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Samsung, Intrinsity pump ARM to GHz rate

July 24, 2009 //

Samsung Electronics Co. and Intrinsity Inc. announced they have first silicon for Humming bird, an ARM Cortex A8 that runs at a GHz and delivers more than 2,000 Dhrystone Mips while consuming 640 mW power, competing with Intel Atom processors in an expanding market of mobile devices.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. Samsung Electronics Co. and Intrinsity Inc. announced they have first silicon for an ARM Cortex A8 that runs at a GHz and delivers more than 2,000 Dhrystone Mips. The Hummingbird chip arrives at a time when ARM and Intel Atom processors are in increasing competition for an expanding market of mobile devices.

Currently ARM dominates the market for smart phones such as the Apple iPhone. Intel is gearing up its x86-based Atom chip to address that market although in its current form it still consumes as much as 2W at 2 GHz, too much for cellphone handsets.

"The new personal computer is the thing you carry in your pocket that has communications capabilities and can browse the Internet," said Tom Halfhill, senior editor of the Microprocessor Report. "Both ARM and Intel know that, and they want to be in those devices," he said.

While average selling prices for processor are much lower in cellphones than PCs, volumes are significantly higher. Will Strauss of market watcher Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.) estimates as many as 1.2 billion cellphones will be sold next year compared to about 300 million PCs.

Hummingbird is a natural follow on for today's Apple iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre handsets using ARM Cortex A8 processors running at up to 600 MHz from Samsung and Texas Instruments respectively. Samsung has not commented on its plans for the new core.

Samsung and Intrinsity have booted operating systems and run customer applications on first silicon of Hummingbird which could be in production before the end of the year. Intrinsity provided custom circuit technology that powers the chip, built in a low power 45nm process.

The companies estimate Hummingbird consumes less than 0.75 mW/MHz and power leakage is "in the single digits." Intrinsity said it has most of the technology needed to help other ARM licensees build similar processors.

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