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Andes core clocks 30% less power than Cortex M0

Posted: 22 Apr 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microcontrollers? Bluetooth? compiler?

ARM's Cortex M0, its smallest processor to date, uses about 30 per cent more power than the Hummingbird N7 core but performs at the same level, Andes Technology claims. The Taiwan-based SoC developer touts its latest microcontroller can deliver up to 108 Dhrystone MIPS/milliwatt and fit into 0.04 mm2 in a 90nm process.

Two customers have already licensed the N7 for use in Bluetooth and touchscreen controllers. Separately, Andes is also shipping its high-end N13 cores, geared for dataplane networking systems running Linux.

The low-end N7 delivers 1.19 to 1.45 DMIPS/MHz using a mix of 16- and 32bit instructions. It has a two-stage pipeline, can be implemented in 12,000 to 30,000 gates and employs a prefetch buffer that acts as a small instruction cache.

Andes Hummingbird N7

Andes: N7 compiler will be optimised further to extend lead.

"Given what ARM is charging, I wouldn't be surprised if you could cut your costs in half or more" using the Andes cores, said Linley Gwennap, principal of market watcher The Linley Group.

Although the smartphone applications processor gets most of the limelight these days, a smartphone uses many more cores outside that chip, Gwennap said. That's a big opportunity in a wide range of comms and peripheral controllers.

Small player growing quickly

Andes jumped into the U.S. market earlier this year after spending its first years focusing on Asia. The processor core licensing company competes with ARM and a set of much larger rivals such as Imagination with MIPS, Synopsys with ARC and Cadence with Tensilica.

Frankwell Lin, chief executive and co-founder, said Andes now has 53 customers and 65 licensing agreements. Thirty of them are in some stage of designing in Andes' cores with less than ten in production. Nevertheless, some 200 million SoCs have shipped using Andes cores to date, Lin said.

Lin showed Lenovo and Acer handsets that use connectivity chips with Andes cores. A touchscreen controller from Taiwan start-up Ilitek also uses an Andes core.

Hummingbird N7 uses a prefetch buffer to act like a small instruction cache

Hummingbird N7. Core uses a prefetch buffer to act like a small instruction cache.

The company employs 110 people. Its core are being fabricated in at least six foundries including TSMC, Globalfoundries, UMC and three China foundries. The cores support a variety of RTOSes including Thread-X, Nucleus, Linux, Kontiki, Free RTOS, Itron and MicroC/OS II.

Separately, Andes will round out its product portfolio later this year with the launch of its N13, a gigahertz-class Linux processor core geared for intensive dataplane operations in networking systems.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times





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