Thinking Small: New Intel Architecture Champions Sub 1 Watt x86

Logo Intel AtomA flurry of announcements and roadmaps from Intel this week shed light on the company's 5.5 Watt Penryn and the 4 Watt Diamondville processors. The company went one step further today, claiming it can get a fairly powerful x86 processor down to 0.6W for ultra mobile devices.

Intel first brought us news of Intel's Silverthorne processor in April of last year. At the time, details were light on the processor and it was just known as a successor to the 90nm Stealey-based A100 and A110 that were introduced at the time.

As the months progressed, more details began to leak out regarding the Menlow platform and the Silverthorne processor. Today, Intel officially pulled the wraps off the Silverthorne processor and the Menlow platform.

Silverthorne, a two-issue processor designed from the ground up, is now known as the Intel Atom processor. Atom processors based on Silverthorne are aimed at Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). To confuse matters a bit, Intel??™s Diamondville processors will also fall under the Intel Atom processor nomenclature. Diamondville-based Atom processors are derived from Silverthorne, feature SMT technology and will be available in both single core and dual core versions. Atom processors based on Diamondville will see duty in low-cost notebooks (known as "netbooks") and desktop computers (also called "nettops").

As previously reported by DailyTech, Diamondville-based Atom processor will fit within a 4W (single core) to 8W (dual core) TDP envelope. The single core, Diamondville-based Atom 230 will launch at 1.6GHz and will feature a 533MHz FSB and 512k of L2 cache. TDP for the Atom 230 is listed at 4W.

Silverthorne-based Atom processors heading for MIDs will have a TDP ranging from 0.6W to 2.5W and will top out at 1.8GHz. Sources inside Intel hint that the 0.6W version of the processor reaches just over 500 MHz.

Anand Lal Shimpi conjectures on the difference between the two cores. "Intel lists the 1.6GHz Diamondville TDP as 4W, a bit higher than what you'll see in MIDs but I'm guessing it'll run at a higher voltage and thus be a higher yielding part that's cheaper to produce, resulting in the higher TDP."

Intel confirms Diamondville will be the first Intel processor to support simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) since the Pentium 4. The entire Silverthorne architecture supports SMT, though Intel has only confirmed Diamondville processors as SMT-enabled at this time.

Intel says that a single Atom processor measures just 25mm2 and contains over 47 million transistors. According to Intel, 11 Atom processors would fit on a penny and it's built on Intel's high-k 45nm manufacturing process.

"This is our smallest processor built with the world's smallest transistors," said Intel's Executive Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Sean Maloney. "This small wonder is a fundamental new shift in design, small yet powerful enough to enable a big Internet experience on these new devices. We believe it will unleash new innovation across the industry."

The overall Menlow platform is now known as Intel Centrino Atom. The Intel Centrino Atom platform will include an Intel Atom processor, Intel 945GSE chipset and a wireless radio.

Although Intel expects the bulk of its Atom processors to see duty in MIDs, netbooks and nettops, the company also sees the huge potential for sales in consumer electronic devices, embedded applications and thin clients.

Consumers can expect to see the next generation Eee PC with an Intel Atom processor onboard -- HP may be wise to include an Intel Atom on its 2133 sub-notebook, but rumor has it that the company already decided on a VIA platform.

Source: DailyTech

Tags: Atom

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