Intel has released details on its portable and enterprise processors, new memory technologies and wireless development.
Siverthorne: the details
Silverthorne is a 45 million transistor chip that can run at up to 2GHz while using between around 0.6 and 2 watts at 1 volt and 90 degrees C. It's designed by using the 'sea-of-FUBs' idea, where a predefined set of Functional Unit Blocks are plugged together into the final circuit; some 205 unique FUBs go into the chip.
Block diagram: Silverthorne
Silverthorne reduces power consumption by transistor design, by aggressively turning down or off unused parts of the chip, and by adjusting its working parameters according to load. Its Level 1 (L1) cache is designed to alleviate and detect soft errors, while the L2 cache has slower but more effective error detection and correction.
This behemothic Itanium packs 2.06 billion transistors onto one die – a record for a processor – and consumes an equally Brobdingnabian 170 watts. Each of the four cores has 104 million transistors and takes around 25 watts, while the system interface and input/output accounts for 200 million and 50 watts. The lion's share of the remaining component budget goes into the 1.420 billion transistor L3 cache, although that only takes 20 watts in operation.
Phase Change Memory
By heating up a tiny blob of phase change compound, the chip can set it to one of four distinct states – thus capturing two bits per cell. The chip intelligently does this by sending pulses of electricity and measuring the result until the desired state is reached – clever, but slow. This prototype design can only manage a write time of 2 microseconds.
Gain-cell on-chip DRAM
By adopting a novel configuration, Intel has made dynamic memory that can contend with static memory for speed and power while being a lot denser – ideal for putting large amounts of cache right next to cores on many-core architectures. This 65nm design can manage 2-nanosecond access times and 128GB/s throughput, and Intel says there's no reason it can't scale to 45nm with even better results.
Wireless power amplifier
Ordinary amplifiers for non-digital signals need lots of analogue components, get hot and aren't very efficient. Switching amplifiers are simpler and more effective, but this is the first time that one has been created that produces nearly a watt of power at the ultra-high frequencies needed for wireless networking and mobile phones, and that can easily be integrated with other digital logic on a single chip.