IDF: Banias fever breaks out

Intel’s new mobile CPU, codenamed Banias, stood out at the recent Intel Developer Forum (IDF). And no wonder: the chip needs only 7 Watts to render a DivX Video at 30 frames per second.

Intel’s new mobile CPU, codenamed Banias, stood out at the recent Intel Developer Forum (IDF). And no wonder: the chip needs only 7 Watts to render a DivX Video at 30 frames per second. Anand Chandrasekher, vice president of Intel's Mobile Platforms Group, presented information on the company’s upcoming mobile PC platform, which is expected to hit the market in the first half of 2003. Banias’s strengths reflect the weaknesses of today’s notebook processors, and its entirely new micro-architecture is targeted at four key areas: extended battery life; seamless wireless connectivity; new form factors and outstanding performance. But Banias isn’t just a new processor -- it’s a completely new mobile platform that comes with a new chipset as well. The latter is specifically designed to support high-performance graphics as well as dual-band 11 and 54Mbps wireless network connections.


The first Banias prototypes have a clock speed of 1300MHz (1.3GHz).

Core architecture
The Banias processor has been developed by Intel’s Israel-based design team. The primary objectives for the project were the development of efficient control commands, increased data capacity and a completely new power management system. Efficiency is achieved using a combination of several technologies. The Advanced Branch Prediction Unit in the Banias core analyses a program's previous behaviour and predicts which operations it is likely to request in the future, resulting in higher performance. According to Intel this is the most revolutionary piece of technology to be found in processors today. Thanks to this extreme efficiency, control cycles are shortened and higher performance is achieved. Micro-op fusion technology allows several commands awaiting execution to be merged into one, delivering both better performance and lower power consumption.


Intel’s new Banias processor includes over 77 million transistors, and can process more instructions per clock cycle than the Pentium 4.
The new platform’s power management system is not limited to the processor. To save energy, parts of the processor bus allow lower voltage swing and tight buffer management, resulting in lower power consumption by providing power only where it’s required. Also, the Dedicated Stack Manager uses dedicated hardware to keep track of internal accounting, so that the CPU is not interrupted when executing instructions.

Intel’s new Banias mobile processor renders DivX video at 30fps, making it faster than any other notebook CPU. Furthermore, by using only 7 Watts to undertake this task, the chip is particularly energy-frugal.

Conclusion
With Banias, Intel is demonstrating its intention to lead the mobile market. The competition, such as Transmeta and VIA, will have a hard time keeping up with Intel, while arch-rival AMD has nothing comparable to offer. Banias also demonstrates that a processor doesn’t necessarily have to run at a high clock speed to achieve good performance.