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Renesas Announces "Dreamcast On A Chip"

Mark Hachman

SAN JOSE -- Renesas Technology has taken many of the technologies used in the Sega Dreamcast game console and combined them into a single core.

Officials from Japan's Renesas, which assumed control over the development of the SH processor from ST Microelectronics on Sept. 28, announced the SH3707 embedded processor at the Fall Processor Forum here today. The SH3707 combines both an advanced SuperH core and a PowerVR graphics core, the components found in the original Dreamcast.

Specifically, the Dreamcast console contained a 200-MHz Hitachi SH4 with the capability to perform 360 million instructions per second (MIPS) and 1.4 million megaflops, or floating-point operations per second. The Dreamcast also contained an NEC PowerVR2 graphics chip.

The new SH3707 uses a faster 540 MIPS/2.1 gigaflops engine, with a 64-bit interface to memory. The core also contains a PowerVR MBX chip, a core that Imagination Technologies has licensed to Intel and Texas Instruments, among others.

Sega's decision to exit the console business in 2001 was met with dismay with gamers, who admired the system's graphics capabilities. However, the console's sales slipped after rival Sony released the PS2 in the U.S., Microsoft announced plans for the Xbox, and Nintendo launched the Gameboy Advance, providing another outlet for gamer dollars. Even today, the console is actively traded on sites like eBay.

Renesas officials said they actually designed the chip with game consoles or other entertainment devices in mind, although they didn't announce any customers for the chip.

"Our goal was to accomplish second-generation (console) performance and first-generation cost," said Mitsuhiro Miyazaki, the project deputy manager for Renesas, based in Tokyo.

According to Miyazaki, the target specification for the platform is to achieve up to 1024 x 768 resolution, 10 million to 13 million vertices or 5 million to 6 million triangles per second, with up to 20 percent translucency per scene – in other words, anticipating a game where some of the polygons would be enhanced with transparency effects. That would place the SH3707 at somewhat over twice the performance of the Dreamcast, which could handle up to 3 million triangles per second. The SH3707 also has the capability of processing MPEG-1, -2, and -4 video and eight-channel PCM/ADCPM audio.

The SH3707 will ship in the first quarter of 2005, Miyazaki said.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in ExtremeTech.

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