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Panasonic Blu-Ray DVD players move to 45nm

Posted: 13 Nov 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DVD player  45nm  lithography 

Choosing a DVD player is not as easy a decision as choosing a television. This is because of the additional investments needed to enjoy the player, such as movies to watch, increases the cost. The TV choice you make is important, but after you have made your decision, you can rest assured that it will work with pretty much anything you connect to it. If the decision you make for a DVD player format eventually loses out to the other, after time you will likely have to repurchase your favorite movies on the alternative system. And many consumers are either still smarting from their own Beta/VHS experiences or have heard the horror stories (this was about 30 years ago after all and some of today's consumers weren't around, or at least not in a buying position back then!).

The Panasonic DMR-XW200V is particularly interesting because it uses a 45-nm Matsushita UniPhier LSI, the first true 45-nm device of any kind available on the market (Click to view larger image)

Cost has also been a concern. Fortunately high-definition DVD players have escaped the early adopter phase where price premiums were put in place for those that just had to have the latest and greatest technology. So not only are consumers worried that they might have to replace their movie collections more than once, they had to pay a significant amount of money first before the format war winner is determined. The rumour is that WalMart is going to have a limited number of $99 HD DVD players at their stores for Black Friday, which makes it a much less risky investment, other than the time consumers will likely have to wait in line to get one of these amazingly priced players!

One high-definition DVD player that has recently entered the market, at least in Japan, is the Panasonic DMR-XW200V Blu-Ray. Why is this one of more interest than the PlayStation 3 (which plays Blu-Ray DVDs as well as games), the Samsung BD-P1400, or Pioneer BDP-HD1? Well, that has to do with one of the components inside. The Panasonic DMR-XW200V uses a 45-nm Matsushita UniPhier LSI, the first true 45-nm device of any kind available on the market, moving Matsushita ahead of all others in terms of the smallest process lithography in full scale production, even beating Intel, who have traditionally been on the forefront of the process envelope. The die is packaged with Panasonic markings of MN2WS0038AP.

The UniPhier, short for Universial Platform for High Quality Image Enhancing Revolution, allows two high definition screens to be processed at the same time, in this case at resolutions of 1080P. Releasing a 45-nm device provides some significant benefits. The device is smaller, thus enabling more die per wafer to be created. From a manufacturing point of view, a vendor buys a wafer for a set amount, whether they make one chip or a thousand chips on it. A process shrink can increase the number of dice per wafer by as much as 50 per cent. This nets a much higher return, even if the yield decreases.

This can also lead to lower power consumption, estimated to be as much as 70 per cent less, which is very beneficial for consumer products. Granted a DVD player is plugged in, so there is no concern about battery life, but the lower power means less electricity used which is better for both power bills and the environment. It also means less heat generated, which will reduce the amount of time cooling fans will turn on, lessening noise and further reducing overall system power used.

To achieve such a small process node Matsushita has implemented 193-nm immersion lithography, stress-induced mobility-enhancement for transistor performance, low-k dielectrics and design-for-manufacturability technologies. The die size measured 66.4mm squared. The transistor size has been measured at 40nm. There are nine metal layers used for manufacturing, eight of which are copper while the ninth is aluminum.

Advances in process technology should lead to cheaper and lower power consumer devices. The Matsushita 45nm UniPhier is a great start down that path and paves the way for further developments.

Gregory Quirk
Technology marketing manager, Semiconductor Insights Inc.

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