Intel XScale – Pocket PC dynamic power management

In the summer of 2000 Intel made a renewed bid to establish a serious foothold in the market for wireless Internet devices with the launch of its low-power microprocessor architecture dubbed XScale. Built on the StrongARM technology Intel licences from British-based ARM Holdings – with which it is instruction set compatible – XScale is designed to operate at a range of clock speeds and power consumption levels. Dynamic voltage management – similar in concept to SpeedStep – is a key element in the architecture and enables the RISC-based chip to ratchet its power consumption up and down depending on the tasks it is handling at any given moment. Intel is seeking to position XScale as the fastest and most energy-efficient technology in the nascent wireless market. It will offer higher clock speeds and lower power consumption than current StrongARMs, depending on the application. The chip can range from 50MHz, where it consumes about 10 milliwatts of power, to 800MHz, where it consumes about 1 watt. These characteristics make XScale ideal for the forthcoming breed of Internet access devices, and offer the prospect of fairly sophisticated mobile applications capable of running on a single AA battery. Competition included rival chipmaker Texas Instruments, who promoted a similar architecture referred to as the Open Multimedia Applications Platform (OMAP). In the event XScale was much slower to reach the market than had been initially anticipated. It was not until the beginning of 2002 that Intel introduced its new family of chips based on the XScale microarchitecture – the PXA210, capable of clock speeds up to 200MHz and the PXA250, capable of running at...

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