Broadcom's Bringing UHD to Your Cable BoxS

Ultra-high definition TV is coming—sooner than you think. The industry is certainly already on board, what with the recent release of the HDMI 2.0 standard and a steadily growing stable relatively inexpensive of 4K-capable TVs. But actually getting 4K content from anything other than a local media drive is still a problem. Or it was until this morning with Broadcom's unveiling of its new HEVC chipsets.

These new 28nm SoC's feature Brahma 15 10000 DMIPs ARMv7 processor and will allow a set-top box—cable, satellite, streaming, whatever—to receive UHD-quality broadcasts via the high-efficiency video codec (HEVC) standard H.265. This codec greatly reduces the amount of bandwidth video transmission requires, allowing cable and satellite providers to provide 4K content without breaking their existing networks.

""When we went from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4" explained Broadcom's Rich Nelson to Gizmodo,"there was about a 50 percent increase in video codec efficiency and MPEG-4 to HEVC is a similar [performance] increase. So if you have a new box with an HEVC decoder in it, I can compress [an SD, 720p, or 1080p video stream] use HEVC and send it and use approximately half the bandwidth with similar quality video." This could offer folks that live in areas with shaky broadband connectivity or have to deal with monthly data caps the opportunity to enjoy HD content more freely.

And while 4k UHD video looks spectacular to the viewer, it requires four times as many bits to reproduce as regular HD and four times the bandwidth using MPEG-4. But with HEVC, Nelson explained, the bandwidth requirement is halved, effectively giving the the viewer four times the resolution at just twice the bandwidth cost.

What's more, the series' high-end SoCs will offer a "Dual Display" feature, allowing a single set-top box to simultaneously display two 1080p video streams on two separate HDMI channels that can be controlled with two different remotes. Think side-by-side 1080p feeds or the most gorgeous PIP display ever.

The new HEVC family of chips are being demo'd at the RAI expo in Amsterdam later this week, expect to see them in a set-top box near you by 2014. [Image: Bruce Rolff]