Andes Technology takes microcontrollers to a new low with the launch of a soft core that can deliver up to 108 Dhrystone MIPS/milliwatt and fit into 0.04 mm2 in a 90-nm process.
The Hummingbird N7 core uses about 30 percent less power at the same performance of an ARM Cortex M0. Two customers have already licensed the N7 for use in Bluetooth and touchscreen controllers.
Separately, Andes (Hsinchu, Taiwan) is also shipping its high-end N13 cores, geared for dataplane networking systems running Linux.
The low-end N7 delivers 1.19 to 1.45 DMIPS/MHz using a mix of 16- and 32-bit instructions.
It has a two-stage pipeline, can be implemented in 12,000 to 30,000 gates and employs a prefetch buffer that acts as a small instruction cache.
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“Given what ARM is charging, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could cut your costs in half or more” using the Andes cores, said Linley Gwennap, principal of market watcher The Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.).
Although the smartphone applications processor gets most of the limelight these days, a smartphone uses many more cores outside that chip, Gwennap said. That’s a big opportunity in a wide range of comms and peripheral controllers.
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