Transmeta Unveils New Processor

At long last, Transmeta Corp. on Tuesday will take the wraps off of its TM8000, the company's next big chance to move back into mainstream computing.

At long last, Transmeta Corp. on Tuesday will take the wraps off of its TM8000, the companys next big chance to move back into mainstream computing.

Transmeta will launch the TM8000 or "Efficeon" processor at the Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, Calif., following the disclosure of various details about the chip over the last few months. The company is positioning the chip squarely against Intel Corp.s Pentium M "Banias" processor, and the Centrino platform built upon it, claiming that several internal tests show that the TM8000 outperforms Intels contenders in integer and floating-point performance, while offering lower power.

Transmeta executives are expected to disclose that the TM8000 will be released at speeds ranging from between 1.0GHz and 1.3GHz this fall, with the processors average power consumption ranging from between 5 and 14 watts. A second generation of the family is planned for 2004, with speeds ranging up to 2.0GHz.

Transmeta will announce three versions of the Efficeon processor: the TM8600, with a full megabyte of on-chip Level-2 cache; the TM8300, with a 512KB L2 cache, and a version of the TM8600 that will fit into a smaller package size, dubbed the TM8620.

Nvidia Corp. will support the Efficeon launch with a special version of its Nforce3 chipset.

According to Transmeta, the Efficeon platform is competitive to the Centrino on several levels, including speed, power consumption and die size.

On a clock-per-clock basis, the Efficeon platform will outperform the Centrino on several benchmarks, the company will claim. Improvements, include a two-times performance jump while calculating AES encryption algorithms as well as higher floating-point and graphics performance. The chip performs eight instructions per clock, double that of the Crusoe.

According to Transmeta, the Efficeon at idle consumes 0.18 watts, about eight times less power than the Centrino. The nForce3 Go chipset actually throttles the processor in response to load, using the Transmeta LongRun technology, according to Bill Henry, director of the mobile management group at Nvidia.

In die space, Transmetas TM8600 plus the Nvidia Nforce3 Go 120 chipset have a footprint of 2,066 square millimeters of board space, compared to an Intel Pentium M and its own chipset, which Transmeta said requires just under 3,600 square mms. And the TM8000 requires 119 sq. mm of die space using a 130-nm process.

Like Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processor, the Efficeon will integrate a memory controller, which will connect to DDR-400 memory. The processor will also contain an AGP 4X link to external graphics, as well as a HyperTransport connection to the so-called "south-bridge" components on a logic board.

The Efficeon chip will be available at 1.0-, 1.1-, 1.2-, and 1.3-GHz speeds. It will ship in the fourth quarter, when prices are announced.

Transmeta will also take the wraps off LongRun2 in a separate presentation at the Forum. LongRun2 will allow the processors internal code-morphing software to manage leakage current, Swift said. Leakage current trickles across the silicon gates and wastes power when the processor is not in use.

For Transmeta, the companys past optimistic predictions have outstripped reality. The company has reported annual losses since the companys launch in 2000, and for most of its history, the companys pro-forma and net losses for each quarter have outstripped its revenues. During that time, the companys Crusoe processor has been positioned to a number of market segments, including notebooks, handhelds, and the embedded processor market.

According to analyst group iSuppli Corp., Transmeta ranks last in 32-bit CPU revenue, trailing companies like Atmel Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., and Marvell Technology Group, with a bare 0.1 percent market share. Transmetas overall CPU revenue fell 27.8 percent from 2001 to 2002 to approximately $26 million, placing the company 17th out of all 19 CPU vendors.

On Tuesday, David Ditzel, the co-founder, vice-chairman and CTO of Transmeta, will describe the TM8000 at Microprocessor Forum. The company hopes the presentation will be the first step in wooing more OEM PC vendors back to its fold.

Transmeta executives said theyve learned a number of lessons from the Crusoe, the companys first processor. While the Crusoe carried the torch for "all-day" computing, the company said its OEMs still wanted more.

"In many ways what we did was revolutionary in the industry, and now its safe to say that the Efficeon processor takes energy efficiency and adds power efficiency," said Art Swift, Transmeta senior vice president of marketing and a former executive of several Cirrus divisions. "But its safe to say customers wanted more performance than the Crusoe could deliver."

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