Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New spud in the stew

Intellon Corp. rolled out Monday a second-generation HomePlug AV chip, its INT6300, that it claims delivers better performance at lower cost than the its previous chip. I'm still waiting for details how much the new chip boosts performance and lowers cost, but its press release at least gives a few hints about how it does it.

The new chip uses more modern process technology and sports a faster processor and memory bus, but again no specific numbers were given. Alas! A look at the product brief (itself pretty sketchy) reveals the new device is a multi-chip module packing the analog front-end together with the media access controller and physical layer interface for the first time. I infer from the block diagram, engineers can eliminate external flash required for the previous chip, tapping into host SDRAM memory instead. Overall, I give Intellon a "D" grade for a poor job documenting this new device.

In the bigger picture, powerline communications appears to be the least favored ingredient in today's home networking stew. Cable TV companies seem to be sloooowly migrating to the MoCA technology, while IPTV carriers are opting for HPNA. Meanwhile, technically literate consumers are snapping up Wi-Fi gear at the local electronics superstore in a big way, and every once in awhile those tech savvy users buy a powerline product. Intellon's new chip won't shift those dynamics.

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