Startup Unveils Power-Efficient Chip

After nearly three years of development, P.A. Semi is sampling its dual-core PA6T-1682M PWRficient processor. Full production of the processor is expected sometime after the end of September 2007. The chip is based on IBM's Power Architecture technology, and it's designed to deliver improved performance per watt, consuming an average of 5 to 13 watts of power at processing speeds as fast as 2 GHz.

That makes it 300% to 400% more power efficient than competing processors, according to P.A. Semi. Current processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices can produce per-watt averages between 150 to 55 watts depending on the designs.

The PA6T-1682M, developed in 65-nanometer process technology, is a 64-bit dual-core microprocessor. The chip integrates what is typically a three- to five-chipset platform into a single chip, called a "platform processor." Total device power dissipation is on average 5 to 13 watts, with the maximum output being 25 watts. Of course, that only happens if both CPUs are running at 2 GHz and all peripherals active, according to the company.

The 1682M package features two 2-GHz processors. Each processor has its own dual-integer, floating-point, and VMX vector-processing units. They also have 2 Mbytes of Level 2 cache, two DDR-2 memory controllers and hardware assist engines for TCP/IP acceleration, security, CRC checksum, and XOR computation. Dual-core processors are becoming all the rage with semiconductor manufacturers because they allow for multiple applications to run at once.

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Along with its debut, P.A. Semi also revealed it had more than 100 initial customer engagements, with 10 alpha customers, including Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing, Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES), Mercury Computer Systems, Performance Technologies, Splitted-Desktop Systems, and Themis Computer.

"The industry recently awoke to the need to move to energy-efficient processors, and the release of our first PWRficient processor, which is up to 400% more power-efficient than other high-performance processors, marks a significant milestone for P.A. Semi to satisfy those needs," Dan Dobberpuhl, president and CEO of P.A. Semi, said in a written statement. "Successfully delivering on the PWRficient processor's aggressive power and performance metrics, while also building out our support and sales infrastructure, has helped to generate strong customer interest and widespread adoption."

Prices for the new processors are not currently available but testing one won't come cheap. Each PWRficient evaluation kit is priced at $8,500. Engineering samples will set you back $700 each.