NEC, Samsung developments drive device miniaturization

Japan’s NEC Corp. and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. each announced Monday the development of new devices that should enable designers to make portable electronics devices even smaller.

NEC said it has developed a new type of liquid crystal display (LCD) panel that requires one-fifth the number of connecting wires that a current display requires, while Samsung said it has succeeded in cramming a microprocessor and two types of memory into a single chip package. On its own, each development only means a slight reduction in space requirements, but taken together and combined with constant advances in other technologies they add up to smaller or more feature-rich products in the future.

The new NEC display cuts down on the number of connections needed to the rest of the device by switching from a parallel interface, where several data signals each have their own connector, to a serial interface, where the signals share the same connector.

Serial display interfaces are not new, said Seiko Yabuuchi, a spokesperson for NEC subsidiary NEC Electronics Corp. They are commonly used on larger panels, but their use has been limited because they consume more power than equivalent parallel interface panels and power consumption becomes a problem when batteries are being used, such as on a portable device.

The new interface requires one third the power of the serial interfaces used in large displays, making it suitable for use with mobile devices, said Yabuuchi. NEC did not compare the power consumption with that of similar small displays using parallel interfaces. By making the displays with fewer connections, NEC says it is able to cut the amount of interference picked up along the cables by 90 per cent.

NEC expects to begin producing the displays in the second half of this year at a price roughly equivalent to that of existing displays.

Samsung announced development Monday of a chip that combines a processor core designed by ARM Ltd., flash memory and SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) in a single package. The chip is intended for use in products such as advanced cellular telephone handsets and personal digital assistants (PDAs) and can enable designers to cut one or two chips from their design thus allowing more compact devices to be made.

The new chip, “Oyster,” measures 17 millimeters square and is 1.4 millimeters high and includes a 206MHz ARM920T processor core, 32M bytes of NAND flash memory and 32M bytes of SDRAM. Samsung said it will be displaying the device at the GSM World Congress, which takes place in Cannes, France, from Feb. 18 to 21.