The Intel CE4100 (codenamed Sodaville) was introduced on September 24, 2009 at the Intel Developer Forum. Based on the Atom CPU, it is a full blown SoC. A basic block diagram of the CE4100 is shown below.


 

The x86 core in the SoC is based on the Atom CPU. We suspect that the CE4100 is a slightly modified single die implementation of the Lincroft and Langwell SOCs used in Moorestown, albeit in the 45nm process. While the Moorestown platform had a 32 bit DDR interface, the CE4100 increases this to 64. Other than that, the core components for the OpenGL and video decode support seem to be the same.

The Atom core with 512K of L2 cache is the host processor in the SoC. Though the internal L1 cache details are not public, it is likely to be the same as that of the Lincroft SoC which had 24K of data cache and 32K of instruction cache. Owing to a single die implementation, as well as the process geometry, the TDP of the SoC must be a bit high compared to Lincroft or Langwell taken alone. The higher DRAM bus width also contributes to an increase in the TDP.

The memory controller can support two separate channels of 32-bit DDR2-800/DDR3-1333. This is in contrast to the single channel 32 bit DRAM support in the Tegra 250 which was the earlier SoC under consideration. A NAND flash controller helps the system boot from attached Flash storage. The ability to boot from NAND flash has the potential to reduce the board costs.

Next, we shift our attention to the most interesting gray box in the diagram. This block consists of the video decoder, display processor and the graphics processor. While the block diagram removes any doubt that the graphics processor used is the same as the one used in the iPhone 4 (Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX535), the origins of the other two components are not entirely clear. We have been led to believe that Imagination Technologies is behind these components as well. The decoder would be a member of the PowerVR VXD series, and it is indicated that two simultaneous HD streams can be decoded. There is also hardware acceleration for decoding JPEG pictures, so one may possibly look forward to snappy photo slideshows in products using this SoC. The scaling, noise reduction and deinterlacing features of the display processor need proper programming in order to be able to deliver good results, and the quality of the Intel drivers would ultimately decide the HQV scores for media streamers based on this SoC. The display controller also needs proper configuration in case a product based on this SoC is supposed to end up supporting native frame rates. It is also responsible for OSD blending, subtitles and miscellaneous video functions.

From the perspective of the Boxee Box, the Audio/Video inputs go unused. However, using this SoC in a DVR / PVR system would make the usage of these inputs necessary. For media streamers, HDMI 1.3a is the key feature. Considering that this SoC was launched almost one year back, the absence of HDMI 1.4 is excusable. For general I/O, we have GbE support, but the Boxee Box only enables 100 Mbps Ethernet. The 2 SATA ports also go unused, but both the USB 2.0 host ports are taken advantage of. Some of the other I/O ports are configured for supporting SDIO. Without a look at the board, and knowledge of the pin configuration, it is not evident which I/Os are configured for supporting the SD card.

The CE4100 also sports a dual audio DSP from Tensilica, the Tensilica HiFi2. It is capable of downmixing / decoding two lossless HD audio streams (as per Blu-Ray bitrate specifications) simultaneously. The Transport Processor would be useful for a STB product. We have been given to understand that the security processor is not disabled in the Boxee Box. This should enable the Boxee Box to access premium online content and also get a license from the Blu-Ray consortium.

Tegra 2 Out, CE 4100 In Analyzing the Boxee Box Specifications
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  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    mataichi, What you are referring to is the SSA subtitle reproduction capability. It is part of our media streamer test suite, and Boxee has their hands on the test stream. I think they will make every effort to ensure that the subtitles display as intended by the subtitler.

    That said, do wait for a review of the unit from our side. We will confirm this for you, so that you can make an informed decision on the purchase.
    Reply
  • conejo99 - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    I see where it says this supports ISO, but how about VIDEO_TS folders (IFOs, VOBs etc.)? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    This is part of our test suite, and Boxee has it to make sure it is able to score as much as possible on it. I have no reason to believe that it won't be supported, but you will have to wait for the final review to confirm this. Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Thank god they dropped Tegra 2, everybody would have just dismissed the Boxee Box if it came out and couldn't handle high bit-rate HD video. Why buy a Boxee Box that can't handle true HD video when you can buy a WD TV Live for $65 off eBay that can handle almost everything? Now that it has the CE4100, the Boxee Box has become interesting again. Reply
  • Uzan - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Surely when talking about network filesystems you mean AFS rather than HFS+?

    HFS+ is to AFP what NTFS is to SMB
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Uzan, that wasn't about network file system alone. Sorry if that was the meaning which came across. What we wanted to convey was that Apple based file systems are supported on external USB drives also. Reply
  • icrf - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    I'm honestly much more interested in the hackability of the thing. I run both, but I'm a much bigger fan of XBMC than Boxee, as I have more often stream LAN content than from the internet and the UI is nicer for that IMO. They had previously said they were sending all their changes related to the hardware back upstream to XBMC and the box was supposed to be friendly to people that wanted to make a change to that, or anything else, really. I hope that spirit stays alive. If XBMC can run, due to the relative simplicity of an x86 core, but does have access to the decode hardware, I'll be a very sad panda.

    Any idea as to when they'll be able to send you a review sample? I assume the hardware is solid enough already, but they're spending time tweaking the software and don't want to send out too early and have reviews full of known problems (hence, you sending your test suite).

    But, even that said, I'll probably pre-order anyway. I'd wait for a review of the Tegra-2 version, but this I think I could just buy. I have more faith in x86 than ARM for a media player. If the above issues are handled, I'll evangelize the hell out of the platform.
    Reply
  • haze4peace - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    gigE port just isn't needed on this device. 100Mbps can stream your most demanding videos with plenty of headroom to spare. Also I'm sure you mean eSATA, which would be nice, but USB2.0 also has plenty of bandwidth to stream a high quality movie. So these are really non-issues, unless you have an external drive that only does eSATA. Reply
  • mindbomb - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Not a first.
    the western digital line of media streamers can do this.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Do you mean to say that special fonts / karaoke effects are supported in the WDTV Live? The last time I checked, it wasn't the case... I should probably recheck if you can confirm for sure :) Reply

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