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Broadcom chip ushers in H.265 and Ultra HD video

The H.265 video standard, aka HEVC or MPEG-5, squeezes more pixels over a network connection to support new high-resolution 4K TVs. Broadcom's chip supports both and is due to arrive in volume next year.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Broadcom logo

As product names go, BCM7445 is as boring as it gets. But if you want better video, the Broadcom chip might get you excited.

That's because the processor, designed for Net-connected video devices and announced at the CES show today, is among the earliest to support a new video compression technology variously known as H.265, MPEG-5, and HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding). It's the successor to the very widely used H.264, aka AVC and MPEG-4 Part 10.

H.265 brings two notable features. First, it can match the quality of H.264 with half the network bandwidth, in principle either improving streaming video at the same data rate or reducing network usage at the same quality. Second, it supports Ultra HD video (also called 4K), which quadruples the number of pixels for larger displays.

Broadcom's chip maxes out at a resolution of 4,096x2,160 pixels at 60 frames per second, the company said. Conventional HDTV uses resolution of 1,920x1080 pixels.

The ARM-based quad-core processor also can run applications, handle gigabit networking, and decode up to four simultaneous streams of video. Broadcom declined to share pricing for the chip, which is built on a 28nm manufacturing process.

Samples of the chip are available to prospective customers now, but high-volume shipments won't begin until 2014.

One of H.265's notable challengers is Google's VP8 and upcoming VP9. With VP8, Google has offered a video encoding-decoding (codec) technology that's doesn't require patent royalty payments. H.264, which was available well before VP8, enjoys broader usage in the electronics market, though, reaching from Blu-ray discs to videocameras.