Lattice Semiconductor Outs Pair Of SuperMHL Chipsets, Hopes To Enable Easier Implementation

You may be familiar with Silicon Image, a company that primarily develops chipsets utilizing the MHL standard. Recently, Silicon Image changed its name to Lattice Semiconductor and also announced the first two new chipsets under its new brand that should make enabling superMHL easier.

MHL has been around for a few years now, but one of the constant difficulties of the standard has been connectivity. SuperMHL uses a USB Type-C connector, but currently, displays aren't set up to receive video input from this source. In order to make superMHL work, you typically would need a special cable that can change the electric signals to match HDMI, and then output over an HDMI connector. This comes at the cost of USB 3.1 data transfer and power transfer, but at least you get video and audio sent easily to the display.

The first new chipset released by Lattice is the Sil8630 (still using the Silicon Image "Sil" prefix), designed for use in various devices including smartphones, game consoles and set-top TV boxes. The biggest advantage that this new chip has over the older Sil7033 is that it contains an MHL switch. This enables it to directly interface with HDMI 2.0-compliant displays without relying on an adapter to change the electrical signals. All the adapter is required to do, then, is switch from the USB Type-C connector on one end to the HDMI 2.0 connector on the other end.

The second chip released is the SIL9396, which is alternatively designed for use inside of displays. This chipset enables a much wider range of superMHL functions, as it makes a direct USB Type-C to USB Type-C connection. The result is that not only can audio and video be sent at 4K 60 Hz, but power and data can be sent as well. A display utilizing this chipset can then charge devices connected to it, and if the display has USB ports, it can function as a USB hub for storage and input devices.

"Our superMHL transmitters and receivers offer the lowest power, quick time to market, and the only solution to offer concurrent USB 3.1 data with 4K60 UHD video to address the growing number of productivity applications for mobile devices," said Abdullah Raouf, senior marketing manager at Lattice Semiconductor. "Other video solutions require four lanes to deliver 4K 60fps, which inhibits concurrent 4K video with USB 3.1 data."

Overall, these chipsets don't offer higher resolution support, faster data transfer rates, or similar improvements over the old chipsets, but they do go a long way in simplifying the way in which superMHL can be implemented. The new chipsets are shipping now, and may bring wider support for the standard.

Update, 8/3/15, 5:30pm PT: Lattice got back in touch with us to inform the company changed its name after Silicon Image was acquired by Lattice Semiconductor. The company also informed us that SiI7033 is complementary to the SiI8630 and not an older version of the chip. It is sold along side the SIL8630 with its own set of features.

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Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.
  • MyDocuments
    I was just about to ask if Lattice Semiconductor hadn't instead aquired this company (Lattice having been around in the Programmable Logic industry since many years along with the likes of Altera, Cypress & Xilinx)