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New Marvell chip takes a stab at ultra HD for TVs

The Armada 1500 Pro 4K uses Marvell's software to amp up a full-HD signal into something closer to ultra HD.

The chipmaker gained Google as a customer for its Armada chips. Marvell

Marvell added to the push for ultra-high definition as the next big thing in televisions with a beefed-up version of its Armada 1500 chips, which are used in set-top boxes and smart TVs.

The new Armada 1500 Pro 4K is the chipmaker's first in the line to enable ultra HD, also known as 4K, which offers a substantially higher-resolution picture than full HD. The new chip could help Marvell continue to build up adoption of its Armada line, which already had a big win by being chosen for the Google Chromecast video-streaming dongle.

Gaurav Shah, a Marvell vice president, said in an interview the Pro 4K builds on Marvell's Qdeo video-processing software to allow set-top boxes using the chip to amp up full HD video into something closer to -- but not quite -- ultra HD content. That feature would only be available to customers using both the new chip and an ultra HD television.

The Pro 4K also improves the security functions of the Armada line, something cable providers will want as they try to protect their 4K content from piracy. And the chip will be able to decode video using HEVC, or high efficiency video coding, which should make better use of bandwidth when piping a video signal.

Production of the Pro 4K already started and Shah said Marvell is working with service providers -- he declined to say who -- that are launching new set-top boxes this year.