For Buyers Without Wire Desires: Clarification On A Recent-Past Atmel Insinuation, And Additional Information
I happened to be looking over my mid-November Prying Eyes teardown of SiBEAM’s transmitter-plus-receiver WirelessHD reference design yesterday in the process of finalizing last night’s post, and I realized that I’d inadvertently been unduly harsh to one of the building-block component suppliers. Check out this quote:
The top sides of both the transmitter and the receiver modules include Atmel AT91SAM256 microcontrollers to implement stand-alone operation. In an end-customer design, such as a Blu-ray player, a set-top box, a television, or an integrated home-theater setup, the system processor will typically manage the module, making the dedicated microcontroller unnecessary.
Fair enough. But where I think I went too far is in the prior set-up sentence, where I was specifically speaking of the Atmel µC:
Some of the silicon content is exclusive to the evaluation task and won’t appear in a production design.
That’s not, upon further reflection, necessarily true. While a next-generation consumer electronics device with an integrated WirelessHD transmitter or receiver subsystem is likely to already contain sufficient system processing muscle to deign a dedicated microcontroller as functionally redundant, plenty of homes are already filled with video sources and destination displays that aren’t already WirelessHD-cognizant. Consumers might still be interested in interconnecting them via wireless tethers. Enter, therefore, a product such as Best Buy’s RF-WHD100 Rocketfish WirelessHD adapter kit:
or its newer, less expensive four-port RF-WHD200 sibling:
either of which, being standalone device sets, perhaps obviously (to you, but apparently not to me, at least when I originally wrote my piece) require the management intelligence that a device such as Atmel’s AT91SAM256 can provide. Apologies to Atmel for my unintentional prior pessimism; my not-appropriate-for-production argument was relevant for the USB add-in boards in the SiBEAM reference design, but not necessarily for the microcontrollers.
Speaking of wireless video (and other high-bitrate) content transport, mid-last month I expressed surprise that Quantenna’s chipset integrated in the NETGEAR WNHD3004 5 GHz 802.11n access point was only capable of handling up to two coincident, unique spatial data streams, even though it comprehended up-to four transmit-plus-four receive MIMO antenna arrays. At that time, I linked to SmallNetBuilder’s preview peek at the WNHD3004; SmallNetBuilder has subsequently published a full review, which elaborates on but essentially reiterates the initial findings.
While the WNHD3004 may provide a more robust wireless link for a given transmitter-to-receiver span than an access point with a less-elaborate antenna array (or said another way, increase the span over which an adequate sustained-bandwidth connection is feasible), it won’t inherently boost the performance capabilities of that wireless link versus one created using a simpler (but still two unique stream-capable) access point design. To that point, I should also point out that back in mid-October, Marvell unveiled a competitive four-transmit-plus-four-receive antenna array-capable wireless transceiver which claims to one-up Quantenna in the unique spatial stream realm, supposedly handling up to three streams and translating to up-to-450 Mbps peak theoretical speeds. I’m not yet aware of any design wins for the Avastar 88W8764, but I commend the direction the 802.11n industry is headed.
Speaking of 5 GHz 802.11n, while I haven’t yet succeeded in getting Amimon-based gear into my hands, others have been more lucky. AnandTech’s Dustin Sklavos took the WHDI-derived ASUS WiCast for a test-drive back in October and seemingly wasn’t too impressed, especially considering the price versus a few-foot HDMI cable alternative. Putting aside the abundance of extra wires required to go ‘wireless’ (two power warts, two HDMI cables, and an optional USB-based power cable), Sklavos also encountered minor interference even at a 5-foot transmitter-to-receiver span, and the experience worsened with each five-foot distance increment. Slashdot showcased another “review” of both the ASUS WiCast and the similarly WHDI-based briteView Hdelight; this particular writeup is more enthusiastic but also far more scant, so take it for what (little) it’s worth.
Speaking of SiBEAM, I’ve got a few updates on its 60 GHz competitor, the WiGig (Wireless Gigabit) Alliance. About a month ago, the consortium unveiled several technology updates, which somewhat counterbalanced the disappointing qualifiers that initial product sampling won’t occur until mid-to-late next year, with production WiGig-based systems not forecasted to best-case start showing up until some time in 2012:
- WiGig augmented its existing plans to support HDMI by announcing a partnership with VESA, with the intention of sharing technical expertise and specifications to develop multi-gigabit wireless DisplayPort capabilities along with an associated certification program
- Feature completion of the WiGig version 1.0 A/V and I/O PAL (protocol adaptation layer) specifications has been achieved. The WiGig A/V PAL (i.e. the WiGig Display Extension) enables wireless implementations of DisplayPort and other display interfaces that include HDCP 2.0. WiGig I/O PALs (i.e. the WiGig Bus and Serial Extensions) define high-performance wireless implementations of widely used computer interfaces over 60 GHz. Associated specifications are scheduled for publication early next year. And…
- AMD is a new board of directors member, with CSR and Nitero as new contributing members.
And speaking of AnandTech, Intel’s 802.11-based WiDi (Wireless Display) was the primary technology that Sklavos compared WHDI against in his review. Back in late September, I pointed out the conceptual similarities between WiDi and Apple’s AirPlay, a still- and video-image-inclusive and third party-licensed follow-on to the company’s prior AirTunes wireless audio streaming protocol. Limited AirTunes support is built into iOS v4.2 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, which Apple released in mid-November, and at the moment the only valid still image and video streaming destination is the company’s second-generation Apple TV. Here are some hands-on reviews:
As it turns out, the current AirPlay content and application streaming limitations can be easily surmounted (for jailbroken hardware), as TUAW’s hacker supreme Erica Sadun first noted on the morning of November 24 and further elaborated on in a few-hour-later followup.
Download AirVideoEnabler if you’re daring (as I plan to do after as I get my hands on a 2nd-gen ATV and update my iPad O/S), or if you prefer, practice patience and belief in Steve Jobs’ supposed promise that Apple-sanctioned, more-encompassing streaming support is coming next year.