Startup launches power-efficient chip

A startup chip company is introducing a power-efficient processor it has been developing for three years, just as the market demands more energy efficiency.

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A startup chip company is introducing a power-efficient processor it has been developing for three years, just as the market demands more energy efficiency.

PA Semi is offering a dual-core, 64-bit processor Monday that it claims uses only 5 watts to 13 watts of electricity running at 2GHz, making it 300 to 400% more power-efficient than comparable processors.

PA Semi is making its PA6T-1682M PWRficient processor available to companies that will test it for possible use as an embedded processor in networking equipment for telecommunications, military or aerospace customers, said Dan Dobberpuhl, co-founder and chief executive.

The chip is based on Power Architecture technology, which the company has licensed from IBM. PA Semi claims the new product has a better performance-per-watt rating than an IBM 670MP processor, an Athlon 64x2 processor from Advanced Micro Devices and the Core 2 Duo from Intel. But PA Semi won't be directly competing with AMD and Intel because it won't be selling into the server or personal computer markets with its initial product.

PA Semi's performance measures were not independently verified.

But it has improved power efficiency through advanced dynamic power supply regulation, Dobberpuhl said. In older chip design, power coursed through the processor continuously. About 10 years ago, chip designers introduced dynamic power supply regulation in the processor block to start and stop the flow as needed, a process also called "clock gating." But PA Semi gets more granular, clock gating not at the block level, but at the registry level within a block.

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