Inside Sony's 'HDR-UX1' H.264 HDTV Camcorder

Sep 8, 2006
Hirotaka Itou, Nikkei Electronics
Searched for screws by removing stickers
Searched for screws by removing stickers
[Click to enlarge image]
Of the two main substrates in the HDR-UX1, this is the one with image processing components. It mounts an H.264 encoder LSI, application processor LSI and other chips.
Of the two main substrates in the HDR-UX1, this is the one with image processing components. It mounts an H.264 encoder LSI, application processor LSI and other chips.
[Click to enlarge image]
A heat sink is used around the CMOS sensor and H.264 encoder LSI.
A heat sink is used around the CMOS sensor and H.264 encoder LSI.
[Click to enlarge image]

Sony Corp. has started marketing the "HDR-UX1" AVCHD digital camcorder in Japan, earlier than its initial scheduled release date of September 10, 2006. The product is already on store shelves, mainly at large home electronics retailers in Tokyo. This is the industry's first camcorder able to record 1080i HDTV video in the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) format. Nikkei Electronics immediately purchased the HDR-UX1 and tore it down.

Two engineers involved with digital camera development joined the tear down project. After a hasty introduction, they skillfully removed the screws one by one. After removing 5 or 6 screws, they tried to open the chassis in vain. The chassis seemed to be sealed using some other hidden screws. After struggling with the camcorder for another 30 minutes, and searching for hidden screws by removing stickers and rubber projections on the chassis, they finally opened the chassis and found two main substrates inside.

"Wow...they look totally black." No wonder the engineers sighed like this. The two substrates contained Sony's proprietary H.264 encoder LSI, an application processor, Samsung Electronics' "K4M28163LH," 128 Mb of mobile DRAM, a "VSP2435" analog front-end LSI thought to be a Texas Instruments' product, Silicon Image's "Sil9030CTU" HDMI reception LSI and other chips. They mounted many passive components as well.

Taking a quick peek, two points caught our eye. One is the considerable use of the heat sink and the other is the heavy use of flexible substrates. The heat sink was set to touch the H.264 encoder LSI, application processor and CMOS sensor. Considering the codec LSI's power consumption of about 500 mW, and the overall camcorder's power consumption of about 5.0 W when shooting, the heat sink appeared to be essential. Heat generated from the LSI is released to the camera body through the heat sink.

What was a surprise is that the heat sink was also attached to the back of the CMOS sensor. "Compared to CCD, CMOS sensors use less power. Therefore, a CMOS sensor would normally not need a heat sink. I have no idea why Sony attached this heat sink to the back of the CMOS sensor," indicated one of the engineers.

As for flexible substrates, they were everywhere inside the camera. The latest product gave a strong impression that "a considerable amount of cost is spent on components." Once again, the CMOS sensor was the focus here. It uses a thin co-axial cable to connect with the main substrate. This seems to be aimed at reducing unnecessary radiation noise. However, we thought a flexible substrate could be used instead of the cable. To reduce unnecessary radiation noise, covering the flexible substrate with a noise reduction seat seems to be effective enough.

We could not help noticing solder balls and noise reduction seats attached here and there on the flexible substrates as well as traces of other rough packaging.