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NVIDIA and Transmeta announced strategic collaboration today. Under the terms of the agreement, NVIDIA will develop highly integrated media communications processors for Transmeta’s Efficeon processor, enabling multimedia and graphics capabilities for a wide range of mobile PC platforms.

From technological point of view there is nothing too impressive here. Transmeta Efficeon integrates PC3200-supporting memory controller in the chip, just like AMD x86-64 processors. Besides, the processor incorporates AGP 4x interface for graphics solutions as well as on-chip 400MHz HyperTransport bus interface for connecting other components of the system. As a result, NVIDIA does not have to do a lot of work here, especially keeping in mind that Transmeta Efficeon-based notebooks do not require a lot of graphics or processing power.

What NVIDIA needs to offer Transmeta is an inexpensive AGP 4x graphics processor with some 3D capabilities as well as integrated TMDS, LVDS, RAMDAC and other output controllers. Probably NVIDIA will supply its code-named NV33 chip for such computers. As far as I am aware, NVIDIA meant this part to be a very low-power GPU for mobile devices. Nevertheless, the company may eventually offer more powerful solutions with low power consumption as well.

As for system I/O controller, NVIDIA also does not need to invent it from the beginning. Currently the co is supplying its nForce3 150 chipsets with integrated PCI, USB 2.0, Parallel ATA-33/66/100/133, 10/100Mb/s Ethernet controller, AC’97 audio and other important functions, such as AGP controller. For Transmeta Efficeon platform the company may offer something very similar, as both Efficeon and AMD Opteron/Athlon 64 processors use the HyperTransport links as PSB. It is possible that a version of NVIDIA’s C8000 core-logic will also have an integrated graphics core as well.

Transmeta Efficeon, the successor of Crusoe, is based on 256-bit VLIW architecture. The CPU is able to perform 8 instructions per clock thanks to the 256-bit VLIW architecture in contrast to 4 instructions performed by Crusoe microprocessors. Transmeta’s Efficeon processor will be manufactured using 0.13 micron process from TSMC and its core clock will be about higher compared to the company's current chips at the launch. Transmeta sampled its Efficeon (aka TM8000) microprocessor at 1.10GHz in July 2003 and claims it was 50% faster in real-world applications and 80% faster in multimedia applications than the TM5800 CPU.

Dave Ditzel, Transmeta's co-founder and chief technology officer, will make a presentation about the new Efficeon processor, including detailed specifications and benchmark data, at Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, October 13-16, 2003.


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