Power Options for Apples

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2005-06-03 Print this article Print

Notebooks"> Building a G5 PowerBook could be an aesthetic challenge for Apple. The G5 chip tends to consume more power and produce more heat than the G4. Hotter, more power-hungry chips tend to require a thicker, more spacious chassis and larger, higher-capacity batteries—all of which might lead to a more portly PowerBook. But, analysts say, versions of the 970FX technically already fit into the power envelope needed for Apple to offer a mid- to full-size laptop in the 5-7 pound range. At the moment, two of its three PowerBook G4 portables weigh in at over 5 pounds.
Aiding portability, IBM has also added a power-management feature to the PowerPC 970FX. Called PowerTune, it can cut the chips clock speed, therefore lowering its voltage, in order to save on power.
To read more about IBMs PowerTune management feature, click here. Therefore, a 1.8GHz PowerPC 970FX would be a good choice—it would top the current G4 processor—but power management might still be an issue in some other ways. The 1.8GHz chip "might be 35 watts or something like that. There are plenty of 35-watt [notebook] processors out there. The big problem is you want to get average power [consumption] to be a lot lower. That relies to a large degree on software management," Glaskowsky said. "If I had to pick a reason why it hasnt shown up yet … Id say its [Apple power management] software." Still, not everyone believes that the Power PC 970FX makes a great notebook chip. "Right now, from IBMs perspective, the [PowerPC] 970 is a pretty competitive part, but they definitely lack a low-power version," said Kevin Krewell, editor-in-chief of the Microprocessor Report, in San Jose, Calif. "The question is, can you get it low enough—25 watts to 35 watts—in order to get it into something sleek enough for Apple?" To arrive at the right mix of frequency and performance, Krewell suggests that IBM and Apple might need to consider creating a new G4-G5 hybrid instead of delivering a low-power 970. "The best route would be to develop a new [processor] core thats somewhere between the G5 and the G4," Krewell said, "But thats a significant design undertaking … and its a limited-size market. A redesigned core might be attractive for future multicore processors" for desktops and servers as well, he said. Apple could also adopt a multicore G4 derivative from Freescale Semiconductor Inc., once the chip arm of Motorola Inc., for its portables, Krewell said. "Thats still a 2006 thing … and its designed for the network world," he said. "It would require some modifications. But its doable." Representatives from Apple and IBM declined to comment for this story. A Freescale spokesman did not return a call. Editors Note: This story was updated to reflect the fact that an Apple representative returned a phone call to eWEEK.com but declined to comment. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on Apple in the enterprise.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET News.com, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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