Transmeta Shows Off Low-Power, Compact Chip

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Transmeta Corp. on Monday unveiled its smallest chip design to date, seeking to reclaim the high ground in the ongoing battle for low-power supremacy.

The upstart Silicon Valley chip designer, whose announcement of its first low-power processor last year sparked competitors to release a flurry of energy efficient chips, claims its upcoming processor will not only consume less power, but its compact size will be a boon to system designers as well.

"Were targeting a number of new markets with this processor," said Dave Ditzel, vice chairman and chief technology officer of Transmeta, in an address detailing the companys Crusoe TM6000 at the Microprocessor Forum. The 1GHz chip is slated for release next year.

Specifically, Ditzel said the chip will be well-suited for smaller form-factor PCs, ultradense servers and "convergence systems," such as set-top TV boxes with Internet connectivity.

"All of these customers need substantially reduced circuit board space, low power, good X86 performance and low cost," Ditzel said.

The TM6000 will be only about a third of the size of the companys current chip, the TM5800. Also, the chip will offer integrated graphics and include features previously found on the accompanying chip set. Such integration will not only reduce the packages size, Ditzel said, but energy consumption as well. On average, the chip will use less than 1 watt of power, he said.

Since releasing its first processor last year, Transmeta, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has had its chips integrated into ultralight notebooks in Japan by companies such as Sony Corp., NEC Inc. and Hitachi Ltd. The chip also found its way into the newly emerging market of ultradense "blade" servers, where its used by RLX Technologies Inc.

But no major U.S. PC makers have yet integrated the chip into their systems. Much of the resistance stems from the chips poor performance against similar products from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in industry standard benchmark tests.

Overall, the chips code-morphing design, which requires software to translate X86 instructions (unlike Intels and AMDs products), results in delays that can cause a 700MHz Crusoe to benchmark at the speed of a 300MHz Pentium III.

However, the chips design is key to its relatively low energy consumption, Transmeta executives say.

During his speech, Ditzel went on the offensive against Intel, contending that the giant chip makers claims of offering the lowest-power solutions were inaccurate.

Basically, he argued that Transmetas more integrated design made CPU-to-CPU comparisons misleading, since the Crusoe offers features on its chip that Intels low-power mobile Pentium IIIs had on a separate chip set.

So Transmeta produced its own benchmarking tests that compared a 600MHz ultralow-voltage Pentium III system to an 800MHz TM5800 system—a chip scheduled for release this quarter.

According to its results, Transmeta consumed less power on the Ziff-Davis BatteryMark, CPUmark99 and Business Graphics Winmark tests.

"So in terms of real-world, end-user performance for mobile users, we believe the Crusoe provides better performance than Intel," Ditzel said.