System on a chip

Micro-electronic component / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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A system on a chip or system-on-chip (SoC /ˌˈɛss/; pl. SoCs /ˌˈɛssz/) is an integrated circuit that integrates most or all components of a computer or other electronic system. These components almost always include a central processing unit (CPU), memory interfaces, on-chip input/output devices, input/output interfaces, and secondary storage interfaces, often alongside other components such as radio modems and a graphics processing unit (GPU) all on a single substrate or microchip.[1] It may contain digital, and also analog, mixed-signal, and often radio frequency signal processing functions (otherwise it may be considered only an application processor).

Apple M1 system on a chip

Higher-performance SoCs are often paired with dedicated and physically separate memory and secondary storage (such as LPDDR and eUFS or eMMC, respectively) chips, that may be layered on top of the SoC in what's known as a package on package (PoP) configuration, or be placed close to the SoC. Additionally, SoCs may use separate wireless modems.[2]

SoCs are in contrast to the common traditional motherboard-based PC architecture, which separates components based on function and connects them through a central interfacing circuit board.[nb 1] Whereas a motherboard houses and connects detachable or replaceable components, SoCs integrate all of these components into a single integrated circuit. An SoC will typically integrate a CPU, graphics and memory interfaces,[nb 2] secondary storage and USB connectivity,[nb 3] random-access and read-only memories and secondary storage and/or their controllers on a single circuit die, whereas a motherboard would connect these modules as discrete components or expansion cards.

An SoC integrates a microcontroller, microprocessor or perhaps several processor cores with peripherals like a GPU, Wi-Fi and cellular network radio modems, and/or one or more coprocessors. Similar to how a microcontroller integrates a microprocessor with peripheral circuits and memory, an SoC can be seen as integrating a microcontroller with even more advanced peripherals.

Compared to a multi-chip architecture, an SoC with equivalent functionality will have increased performance and reduced power consumption as well as a smaller semiconductor die area. This comes at the cost of reduced replaceability of components. By definition, SoC designs are fully or nearly fully integrated across different component modules. For these reasons, there has been a general trend towards tighter integration of components in the computer hardware industry, in part due to the influence of SoCs and lessons learned from the mobile and embedded computing markets. SoCs can be viewed as part of a larger trend towards embedded computing and hardware acceleration.

SoCs are very common in the mobile computing (such as in smartphones and tablet computers) and edge computing markets.[3][4] They are also commonly used in embedded systems such as WiFi routers and the Internet of things.