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SYNC: Powered By Freescale's i.MX516

SYNC With MyFord Touch: Automotive Infotainment For All

Ford and Microsoft joined forces to release the first iteration of SYNC back in 2007, which enabled mobile phone and digital media player connectivity. It made its way into 2008 model year Fords as a $395 option on the Focus, Fusion, Edge, and more. The first iteration of Ford SYNC was fairly basic, and did not incorporate an LCD display. However, it included Bluetooth phone integration with voice-activated hands-free calling, phone book transfer, text-to-speech, and voice control of your music.

The interior of our 2012 Ford Focus Titanium features SYNC with MyFord Touch and appointed with leatherThe interior of our 2012 Ford Focus Titanium features SYNC with MyFord Touch and appointed with leather

Ford’s second-generation infotainment system, dubbed SYNC with MyFord Touch, expounds upon the first SYNC system's capabilities, upgrading the Focus' center stack with an eight-inch touch-screen LCD that serves as the main interface for SYNC with MyFord Touch. The system supports complete voice control of all infotainment features, including phone, radio, navigation, and climate control. Voice control is backed up by physical buttons on the center stack and steering wheel for quick access. 

Inside SYNC With MyFord Touch

Ford tapped Freescale Semiconductor for the system-on-chip, or SoC, that powers SYNC with MyFord Touch. At the heart of Ford's implementation you'll find an i.MX51x-series SoC with 512 MB of memory and 2 GB of NAND flash. Ford isn't particularly forthcoming with information about its implementation, but we confirmed that the company is using the i.MX516 (a fairly easy task, since Freescale only has two models in the family intended for automotive use). Interestingly, the i.MX516 packs an HD video processing unit, which SYNC with MyFord Touch does not yet exploit.

Though the Freescale i.MX51x family was released in 2009, it's powerful enough to drive Ford’s touch-screen user interface. The SoC's CPU consists of a single 600 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 core with Advanced SIMD extensions (referred to as NEON). The NEON instruction set helps accelerate media-oriented tasks, such as voice recognition and audio processing, though we're not certain whether SYNC takes advantage of the extensions or not.

The i.MX51 integrates Qualcomm's Adreno 200 graphics, formerly known as AMD Imageon Z430, with support for the OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenVG 1.1 standards, Direct3D Mobile, and Direct Draw. Although we can't install benchmarks to the infotainment system itself, we were able to pull out an old HTC Incredible with CyanogenMod 7 on it to get a better idea of how well Adreno 200 performs in GLBenchmark. Scores from our tablet testing is included for comparison.

Although it's not as powerful as Nvidia's Tegra 3 or the latest multi-core PowerVR SGX-based design, Qualcomm's Adreno 200 doesn't need to handle ultra-high resolutions or 3D gaming. Instead, it's fast enough to render 3D maps, which is really all it's used for, since the rest of the UI relies on OpenVG 2D acceleration.

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