This section provides an overview for socs as well as their applications and principles. Also, please take a look at the list of 4 soc manufacturers and their company rankings.
Table of Contents
An SoC stands for "system on a chip", meaning that all the functions that make up a system are realized on a single semiconductor chip, and semiconductor devices that fulfill this role are called SOC.
The elements that make up a microcomputer can be categorized as a microprocessor, memory, image processing engine, image display processing unit and input/output control unit, and input/output devices such as various communication interfaces.
In the early days, when microcomputers first appeared, these components were in pieces and were combined to make a system for device control.
With the subsequent rapid development of semiconductor technology, the memory, graphics, and various interface functions that were previously outside the microprocessor have been incorporated into the microcomputer and have become part of the SoC, contributing greatly to the miniaturization and weight reduction of devices. SOC is used in a wide range of applications.
SoCs are used in a wide variety of consumer and professional equipment.
These include home appliances, TVs and recorders, various audio equipment, cars and motorcycles, and various measuring instruments for professional use. The SOCs installed in these devices continue to evolve as the central part of device control, contributing to the miniaturization of devices by incorporating peripheral hardware and other components optimized for each field and application.
In addition, the processing power of processors has also been improved, greatly increasing the amount of data and calculations that can be handled. As a result, the devices can be operated without stress and can be expressed with exquisite and beautiful graphics.
As mentioned above, the elements that make up SoCs can be categorized as a microprocessor, memory, image processing engine, image display processing unit, input/output control unit, various communication interfaces, and other input/output devices.
For example, a terrestrial digital broadcasting-compatible TV is a typical example of a field of application of SoCs. Conventionally, SOCs are divided into a front-end section that receives broadcast waves, a demuxing section that decompresses compressed signals and separates information such as program information, a decoding section that converts the decompressed signals into a form that can be displayed on an LCD screen, a graphics display control section, and a processor section that oversees these processes. One LSI was used for each processing part.
With the subsequent development of semiconductor processes and microfabrication technology, most LSI chips are now integrated into a single SoC chip. Furthermore, with the dramatic evolution of the processing speed of the processor itself, the number of pixels in the image, from normal SD broadcasting to HD broadcasting, and further to 4K broadcasting, has increased, and the amount of processing can be increased.
SiP (system in package) encapsulates the die or chip itself with various functions in a single package, whereas SoCs integrate various functions on a single chip. This includes SOCs. The following is a comparison of the differences between SoCs and SiPs.
Degree of Freedom in Structure
While SOCs are limited by their structure of integrating functions on a single chip, SiPs can incorporate already manufactured dies and chips, as well as the SOCs itself, and thus have a large degree of structural freedom. For this reason, products with limited mounting area, such as smartphones, use stacked SiPs, in which chips such as SOCs, which are mounted separately on the board, are stacked vertically.
Functional Integration Surface
In the case of SoCs, it is difficult to integrate large-capacity storage media such as flash memory and DRAM due to manufacturing process and area issues, but in SiP, there are no restrictions, so a wide variety of storage media can be integrated. Another difference is that SiPs do not require a high-speed bus to connect chips if chips with multiple functions are encapsulated in a single package. On the other hand, the disadvantage of SiPs is that the more functions are integrated, the larger the package size becomes.
Development Time and Sample Shipment
SOCs require the addition of new functions and further performance improvement on a single chip, while the area is limited and the size must be reduced, which naturally increases the development time and cost. On the other hand, SiP is different in that it is possible to use a die/chip that has already been developed and the SoCs itself can be used without modification, which significantly shortens the development period, the time until sample shipment, and the cost of development.
There is no clear difference between SoCs and microcontrollers in terms of the fact that all the functions necessary for operation are contained in a single chip. If we were to make a strong distinction, SoCs are used in sophisticated devices with high circuit integration, such as smartphones, while microcontrollers are used in devices with relatively low circuit integration and simple functions, such as refrigerators and rice cookers.
*Including some distributors, etc.
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