallel APA multimedia engine, also optimizes power and performance for a complete range of multimedia applications, including digital audio processing, image processing, MPEG-4 and H.264 video decoding and encoding, and video conferencing.

"NeoMagic's massively parallel APA accelerator enables the company to offer, in one chip, 3D graphics support for games as well as audio and video processing. Designed strictly as an accelerator for multimedia, the APA usesless power than an unaided general-purpose microprocessor executing the same applications," said Max Baron, principal analyst and senior editor at Instat/MDR. "NeoMagic's APA accelerator, first integrated into the MiMagic 6, may turn out to be a major differentiator through its capability to execute any logical function that can be expressed as a bit-sequential program -- and to execute it directly within its own on-chip memory," concluded Baron.

"Design engineers are beginning to understand that a multimedia-rich Applications Processor makes sense, even for highly focused devices like mobile phones. The efficiency that the MiMagic 6 provides is reflected not only in performance and power, but in the flexibility and scalability of its APA-based multimedia engine," said Mark Singer, vice president of marketing for NeoMagic. "When MiMagic 6 is used, a single mobile platform can be designed to include a wide range of multimedia features, or can be rapidly upgraded with new capabilities. The key is offering superior multimedia with a path to future needs."

Full 3D Performance

Gaming is one of several new multimedia capabilities that is driving the adoption of increasingly sophisticated mobile phones and wireless PDAs. 3D graphics technology, as found in the PC and gaming console markets, is quite complex. It is important to achieve high enough performance to provide a full set of 3D features, along with the fluidity, or speed of motion, that the game-playing consumer has come to expect. But for handheld devices such as mobile phones, the power consumption to attain that performance level is also critical.

To provide a visually appealing 3D presentation of a game-generated environment requires a tremendous amount of computation. Objects in the game are modeled as a skeleton of polygons -- or triangles --which must be covered with realistic-looking textured surfaces, using modulation and lighting, so that they appear as solid objects. These must then be manipulated through complex motions in relation to other modeled objects. A compelling gaming environment also shows environmental factors such as light, fog, and see-through objects. All of these factors must be computed rapidly enough for fluid movement on the screen.

Triangles per second is a typical gaming-industry measurement for 3D computational performance, with a higher number of triangles per second desirable. When more triangles per second can be calculated, scenes can be more complex, and game-play more fluid. Currently, 3D games can be rendered entirely in software on high-end PDAs with RISC-based Applications Processors running at 400 megahertz (MHz) or more, achieving about 20 to 60 thousand triangles per second, depending on scene complexity. Unfortunately this approach consumes several hundred milliwatts of power, meaning heavier batteries and shorter battery life.

Mobile phones, on the other hand, have lower-speed baseband processors, and increasingly rely upon these to run ever-more features and functions, including games. While more power-efficient, basebands are generally less robust computationally, and on their own can typically achieve only 6 to 20 thousand triangles per second in 3D gaming environments.

Even a high-end Applications Processor calculating 20 to 60 thousand triangles per second may produce only two to six frames per second of motion in a reasonably complex game -- much too slow for an engaging gaming experience. Consequently, there is a need for improved 3D computational performance at low power consumption for battery-operated units.

The multimedia engine in the MiMagic 6 can deliver 300 thousand to one million 3D triangles per second when operating at only 100MHz. This dramatic increase in performance results in a rich handheld gaming experience, with complex games running at 30 frames per second or more. The MiMagic 6 does not require additional external components, or added cost, in order to accomplish this performance.

3D Performance Efficiency

In order to deliver long battery life while playing 3D games, and to reserve battery power for phone calls in mobile handsets, the designer of a mobile handset must consider power consumption along with 3D performance: How much power does it take to deliver a given level of 3D gaming performance? One way to measure performance-power efficiency is to take the computational performance (measured as triangles per second or TPS), and divide by the power consumption of the 3D solution (measured in milliwatts).

A 32-bit RISC baseband and a 32-bit RISC Applications Processor will each process about 200 to 240 triangles per second per milliwatt. In comparison, the MiMagic 6 APA multimedia engine can deliver up to 20,000 triangles per second per milliwatt.

The MiMagic 6 3D solution improves 3D performance-power efficiency by as much as two orders of magnitude over typical mobile phone baseband processors or competitive Applications Processors.

Full 3D Requires Rich Capability Set

The MiMagic 6 performs the 3D calculations required for high performance, gaming on handheld devices. The massively parallel APA multimedia engine performs computations on multiple triangles at one time. To date, other Applications Processors and companion chips for handheld "gaming acceleration" have not delivered a full 3D feature set.

For example, in complex scenes with thousands of polygons, the APA multimedia engine computes geometry, lighting, and projection calculations. This of floads the ARM9 RISC processor in the MiMagic 6 from performing the complex computation of the coordinates in space and on the screen, where triangles are to be drawn. Once the triangle coordinates are determined, another computation must be performed for each pixel to determine which portion of any triangle may be in front of another, referred to as the Z-order.

The drawing of each triangle may also include different attributes for the triangle such as color interpolation (Gouraud shading), or applying a texture map. When applying a texture, MiMagic 6 can also compute MIP mapping and bilinear filtering of the textures. Other advanced visual features that are implemented include multi-texture, alpha blending (for transparency or "see-through" effects), and fog.

A key problem with traditional 3D architectures that have evolved from the PC marketplace is that increasing performance levels have required ever-larger memories and ever-higher memory bandwidth to manage texturing and Z-buffering. Accessing these memories contributes greatly to the overall system power of a 3D solution. Using patent-pending algorithms for 3D computation that take advantage of the unique nature of the APA multimedia engine, MiMagic 6 provides advanced 3D features, like Z-order calculations without the need for added memories. This results in a net savings of power and cost with the MiMagic 6 implementation.

More Than Just 3D Graphics

While the MiMagic 6 enables full 3D graphics performance at a low power, the APA in the MiMagic 6 is a multifunctional multimedia engine rather than dedicated 3D graphics hardware. Consequently, the MiMagic 6 can be used for a full range of multimedia tasks, including digital audio, video, and image processing. The result is a more cost-effective multimedia solution compared to external hardware solutions, and a lower power consumption solution relative to processing on the RISC CPU as is done with other Applications Processors.

The MiMagic 6

The MiMagic 6 is the first member in NeoMagic's family of ARM-based Applications Processors to incorporate the APA multimedia engine. The MiMagic 6 includes a 200MHz ARM926EJ processor with 16KB instruction cache, 16KB data cache, and a tightly coupled memory (TCM), as well as Jazelle hardware Java acceleration for broad compatibility with popular operating systems and software. In order to move data into and out of the device efficiently, the MiMagic 6 incorporates a unique dual external memory bus to minimize contention between CPU instruction and data fetches. It also has a multi-layered internal bus architecture to provide for high internal data bandwidth. The MiMagic 6 includes 1.7 megabits of internal SRAM for video and graphics frame buffer; dedicated hardware for pre-processing of camera input; a 2D BitBLT graphics engine to improve performance of Graphical User Interfaces; dual video overlay datapaths, and numerous input/output (I/O) devices such as UARTs, USB, and memory card controllers. The MiMagic 6 comes in a 13 x 13 x 1.2 mm very small ball grid array (BGA) package. Samples are available today, with production deliveries priced below $18 at unit quantities above 10,000 pieces.

About NeoMagic

NeoMagic Corporation, based in Santa Clara, California, enables new generations of handheld systems with Applications Processors that are designed to offer the lowest power, smallest form-factor and best multimedia features and performance. The company is a pioneer in the integration of complex logic, memory and analog circuits into single-chip solutions.

NeoMagic can be found on the World Wide Web at

For more information, call 408/486-3955.
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Publication:Multimedia Publisher
Date:Feb 1, 2004

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