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Forcing a rewrite

Texas Instrument’s latest dsp could force a record book update. By Graham Pitcher.

It's not often that semiconductor manufacturers resort to the Guinness Book of World Records in order to assert their leading position in a market sector. But that's what Texas Instruments did recently. Its TMS320C6416, at 720MHz, is listed as the fastest dsp.

However, the book will need to be rewritten shortly, because TI thinks it can break that record by some distance.
Jean-Marc Darchy, director of TI's dsp product group in Europe, said: "We've taken a C6416 and demonstrated that it is capable of supporting a clock rate of 1GHz, but we need to move it to a 90nm process. We believe the architecture can go beyond 1GHz, but we have to validate it. However, we're committed to making this happen."

According to Darchy, other processors have run faster, but haven't been a commercial success. "They haven't met customer system requirements," he claimed. In particular, he cited power consumption as one of the big problems. "Most significant applications have a power budget and you can't have a processor with twice the speed drawing ten times as much power. If you sacrifice everything to clock rate, you fall into other traps." Darchy claims that TI's early tests show it can support a 1GHz clock with power consumption of less than 2W. "Even so, the architecture will need to be fine tuned," he continued.
But the 1GHz device – which will be different to the C6416 – isn't likely to be sampling until this time next year.

Graham Pitcher

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