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Sharper Vision, Brains in i.MX8M Plus

February 4, 2020

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Tracking the latest trends, NXP is adding vision processing, signal processing, and neural-network acceleration to its latest i.MX multimedia processor. Among the other new features are additional I/O interfaces for industrial and commercial applications, including PCI Express 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet with Time-Sensitive Networking.

The i.MX8M Plus expands the i.MX8M family’s capabilities while employing 14nm FinFET technology to hold typical power consumption to 3.0W or less. In battery-powered systems, it can operate on less than 1W. Yet it still has up to four Arm Cortex-A53 CPUs and a Cortex-M7 microcontroller core.

The most important features prepare the i.MX8M Plus for edge applications that combine vision, speech recognition, and machine learning with graphics, audio, and networking. This do-it-all chip is equally at home in audio/video receivers, smart cameras, security systems, robots, drones, and “Industry 4.0” factory equipment. To process vision, speech, and sensor input, it adds a 32-bit DSP, two image signal processors (ISPs), and a custom deep-learning accelerator (DLA). Although previous i.MX8 chips can use their Cortex-A53s for local AI inference, four of those general-purpose CPUs can manage only 0.03 trillion operations per second (TOPS). The new accelerator delivers 2.3 TOPS.

NXP expects the i.MX8M Plus to cost $10–$20 in volume. It’s sampling now, with production scheduled to start in 3Q20. Competitors can’t match its versatility at those prices. Since NXP introduced the i.MX8M family in 2017, it has rolled out at least one significant new model every year. The i.MX8M Plus is a worthy flag bearer for 2020.

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