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Pixelworks’ i6 Renews Phone Displays

March 2, 2021

Author: Aakash Jani

Pixelworks’ i6 and i6 Pro display processors are shaking up the smartphone ecosystem by bringing premium features to midrange phones. These little-known designs continuously improve images and video from standard dynamic range (SDR) to high dynamic range (HDR) and reduce power consumption in certain applications. Both employ a DSP and fuzzy-logic accelerator in the display pipeline. They’re the company’s first fuzzy-logic processors, enabling a plethora of new capabilities.

The chips support up to 144Hz displays with WQHD+ (2,560x1,440) resolution and provide features such as auto-adaptive-display support, industry-leading color calibration, and HDR tone mapping. As Table 1 shows, the i6 targets midrange phones, whereas the i6 Pro targets low-end premium phones. Both are manufactured in TSMC’s 22nm ULP process and reached production in 1Q21.

Pixelworks began in Portland, Oregon in 1997 and developed its first display products, with Toshiba’s help, one year later. From 1997 to 2017, it was the leader in projector and LCD-TV technology. But the total value of these markets started to decline in the mid-2010s, forcing the company to pivot, and in the process, relocate to Silicon Valley.

Bob Zhang, Pixelworks’ CTO, led a mobile revolution beginning in 2017. He leveraged the company’s extensive display experience to improve smartphones, first with the Iris 3 processor, which later became the i3. Pixelworks initially targeted low-cost and ultralow-cost phones with early features such as power-saving always-on HDR. As its customer base grew, adding Nokia, TCL, and others, it targeted a higher-price segment by offering the X-series. These premium chips met the requirements of gaming phones, winning designs in the Asus ROG and Xiaomi Black Shark.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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