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Secret recipe inside Intel's latest competitor
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Written by Daniel   
Friday, 15 February 2008 13:32
Secret recipe inside Intel's latest competitor
By Michael Kanellos
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: February 14, 2008, 9:00 PM PST
 
It works like an Intel chip, but looks like the Cell processor.
That's one way of describing the energy-efficient multiple core processors being devised by secretive Montalvo Systems. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has come up with a design for a chip for portable computers and devices that--when finished and manufactured--will theoretically be capable of running the same software as chips from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices.

Montalvo's chips, however, will fundamentally differ from the latest Core or Opteron processors from Intel and AMD in that the cores on its chip won't be symmetrical, i.e. identical to each other. Instead, Montalvo's chips will sport a mix of high-performance cores and lower-performance cores on the same piece of silicon, similar to the Cell chip devised by IBM, Toshiba, and Sony, according to sources close to the company.

By merging asymmetrical cores onto the same piece of silicon, Montalvo can cut power consumption by dishing applications that don't require a lot of computing firepower onto less-powerful, more energy-efficient cores. Applications could conceivably also be shuttled to low-power cores after their need for high-performance elapses: Microsoft Outlook, for instance, requires a burst of performance during the launch phase but far less once it's running.

Asymmetrical cores can also provide better performance on applications such as video if programmed for that purpose, say proponents of the architecture. The Cell processor became the first chip to successfully champion this idea. The Cell consists of a primary microprocessor core and an array of "synergistic processing elements" that can be programmed to perform discrete tasks like managing networking or video streaming.

Cell chips have primarily been used inside Sony's PlayStation 3, but IBM has inserted Cell chips in some server blades. Toshiba plans to put the chip inside TVs and may put it inside PCs. (While the initial Cell comes with eight synergistic cores, chips can be made with fewer.) Mercury Computer Systems has also adopted Cell for some computers.... C/Net News   [Comments...]
 

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