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New Horizons with Crusoe Processors

New Horizons with Crusoe Processors - PCSTATS
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Abstract: It's been a while since we've last looked at Transmeta. Recently at PCexpo a number of excitng developments have begun to surface...
Filed under: CPU / Processors Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Transmeta Jul 05 2000   J. Prikryl  
Home > Reviews > CPU / Processors > Transmeta

Discovering New Horizons with the Crusoe Processor

Building processors is thankless, behind-the-scenes sort of work, but on June 27, when IBM unveiled its new line of super-efficient ThinkPads at New York's PC Expo, the processor-designers at Transmeta finally stepped into the mobile computing limelight.

Formed in 1995, Transmeta has spent the last five years developing an ultra-light, ultra-long-lasting processor called the Crusoe, which is currently giving Intel and AMD a reason to sweat over portable computing.

This year, the Crusoe's energy-conserving properties attracted the attention of both IBM and Gateway. IBM will be manufacturing Crusoe microprocessors in its Microelectronics Division and using the chips in its upcoming line of ThinkPads. These ThinkPads are expected to retail for prices comparable to current lines of laptops that feature Intel and AMD chips.

Gateway, meanwhile, has orchestrated a deal between Transmeta and America Online. Gateway and AOL will be launching a new line of hard drive-less Internet Appliances (IAs) featuring the Crusoe processor, and running the Mobile Linux operating system. IBM's upcoming laptops, by contrast, will be using the Crusoe processor running a Windows platform.

IBM's ThinkPad 240 line, based upon the revolutionary Transmeta chip, will be manufactured this year by Quanta Computer, a Taiwan-based company that is reported to have manufactured approximately 49% of the world's laptops in 1999. The ThinkPad 240s will run Windows with the 5600 Crusoe chip, which scoots along at 600 MHz.

Gateway's Internet Appliances allow users to access the internet via small, lightweight devices that employ touch-screen and handwriting-recognition technology. These IAs will take advantage of Transmeta's Mobile Linux operating system, which can be stored in Flash ROM -- meaning that the devices won't need to rely on pricey hard-disk drives. The IAs' browser technology will be supplied by the Netscape Gecko, another innovation in the world of small-size, high-power gizmos.

About the Chip

So why all this fuss about the Crusoe? Put simply, it represents a dream-come-true to owners of laptops everywhere. Batteries that once died after two or three hours will now last up to eight or ten, thanks to the Crusoe's low power demands and ability to slow down and speed up its power consumption depending on what the computer's being asked to do. Transmeta's proprietary power-management tool, LongRunT, can adjust the processor's speed hundreds of times per second to reflect whether you're playing a video game, or whether you're typing a document, or whether you're typing a document and pausing for two seconds between words.

Besides such innovations in power management, Transmeta's chip is much lighter than conventional processors. It employs embedded software, which cuts down on both energy-consumption and weight. It generates much less heat than conventional processors, which means no large fans are needed to keep the computer cool. This keeps weight, power requirements and noise-levels down. Plus, the chip requires 75% fewer transistors than comparable devices (such as Pentium processors). All this translates into laptops that weigh less than 3 pounds and will certainly make a dent in the market. Start looking for them to pop up in the coming months.


Contents of Article: Transmeta

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