Intel in performance-per-watt turnaroundBy Chris Williams. Published: 24th Aug 2005, 05:40:15 | Permalink | Printable
PDA XScale family bursts 1GHz barrierIntel has revealed plans for gigahertz busting XScales and increased performance versus power consumption at this week's Intel Developer Forum. A prototype XScale processor family, codenamed 'Monahans' and set to supersede the current PXA27x group, was demonstrated running at 1.25GHz and rendering high definition video to a PDA sized display. Sean Maloney, VP and General Manager of Intel's Mobility Group, said the chip will be launched in the final quarter of 2005, whilst admitting that the processor may not be introduced at gigahertz speeds, although later parts could certainly go this high.
None the less, it's a breakthrough for the XScale range. Although the PDA family of XScale processors are built for mobile applications and therefore do not include interfaces such as PCI that the Iyonix's Intel IOP80321 features, they do pack USB, wireless networking, Flash memory storage access and related, useful functionality. This brings the expected Monahan specification closer to mobile processors that feature ARM cores, as seen in the A9 range. Aimed at smartphones and hand held computers, the new XScale processor family is "expected to provide five times more performance within the next few years, while consuming less energy than previous Intel-based platforms," according to Intel.
This all forms part of Intel's drive to turn around its image as a manufacturer of space heating processors and concentrate on creating more efficient chips. As the computer world hurtles towards becoming increasingly mobile, it's now painfully obvious that current guzzling, battery eating processors are not going to do Intel's bottom line any favours. As any physics professor will tell you, chip makers are starting to hit the limits of silicon, where continually shrinking gate sizes is no longer a long term option. While boffins work on improving dielectrics and other material properties, there are other tricks up the sleeves of Intel's engineers: for example, one technique to save power is to only enable selected areas of a processor's circuits as and when required by the code it is executing. Another trick is to design the processor so that it consists of a number of lower power cores that can execute code rapidly in parallel.
The overall effect is that x86 processors are, at least according to the hype glowing from this week's IDF, now about to drop in terms of power consumption requirements whilst boosting performance. The new 2GHz x86 mobile cpu codenamed 'Merom' is expected to draw 5 Watts, for instance. It's still not a patch on the IOP80321, which draws about half a Watt, and cores such as the ARM9, which draw milliwatts. However, it's a pretty surprising U-turn for the makers of beasts including the Pentium, who now ideally want Windows Vista running on 0.5 Watt processors by 2010.
Incidentally, Intel also demonstrated a 'rugged' PC that can be used in developing countries and survive harsh environments. It all sounds like something very familiar indeed.
Intel intros 1.25GHz XScale from The Register
Intel Merom is designed from the ground up and Intel showcases "rugged" PC for developing countries from INQ
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