Embedded Processor Forum – Intel silences critics with 600MHz StrongARM-2

Embedded Processor Forum – Intel silences critics with 600MHz StrongARM-2Richard Ball
Intel created a stir at the Embedded Processor Forum by announcing the second generation StrongARM processor and claiming it will reach over 4,500Mips per Watt.
If Intel can actually manufacture the SA-2, it will be streets ahead of the competition.
And it will silence the critics who said that Intel’s own design centre in Chandler, Arizona would not be able to emulate the feats of the Digital Semiconductor team that developed the first StrongARM.
In keeping with SA-1, the designers set themselves an upper power limit of 500mW. Intel claims to hit 450mW at 600MHz and 1.3V. This results in performance of 750Mips, Intel claims.
“Based on our current estimates, the next generation StrongARM technology is expected to deliver two to three times the performance of the current StrongARM generation while keeping power consumption below one-half watt,” said Mark Casey, StrongARM marketing director.
The firm has achieved the high clock speeds in part by switching the design to a 0.18?m process, a big jump from the 0.35?m process inherited from Digital Semiconductor.
Other improvements have come from increasing the length of the core pipeline from five to seven stages. This removes some of the performance bottlenecks that existed in the original design.
But flat out down the Autobahn is only half the story. Intel is also aiming for good fuel consumption with SA-2.
Throttling the clock back to 150MHz, and lowering the voltage to 0.75V, slashes power consumption to a measly 40mW. With 185Mips on tap at this frequency, SA-2 can exceed 4,500Mips per Watt.
In handheld devices, the core is aimed at improving voice recognition, running real time video and faster Internet access. SA-2 is also aimed at adding Internet access to digital TV
Intel is planning to manufacture both standalone processors, such as the existing SA-110, and application specific versions as it does today with the SA-1100 and SA-1110. The latter are being developed at Intel’s Austin, Texas design centre, as is the third generation core.
Once again StrongARM, whether developed by Digital Semiconductor or Intel, leads the pack.
Although SA-2 will not be sampled until early next year, it’s a fair bet that when it does, its performance will eclipse anything else available. StrongARM-2 at a glance Up to 600MHz, 750Mips at 1.3V and 450mW Down to 150MHz, 185Mips at 0.75V and 40mW 0.18?m, six layer aluminium CMOS process 32kbytes each of instruction and data cache seven stage integer, eight stage memory pipelines


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