Chinese Chip Wins Energy-Efficiency Crown

Though slower than competitors, the energy-saving Godson-3B is destined for the next Chinese supercomputer

3 min read

The Dawning 6000 supercomputer, which Chinese researchers expect to unveil in the third quarter of 2011, will have something quite different under its hood. Unlike its forerunners, which employed American-born chips, this machine will harness the country's homegrown high-end processor, the Godson-3B. With a peak frequency of 1.05 gigahertz, the Godson is slower than its competitors' wares, at least one of which operates at more than 5 GHz, but the chip still turns heads with its record-breaking energy efficiency. It can execute 128 billion floating-point operations per second using just 40 watts—double or more the performance per watt of competitors.

The Godson has an eccentric interconnect structure—for relaying messages among multiple processor cores—that also garners attention. While Intel and IBM are commercializing chips that will shuttle communications between cores merry-go-round style on a "ring interconnect," the Godson connects cores using a modified version of the gridlike interconnect system called a mesh network. The processor's designers, led by Weiwu Hu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing, seem to be placing their bets on a new kind of layout for future high-end computer processors.

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A Circuit to Boost Battery Life

Digital low-dropout voltage regulators will save time, money, and power

11 min read
Image of a battery held sideways by pliers on each side.
Edmon de Haro

YOU'VE PROBABLY PLAYED hundreds, maybe thousands, of videos on your smartphone. But have you ever thought about what happens when you press “play”?

The instant you touch that little triangle, many things happen at once. In microseconds, idle compute cores on your phone's processor spring to life. As they do so, their voltages and clock frequencies shoot up to ensure that the video decompresses and displays without delay. Meanwhile, other cores, running tasks in the background, throttle down. Charge surges into the active cores' millions of transistors and slows to a trickle in the newly idled ones.

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