Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/609

IDF Fall 2000 Day 2

by Matthew Witheiler on August 23, 2000 6:42 PM EST

The Intel Developer Forum entered day 2 today, bringing with it a bit more info regarding Intel's vision of the future. The day began with the usual keynote, where Ron Smith, vice president and general manager of wireless communications and computing group at Intel was able to demonstrate Intel's new XScale microarchitecture

Targeted at hand held devices and smart appliance, the XScale microarchitecture is based on Intel's current StrongARM technology that is widely incorporated in products today, such as the empeg as well as the Compaq iPaq. XScale microarchitecture promises to bring a whole new world to these devices, as the beta silicon demonstrated was able to show not only extreme speed but also very low power consumption.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the keynote was when Smith was actually able to show of the new product. Running Drystone 2.1 benchmark, the small development platform featuring the beta XScale core technology was first displayed running at 600 MHz and consuming .5 watts of power. Next Smith showed the dynamic frequency and voltage capabilities of the XScale processor core, dynamically pushing the chip up to 800 MHz with less than 1 watt of power. The chip was now running at over 1000 mips (million instructions per second), surpassing the watt per mips ratio seen an any prior product. Next was to push the XScale core up even more, reaching 1 GHz with 1.75 watts of power consumption and 1270 mips, a figure that seemed quite impressive to us, considering that the chip is targeted at low power, high performance hand held systems. The possibilities that come with having such a high performance, low cost, low power chip seem endless, with the prospect of running MPEG2 quality video on a hand held not too far away. Intel stated that the XScale core used "super pipeline technology," that allowed for the reaching of high clock speeds. This could be in reference to increasing the length of the pipeline and lowering the effective number of instructions per clock in order to reach a higher operating frequency. This would be much like what Intel is calling their "Hyper Pipelined Technology" which is used to help increase the operating frequency of the upcoming Pentium 4 processor.

Next was a demonstration of not how fast the XScale can go, but rather how slow. By taking into account the fact that power is equal to capacitance times frequency times the square of the voltage, XScale's dynamic voltage and frequency adjustments have the possibility to produce a very low power consuming chip. The beta XScale core demonstrated, based on a .18 micron architecture, was able to run at a mere .055 watts at a speed of 50 MHz. Still able to process 250 mips, the XScale chip at this speed is able to be run off a single AA battery. Although the 250 mips number coming from the 50 MHz XScale core may not seem very fast in comparison to the 1270 mips of the 1 GHz XScale chip, when it is compared it to the .25 mips of the IBM PC/XT or the 100 mips speed of the early Pentium chips, the 250 mips is quite impressive, especially when one considers the low power consumption of the chip at this speed.

It was a bit odd to contrast the presentation of Intel's mobile section from Albert Yu yesterday with the XScale technology demonstration of today. If you recall from our IDF Fall 2000 Day 1 report, yesterday Yu stressed that the power consumption of the CPU in notebooks is not of concern, as the CPU only takes up a small amount of power when compared to other parts of the system (more on this later). Today the scene was a bit different, with Smith stressing the very low power consumption of the XScale microarchitecture as a result of its dynamic voltage management. Sure, the XScale technology is NOT target for notebook solutions by any means, but with the line between notebooks and hand helds becoming less and less defined it only seems logical that the issues with the two systems must be related.


Soon after the keynote concluded, we were quick to run to get a seat for a BlueTooth discussion. For those of you not familiar with BlueTooth, it is essentially a new wireless technology pioneered by Intel that will alow for wireless interfaces between devices. Although much of the public may not be familiar with this technology and what it promises, this did not seem to be the case with the IDF population, as this track was perhaps one of the most crowded ones we have been to. Even with our arrival 20 minutes before the schedule start time the room was near full. Less than 5 minutes later, the doors were closed and the remaining viewers were forced to watch from an audio/video feed in a separate room.

We will not go into the BlueTooth technology and the plans Intel has for it in this review, but rather it will be incorporated in a review of itself in the coming week. Just to whet your appetites a bit, BlueTooth is able to travel at DSL speeds (making wireless internet a possibility) and can span 30 feet. Intel is pushing this as the next big technology that will make wireless finally real and with over 2000 companies developing products that take advantage of BlueTooth, it is very likely that they are right. Be sure to check back soon for some in depth information regarding BlueTooth.

Intel Mobile Division

The final thing we have gotten to attend thus far today was a presentation given by Intel's mobile division regarding the current state of mobile processing.

The talk began by explaining how large of a part mobile PCs play not only in today's market but also in the market of the future. There has been approximately a 40-50% growth in mobile PC sales from last year, showing the huge growth potential of this market. The majority of the sales have been seen in Japan as well as the US, with the Japanese market purchasing almost as many laptops as desktops. To elaborate their point even further, Intel proclaimed that even their own company was in the process of making the switch to mobile, with 80% of the Intel in-house computers being mobile.

Intel was quick to point out that there are three types of laptops on the market today, each with a Pentium III mobile processor to meet it's needs. The first category of laptops are those which Intel calls high performance laptops, basically the high end laptops that power users want. Mainly serving as a desktop replacement, the roadmap calls for 800 and 850 MHz mobile parts to come soon. It was exciting to hear that current plans call for a 1 GHz mobile parts come early next year, with mobile processor speeds in excess of 1 GHz coming in the first half of 2001. Intel said that there is a very large market for these high end laptops and they expect to see sales grow. In addition, Intel responded by saying that it is almost certain that the new Pentium 4 processor will find its way into laptops. Intel went on to say that we can expect the laptop version of the Pentium 4 to be produced on a smaller die, just as all initial mobile parts are produced. For consumers that means that the first Pentium 4 mobile parts will almost surely be .13 micron, marking a new step in processor design.

The next two categories are the ultra light systems and systems between ultra lights and performance systems. For these two types of systems, Intel went over the same technology that helps bring notebook battery life up as well as speeds. The first technology, and one that has actually been used since the Pentium II 500 mobile part, is their Quick Start technology. Building off the laptop principle "hurry up and get idle," Intel has figured out that it is best to use full CPU power for a split second to finish a task and then put the CPU to idle as this conserves battery life the best. Although one may suspect that when running complex operations the CPU would not have time to go idle, this is not the case. To illustrate this point, Intel used an example of DVD playback. Very stressful on the system as a whole, Intel's quick start technology allows the CPU to "hurry up" and perform the DVD decoding operations and then go idle until the frame is displayed to screen and the next scene needs to be calculated. This saves battery life because, although the system may require 3 watts or so to "hurry up", the power consumption goes down near .25 watts when idle. By averaging these two numbers, one can quickly see how quick start can extend battery life.

The second technology that Intel made a point to mention is their Speed Step technology. Basically this allows for the mobile Pentium III processor to run at 2 different speeds: a faster one when plugged in and a slower one when on battery. This is not like AMD's PowerNow technology, which can dynamically clock up or down the processor depending on CPU utilization. Unfortunately, Intel's Speed Step technology is limited to two speeds which are only changed when the computer is on AC power or running off of battery. It does, however, help extend the life of the battery, while sacrificing performance.

Both technologies were used to illustrate Intel's role in the mobile platform business, as not only do they have fast technology for high performance mobile systems, they also have power saving technology that is useful in light and ultra light notebooks.

Final Thoughts

As another day of Intel's Developer Forum comes to a close, we see that Intel's place in not only the business (with their Itanium processor) but the home is constantly expanding. Today marks the last day of AnandTech coverage live from the forum, however look for a few upcoming reviews to go into IDF's technology in a bit more detail. In particular, come back soon to see articles about Serial ATA, HomeRF, BlueTooth as well as a summary about what we saw on the show's floor. If you missed yesterday's coverage, you can find it here.

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