System-on-Chip – SoC

Why SoC?

We need System-on-Chip [SoC] to realize highly portable devices that give more performance and consume less power. Laptop is one of the best examples. Personal Computers that used to operate on UPS boxes have been transformed into Laptops using SoC. Now laptops use multicore processors as part of SoC and do more than PCs on a rechargeable battery. So, we go with SoCs for two main reasons – More performance and less power consumption. This is how we create portable devices like laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.

What is SoC?

A System-on-Chip is an integrated circuit that integrates all components of an electronic system. For example, PC has a traditional motherboard that houses and connects all the components like processor, graphics interfaces, RAM and hard-disk, memory interfaces, external interfaces like ethernet, PCI, USB, etc. Using SoC design methodology, we integrate almost all these components on a single die and fabricate it as a chip. This is how we create laptops using SoC and this is the main reason why laptops consume much lesser power than PCs.

SoC Architecture

Every SoC uses a microcontroller along with memories, memory controllers, timers, reset controllers, PLLs, JTAG, interfaces like USB, I2S, SPI, UART, etc. to realize any electronic system. As shown in the figure, on-chip bus ARM’s Advanced Microcontroller Bus Architecture[AMBA] with AXI/AHB/ASB/APB protocols is used to connect all these components, called as Intellectual Properties [IPs].

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_on_a_chip

Generally, SoC architecture varies based on the end product. For example, a smartphone SoC may have additional IPs like Bluetooth, WiFi, USB-TypeC, Camera, Audio, Video, Modem, Analog IPs, GPUs, DSP cores, etc. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and Apple’s A11 are some of the prominent smartphone SoC’s.

To know more, how we design the smartphone SoC step-by-step in detail, please explore our online VLSI System-on-Chip Design course

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