FPGAs take control of LCD panels

An Actel product story
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Edited by the Electronicstalk editorial team Dec 11, 2007

Options appeal to designers of power-sensitive portable and handheld consumer, industrial, medical, automotive and military devices that use small- to medium-size LCDs.

Actel has come up with a range of flexible solutions for liquid crystal display (LCD) control applications.

The new Igloo Video Demo Board, LCD adapter boards with LCD panels, the Igloo Video Demo Kit (IVDK) and display-related reference blocks leverage the company's industry-leading 5uW Actel Igloo FPGAs.

The company expects these offerings will be attractive to designers of power-sensitive portable and handheld consumer, industrial, medical, automotive and military devices that use small- to medium-size LCDs.

The portable market has seen a surge in LCD usage due to the increasing popularity of personal media players, MP3 devices, PDAs, and digital cameras.

According to market analyst firm iSuppli, the small- to medium-size display (below 10in) is the fastest growing segment of the market.

iSuppli predicts total unit shipments of small- to medium-size panels to be 3.8 billion in 2007 and 4.5 billion in 2011.

"As we address LCD display control within portable applications, a low-power, reprogrammable solution is required to adapt to evolving standards and technologies and deliver the desired power consumption, footprint, and time to market".

"Offering 200x less static power and more than 10x the battery life than competitive programmable logic offerings, Igloo dominates when power matters", says Fares Mubarak, Senior Vice President of Actel Corporation.

In portable devices, LCDs can consume up to 50% of the application's power budget, escalating the need for a power-efficient solution.

Within 1u), Igloo devices easily enter and exit Flash-Freeze mode where Igloo consumes as little as 5uW while retaining the contents of the system memory and data registers.

As a result, the Flash-based Igloo FPGA can enable both the LCD panel and the controller to function in a power-saving mode and the LCD data and backlight to be disabled, representing significant battery savings for LCD applications.

Unlike the ASSP display controllers they can displace, Actel's low-power Igloo devices can be quickly reprogrammed to adapt and support a variety of LCD displays and changing display technologies, therefore enabling the easy migration between panels as necessary.

Further, these feature-rich FPGAs can absorb additional glue logic and more complex LCD controls into a single chip, thereby reducing board area.

Leveraging the Actel Igloo AGL600, Actel's partner Attodyne, a design services company specialising in video and LCDs, offers the Igloo Video Demo Board, which processes video signals for the LCD.

The video input to the Igloo Video Demo Board can be from multiple sources, such as a CMOS camera headboard or a DVI-D input.

This board can drive the LCD panel through a 50-pin onboard connector or from an LVDS interface through the two RJ45 connectors for Panel Standardisation Working Group (PSWG)-compliant single-/dual-channel standard panels.

Initially, three LCD adapter boards will also be made available to demonstrate advanced LCD controller features, such as image downscaling, alpha blending, colour conversion and de-interlacing.

These boards include a 7, 4.3 or 2.7in LCD panel with resolutions ranging from 480x800 to quarter video graphics array (QVGA).

The adapter boards include the appropriate connectors, drivers and inverters to the LCD and interfaces with the Igloo Video Demo Board.

The Igloo Video Demo Kit combines the Video Demo board with an LCD adapter board, software and demo, power supply and DVI-D cables to enable users to rapidly start building their LCD controller applications.

"Actel's Igloo family brings an unprecedented low-power solution to portable LCD control applications", says Ray Page, President, Attodyne.

"Our collaboration has resulted in sophisticated and flexible solutions that enable designers to shave months off of their design time and will easily meet the most stringent power budgets".

Rounding out its LCD display offerings, Actel has worked with its partners to offer a broad range of reference blocks that include video timing generation, colour conversion, single-channel LVDS transmitter, on-screen display, alpha blending of two image/video source, frame grabber, frame buffer, frame rate conversion, and colour management functionality.

The Igloo Video Demo Kit, the Igloo Video Demo Board, the LCD adapter boards, and a range of display-related reference blocks are available now from Attodyne.

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