Intel Atom – The “Good Enough” Architecture

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Atom is a big deal. With the success of the Asus EEE PC and Apple iPhone, the desire for more performance in smaller form factors is slowly ramping up. Imagine a handheld device like the iPhone, but with the power to run a game like Unreal Tournament 2004 and all the other typical PC applications with no slowdowns. Imagine the headache engineers must be endure in order to squeeze so much power into such a small form factor with current processor offerings.

The new Intel Atom architecture is hoping to achieve all that.

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Six Cores Is Better Than Four

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intelcore2quad.jpgI recall the days of single core to dual-core transition. I hopped onto the bandwagon rather early because I saw and experienced the benefits first hand through the multi-threaded nature Hyper Threaded Pentium 4’s.

Dual-core is awesome and benefitial, but what about quad-core? Great for encoding, but overkill for a desktop. Most single applications have yet to fully utilize dual-cores. Even if you are running multiple CPU intensive tasks, dual-cores should suffice. That is, unless you insist on encoding 2 movies at the same time while playing World of Warcraft.

So why is Intel bringing a six core processor in the second half of 2008? For servers and those who multitask with the power of 3 persons of course. Just because we don’t need six cores, doesn’t mean Intel should stop pushing the boundaries.

Is It Possible? – Intel Inside Consoles

intelinsideps3.jpgIt’s hard to imagine Intel going out of their way to create a processor for anyone, but themselves. However, it appears that Intel is making a habit of taking custom processor orders – specifically from Apple. It started out small with a custom Dothan processor for the Apple TV and then a custom Merom processor for the recently announced MacBook Air.
None of these custom orders have been drastic, but they are not typical of Intel. Typically, Intel sells a platform (ie: Centrino) or a chip to its customers and then they would do their best to accomodate Intel’s products into their own. Even the original Xbox’s processor was an “off the shelf” Intel Pentium III based design. Not even the almighty Microsoft could sway Intel for a specially catered design for its first console.

But times are changing.

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Getting Smaller: 45 nm Cell BE in the Works

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cell_be.jpegTo me, the Cell Broadband Engine is a fascinating piece of technology with a vast amount of computing power and potential. One of the pitfalls of the Cell processor aside from being notoriously difficult to program for, is the chip’s rather power hungry appetite. Well, since IBM announced that the 65 nm version of this monsterous beast is already in full swing, it should nto be surprising to find out that a 45 nm version is in the works.

The 65 nm version of Cell (available only in 40 GB PS3 at the moment) already helps slice the power consumption of the PS3 from 200W to 135W. By switching from the 65 nm to the 45 nm process, Sony hopes to cut the power consumption of the Cell by 40 percent. Will this mean we will be seeing PSThree Slims in the not so distant future? One could only hope!

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