Transmeta Revs Up Astro Chip

Upcoming mobile chip will include three new bus interfaces designed to increase the performance of devices featuring the processor.

Transmeta Corp.s upcoming mobile chip, code-named Astro, will include three new bus interfaces designed to increase the performance of devices featuring the processor.

The new bus interfaces will include HyperTransport capabilities, greater memory features and on-chip ADP-4X graphics support for high-performance graphics capabilities.

The energy-efficient TM8000, which is being designed for such devices as thin-and-light notebooks, Tablet PCs and ultradense blade servers, is still on schedule to be launched in the third quarter, according to officials with Transmeta, of Santa Clara, Calif.

The company is releasing more information about the chip on Monday, two days before Intel Corp. is due to launch its Centrino mobile platform, which features the Pentium-M chip, formerly code-named Banias. Transmeta officials declined to release other information about Astro, including its expected clock speed, power consumption numbers and brand name.

Transmeta officials have said that they expect Astro to enable the companys technology, which until now has been used in such products as Hewlett-Packard Co.s Compaq Tablet PC TC1000 and blade servers from RLX Technologies Inc., to move farther up the notebook food chain, into products with 12- to 14-inch screens and possibly compete with Banias.

Transmetas current line of processors, which tops out with a 1GHz version of the TM5800, has gained some traction in the Asian and European markets, but has had less success in the United States.

However, also on Monday, Transmeta is announcing that Sharp Systems of America is using the 1GHz chip in its Actius MM10 notebook for the U.S. market. The new notebook from Sharp, a division of Sharp Electronics Corp., will weigh 2.1 pounds and will be 0.54 inch thick. It also will use integrated Wi-Fi capabilities for wireless connectivity and will feature the Sharp Connection Cradle, enabling the notebook to maintain data consistency with other computers.

Other features include integrated 802.11b wireless technology, 256MB DDR memory, a 15GB hard drive and two USB 2.0 ports, and will run Microsoft Corp.s Windows XP Home Edition.

Mike DeNeffe, director of marketing at Transmeta, said the new 400MHz HyperTransport interface will allow for greater I/O efficiencies, speeding up the Astro chips data transfer capabilities. Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. developed the HyperTransport technology, then gave it to the HyperTransport Consortium, Transmeta officials said.

The DDR-400 (Double Data Rate) memory interface increases the chips memory efficiency. Transmeta has been able to achieve the memory efficiencies by incorporating Northbridge technology directly onto the chip, rather than housing it in an accompanying chip set. The company began putting the Northbridge technology directly onto the chip with its TM5800 processor.

The AGP-4X support also will be at the processor level, giving it greater efficiency for graphics solutions, DeNeffe said.

Over the past few months, Transmeta has been expanding its chips capabilities in hopes of extending their reach. The company began showing off Astro, which will be built on the 0.13-micron process, at the Comdex show in November. The next month the company rolled out its 1GHz chip.

In January, Transmeta announced it was climbing into the embedded market with a new line of Crusoe SE chips for such devices as cash registers and industrial and medical equipment. Less than two weeks later, the company said it was embedding wireless security technology directly onto its TM5800 chips, enabling users to store sensitive data such as certificates and authentication keys on the chip.

Officials also said that technology will be transferred over to the Astro chip.

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