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P.A. Semi: Star Design Team Unveils Energy-Efficient Multicore Processor

Key Takeaways:

  • Dream Team Reunion: P.A. Semi boasts a team of veteran chip designers, including industry leaders responsible for designing DEC Alpha microprocessors, such as Dan Dobberpuhl, Jim Keller, and Peter Bannon.
  • PowerPC Powerhouse: By implementing Power Architecture heretofore supplied by heavyweights IBM and Freescale, P.A. Semi bucks the trend of startups employing the MIPS architecture.
  • Multicore Muscle: The PWRficient processor boasts a dual-core design with plans for future variations offering up to eight cores, catering to various performance needs.
  • Cutting-Edge Efficiency: P.A. Semi prioritizes reducing power while maintaining high performance with capabilities like dynamic voltage and frequency scaling, individual-core power gating, and a focus on efficient memory management.
  • High-Speed I/O Flexibility: The chip offers extensive I/O options including configurable serdes channels, high-performance DDR2 memory support, and integrated networking interfaces.
  • Open for Business: P.A. Semi targets a wide range of line-powered embedded applications, with a potential future foray into gaming consoles and computers.

Dive into the PWRficient Processor:

  • PowerPC Architecture: P.A. Semi scores a win by obtaining an architecture license from IBM for the Power ISA, enabling access to powerful VMX (AltiVec) instructions for enhanced performance.
  • Manufacturing on the Edge: P.A. Semi pushes boundaries by adopting a cutting-edge 65 nm process technology from an unnamed American manufacturer.
  • Performance Packed: The initial offering, the 1682M, boasts dual cores with 2 MB of L2 cache and promises to reach clock speeds of 2 GHz.
  • Scalable Design: P.A. Semi plans to cater to diverse performance needs with single-core and future eight-core variations. Multiple socket options further enhance flexibility.
  • Low-Power Prowess: P.A. Semi implements various techniques for exceptional power efficiency, making the PWRficient processor an interesting option for high-performance applications sensitive to power.
  • Performance Champion: The 1682M’s dual-core design with high clock speeds promises to compare favorably with quad-core solutions from competitors in terms of real-world performance.

Beyond the Chip: Market Potential

  • Lost Opportunity: Apple’s shift from PowerPC to Intel processors is a blow to P.A. Semi, but vast opportunities remain in the high-performance embedded processor market.
  • Target Rich Environment: P.A. Semi has its sights set on diverse applications like networking (e.g., Alcatel, Cisco, Ericsson, Lucent, and Nokia), storage, and potentially even next-generation gaming consoles.
  • Future Flexibility: P.A. Semi is open to developing custom processor SoCs for high-volume opportunities.


P.A. Semi’s PWRficient processor is a promising development in the world of high-performance, low-power embedded processors. With a legendary design team, cutting-edge technology, and a focus on scalability and efficiency, P.A. Semi is well-positioned to carve a niche in this rapidly evolving market.





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