What is a System on a Chip (SoC) with Examples
Do you know what’s inside your smartphone or tablet? It is the house of one SoCsalso known as system on chip. It’s quite powerful, more than any desktop processor in the 90s or early 2000s, which shows how far technology has come since then. These tiny but powerful chips are surprisingly very energy efficient and become even more so over time. This is the reason why smartphones today can play video games with high quality graphics and even perform basic video editing in quick succession.
What is a System on a Chip (SoC)
As stated above, the term SoC stands for System on a Chip. It is the name given due to the integration of multiple computer components all mounted on a single chip. Until now, SoCs, due to their small size, are mainly used for mobile devices.
Which company created the first SoC?
In 1974, the folks at Intel released a digital watch called the Microma Digital Watch, and from what we’ve gathered, it’s the first commercial device to have a SoC inside. Fast forward to the 1990s and several cell phones have an SoC inside, but these tiny chips really took off with the advent of the smartphone.
What is an SoC made of?
Because smartphones and tablets are quite small, all the essential components had to be on a single die, and that’s how the SoC came about. Unlike a typical home computer, there is no motherboard with components everywhere as designers had to save space. SoC is an integrated circuit that combines different functions of a computer system into a single chip.
- Central Processing Unit (CPU) Believe it or not, the CPU is one of the main components of an SoC. It deals with primary processing tasks, which is quite similar to the brain if you think about it.
- Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) A smartphone cannot function without a GPU. Yes, the CPU is powerful enough to perform all the operations, but it is not enough, hence the need for the GPU to compensate for some of the load. Everything you see on your screen is processed by the GPU.
- Image Processing Unit (IPU) If your smartphone has a camera, chances are it’s powered by an IPU. Imaging data is processed by the IPU after being sent to the SoC, and from there the CPU takes over to handle other related tasks.
- Memory (RAM) RAM is important for all forms of computers, not just smartphones. For people who use a lot of apps on their devices, RAM is there to store app data to make it quicker to open your favorite apps whenever you want.
As it stands, SoCs are no longer exclusive to small form factor computers. The Apple M1 chip is proof of this, since several of the company’s newer computers are equipped with it. And from what the reviews are saying, the M1 chip is quite powerful.
There’s a good chance that System on a Chip technology will be the future of commercial and enterprise computing, and that’s something we can support.
You’ll tend to find System on a Chip hardware in embedded systems such as smartphones, tablets, and devices used for the Internet of Things, to name a few. This setup is different from the traditional motherboard-based PC architecture we’ve grown accustomed to over decades.
What is Intel System on a Chip?
Intel has its own form of SoC, and it’s called the Intel® NUCWhere Next computer science unit. From what we’ve seen, NUCs are small computers that are quite capable for their size.
Read: Chipsets and motherboards that support Windows 11 operating system.