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Saturday, July 09, 2005
IBM Announces Low-power, Dual-core G5s

IBM unveiled two new PowerPC chips Thursday at an event in Tokyo, just one month after Apple's decision to switch to Intel's processors. The new 970MP is a dual-core G5 and the 970FX is a low-power G5 intended for use in portables.

The new PowerPC 970MP is a dual-core version of the PowerPC 970FX, which users of Apple Computer's Power Mac and iMac computers know as the G5 processor. IBM also unveiled a low-power version of the 970FX chip suitable for notebooks.

Prices were not disclosed, and it wasn't immediately clear when the two new chips would be available, but executives described the processors at a company event in Tokyo on Thursday.

The PowerPC 970FX chip will consume 13 watts of power when running at 1.4GHz and 16 watts of power running at 1.6GHz, under typical operating conditions, IBM said in a press release. It's difficult to compare the power consumption of this chip to Intel's low-power leader, the Pentium M, because Intel publishes thermal design guidelines for PC manufacturers while IBM cites "typical" power consumption.

Likewise, it's impossible to compare processor performance, especially processors using different architectures, without independent testing. But the power-consumption figures of the new 970FX chips would allow Apple to design a G5-based notebook that would probably outperform the company's current crop of G4-based iBooks and PowerBooks.

Each 970MP core uses a dedicated bank of 1M bytes of Level 2 cache, giving each core twice the Level 2 cache of the entire 970FX chip, IBM said. Power-saving characteristics built into the chip allow it to alter the power consumption of each core as processing requirements allow, even to the point of shutting down one core if it isn't needed, the company said. The chip can be used at clock speeds ranging from 1.4GHz to 2.5GHz.

The news follow Apple's historic switch away from the PowerPC architecture in favor of Intel's x86 architecture starting in 2006. IBM and Apple have had a rocky partnership since IBM became the exclusive supplier of the G5 processors. Manufacturing problems at IBM caused a delay in shipments of the G5 chips last year and power-consumption issues forced Apple to use liquid cooling in a high-end Power Mac and hold back on launching a G5 PowerBook or iBook.

IBM said it plans to offer the new processors in a variety of ways: in clusters of servers such as its Blue Gene/L super computer, for example, as well as in high-performance storage devices, single-board computers and networking products.

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