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PMIC cuts Atom standby power by 50x

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:power management IC? PMIC? Atom standby power? battery life?

Freescale's PMIC for Atom was cast in its 130nm mixed signal SmartMOS process and includes intelligent battery charging.

Freescale Semiconductor Inc.'s power management IC has cut Intel Corp.'s Atom Z6xx chipset, extending the battery lifetime of smart phones and other mobile devices using Atom.

"We have been working with Intel for about two years on our power management chipset that halves operating power plus enables a 50x reduction in standby power over Intel's previous generation Atom processor," said Michael Jennings, product line manager at Freescale.

Freescale's power management solution for Atom was cast in its 130nm mixed-signal SmartMOS process, and in addition to power management functions, it also provides intelligent battery charging, audio codecs, 24bit DACs, 10bit ADCs, headphone and speaker power amplifiers, LED backlight drivers, DC/DC converters, USB On-The-Go, GPIOs, differential touchscreen and other interface functions necessary for any mobile handset, netbook, e-reader, iPad-like tablet or other Atom-based portable consumer.

Intel provides a reference design board for the low-power version of Atom Z6xx and MP20 support chip that has a socket for a power management daughter board. Freescale designed that daughter board by capitalizing on its 16-year history in designing power management chips to meet Intel's power reduction goals, enabling what Jennings characterized as a marriage made in heaven.

"Intel is the processor expert, but we are power management experts, previously working with Motorola and many other mobile handset makers to extend the battery lifetime of their devices," said Jennings.

Intel also provided the same reference design and power reductions goals to Maxim Integrated Products and Renesas Electronics Corp., both of which are expected to announce competing power management chipsets for Atom late this year.

The biggest difference between previous version of Intel's Atom, and the current ultra-low power offering, is that different parts of the processor can be powered down as appropriate to extend battery lifeall under control of the power management chipsets to be provided by Freescale, Maxim and Renesas.

Although Maxim and Renesas have yet to announce the details of their offerings, Freescale claims that its chipset will be the only implementation that puts all power management functions on a single chip, resulting in a significant reduction in necessary board space.

"By integrating all power management function onto one chip, our solution reduces board area by 350 to 500 square millimeters over our competitors," said Jennings.

In fact, Freescale's implementation does use two chips, but the second one is just a small addition that converts the voltage from a battery into the 3.3V needed by its main PMIC. By separating the voltage conversion function onto a second small chip, Freescale claims that thermal management in handset design is simplified as well as allowing alternative power sources to be easily integrated with its main PMIC.

Freescale is already in volume production of its power PMIC and claims to already have multiple design-wins at OEMs and ODMs with the first handsets based on its chipset due to hit the market later this year.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

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