Just a few news tidbits that I've found.
At this year's International Solid-State Circuits Conference, IBM and Digital are expected to announce two breakthrough processors. Digital Semiconductors plans to unveil its 667MHz Alpha processor, while IBM plans to push the envelope with a stunning 1.1GHz 64-bit PowerPC integer processor using a .15-micron fab. Samsung has also unveiled plans to produce a 700MHz Alpha using technology it licensed from Digital. This chip will be manufactured with a .25 micron process.
And of course everyone's heard how Intel and Digital settled their patent-infringement dispute, right? Intel bought Digital's Alpha processor line and fab for something around $700 million. Wow.
AMD, meanwhile has made several interesting announcements. They plan to unveil two new processor types next year, the AMD K6 3D, and the K6+ 3D. The former sports 24 new instructions (developed in conjunction with software vendors) designed to help with 3D, audio, and other multimedia apps, a superscalar MMX unit, and 100MHz bus speed. The chip will consist of 9.3 million transistors on an 81mm² die. AMD plans to introduce the chip at 300MHz initially, with a 350MHz version to follow. Reportedly, the K6 3D will be shown at Comdex.
The K6+ will be released in the last half of 1998. It will have an on-chip cache of 256kB. This should not be confused with the Pentium Pro's design, in which the cache in the second cavity is the L2 cache. This cache will make the motherboard's cache an L3 cache, which is a design that Digital's Alpha uses. This chip will debut as a 350MHz chip, with a 400MHz part to follow quickly. AMD plans higher speeds. This chip will have 21.3 million transistors on a 135mm² die. Both chips are Socket 7 CPUs.
The highly respected Microprocessor Report has released their predictions concerning Intel's upcoming-yet-still-far-away P7 processor, code-named Merced. They predilect that the chip will be a 300² mm die containing 35 million transistors, including a 512KB on-chip cache. The chip will likely be based on a .25 micron pure CMOS process, running at 600 MHz. Performance will probably hang around 40 SPECint95 and 80 SPECfp95, compared to the 200 MHz Pentium's 5.5 SPECint95 and 2.9 SPECfp95 scores. It debuts in 1H99.
Hard Drives: Big or Huge
A few juicy bits of news that Iíve gleaned from a few sources...
A Silicon Valley startup called TeraStor announced today their plans to market a new storage technology that could really redefine what we consider a Ďbigí hard drive.
Modern hard drives may use about 12 disk platters, totaling around 9 GB worth of storage. Using TeraStorís scheme, called Near Field Recording, the same number of platters would yield enough space to store around 210 GB of data. Chairman & CEO of TeraStor, Jim McCoy, explained that their target market was going to be data warehouses, workstations, and networked environments, but he added that the technology would be inexpensive enough for use in desktops as well.
Jim McCoy is cofounder of both Quantum and Maxtor. Credible? More so than most.
Shifting into OverDrive
Intel has begun shipping OverDrive processors equipped with MMX technology to retailers and direct channel vendors. Theyíre really designed to bring older Pentiums closer to the performance forefront, so donít get too excited. For a mere $399, you can upgrade a 75 MHz Pentium Classic to 125 MHz or a 90 MHz to 150 MHz, or a $499 unit will upgrade a 100 MHz processor to 166 MHz. The voltage regulator and fan are integrated into the unit, so thereís not a whole lot of gadgets to mess around with. You simply unplug the old processor, and plug the new one in. Testing has revealed a tasty 25% performance increase from 75 to 125 MHz, while an upgrade to 166 MHz offers only an additional 7% over the 25 MHz version.
At any rate, if you want the biggest performance increase, youíll have to fork over for a geniune processor upgrade. But thatís the price you pay, right?
Pentium II: II Little?
Tomís Hardware & Performance Guide got a hold of the Pentium II, formerly known as the Pentium Klamath. I was really expecting something big from this processor. I was saving up all my pennies, hoping to buy what would essentially amount to a new system (because the II requires a new motherboard setup entirely) by the fall. Well, I can tell you what Iím NOT spending my money on. If the tests are right, the Pentium II doesnít exactly live up to my expectations of blowing away the Pro & Classic. At any rate, the II is scheduled for release on May 7.
So, Iíve instead set my sights on AMDís K6 processor, scheduled for official release one month earlier than Intelís chip. The biggest draw of this chip on me is that it will be pin-compatible with the old Socket 7 slots, and that itís supposed to outperform the Pentium II. Of course, we know how much water manufacturer claims hold after release dates. If the claims are right though, I should be able to save myself a pretty penny.
Weíll see what happens.