The Incredible, Shrinking CPUs

Posted 17 Oct 2003 at 16:17 UTC by steve Share This

It seems CPUs are continuing to get smaller and faster. Two new processors have been making news lately: the Transmeta Efficeon and the VIA Technologies NanoBGA Eden-N processor. The Transmeta Efficeon TM8000 will run at up to 2GHz and is just 21mm x 21mm. The new VIA CPU is about the size of a penny and consumes only 7 watts when running at 1Ghz, so it may be usable without a fan. VIA has also announced a new motherboard form factor even smaller than the Mini-ITX. They're calling it Nano-ITX and it's just 6.7cm x 6.7cm. In related news, the Hypertone E1-32 CPU, a RISC/DSP combo is now supported by uCLinux and uClibc thanks to a porting effort by the manufacturer. Let's hope this all leads to smarter robots.

Size correction, posted 17 Oct 2003 at 20:46 UTC by onnimikki » (Master)

"VIA's Nano-ITX form-factor measures just 4.7 x 4.7 in." That's not 6.7cm by 6.7cm... it's more like 12cm by 12cm. That's still small enough to rival the PC104 size boards, like the Lippert boards I've been using lately.

Oops..., posted 17 Oct 2003 at 20:51 UTC by steve » (Master)

Yes, onnimikki is correct. That should be 12cm x 12cm or 4.7in x 4.7in. I think I must have transposed the 6.7in x 6.7in numbers for the Mini-ITX. Oh well, it's darned small, anyway.

VIA will still be in business, posted 20 Oct 2003 at 01:05 UTC by Timster » (Master)

VIA has the advantage that it will still be in business for more than 2 quarters while Transmeta will likely not. They are just hemmoraging cash too quickly. I think the Efficeon product release and all their postureing about their future technologies is just very likely an attempt to get purchased by another player in the industry.

Also the 12cmX12cm Nano-ITX board includes a lot more silicon than simply the processor. Their will be the chipset with integrated graphics and audio, basically your complete PC with the requesit connections. I can't give you the full specs because they haven't been finalized and will be different for different versions of the board. While the Nano-ITX will still be aimed primarily at the VIA's bread and butter PC/devices customers we feel it will be very well suited to robotics applications. Especially since our new even smaller .90 Eden N processor will draw even less power which is great for mobile applications (1GHz~7W, 800MHz~6W and at 533MHz only 4W!)

Timothy J. Brown VIA Robotics Program Manager

VIA Robotics Initiative http://www.via.com.tw/en/robotics/robotics.jsp

Making USB 2.0 and/or Firewire even more important, posted 26 Oct 2003 at 20:32 UTC by Chuck McM. » (Master)

I really like the VIA stuff and congratulated Glen Henry at MPF on being only the third company to create a motherboard standard (care to guess the other two? Hint they both start with I :-)

For robotics, these boards are I/O challenged. Great for doing web serving but not so great for doing sensor fusion. That is why support for USB 2.0 or IEEE 1394 ports becomes critical. We need a bus where we can put our sensors, actuators, and remote processors. Ethernet is also an option but an 8 bit parallel port with an Ethernet input is not available :-)


(oh and I wouldn't count Transmeta out just yet, they have enough infrastructure in place to be annoying for longer than 2 quarters, but I am glad the VIA guys are pushing hard in this space. Now for some register level documentation on their embedded video solution and I'll be all set)

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