NEC aims 64-bit chip at portables, net appliances

NEC Corp. on Tuesday will introduce a new, 64-bit RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processor with features designed to help conserve battery life in cell phones, handheld computers and other networked appliances. The chip will be announced at Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Embedded Developers Conference, which starts Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Running at 200Mhz and delivering 1,545 MIPS (million instructions per second), the 64-bit VR4131 chip is also targeted for use in network interface cards (NICs), wireless LANs (local area networks) and Internet appliances, NEC said.

The chip uses a dual pipeline architecture, which means it should be capable of executing instructions 1.4 times faster than RISC chips that use a single pipeline, NEC said. It will include 16K bytes of dual cache and 16K bytes of on-chip instruction memory. A 100Mhz SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory) controller and PCI bus interface will help boost the chip’s performance.

The chip will be manufactured using a 0.13 micron process, which refers to the width of circuits that can be etched on the surface of the chip. It consumes 1.5 watts of power while operating in full mode, NEC said.

The processor includes a variety of standby modes designed to help conserve power, one of the big challenges of developing processors for portable gadgets.

When idle, the chip will be able to fall into standby, suspend and hibernate modes. An added ‘eXsuspend’ mode allows the chip to go into suspend mode and then reactivate itself within 40 microseconds. This mode is a better alternative to turning off a device completely, since turning a device on and off frequently can drain a lot of power from the battery, NEC said. The eXsuspend mode is especially targeted at handheld devices, including handheld computers based on Microsoft’s PocketPC, the company said.

The chips will start shipping in the third quarter of this year, priced at US$25 in quantities of 10,000, NEC said.

More information about the Windows Embedded developer Conference is available on the Web at

NEC, in Tokyo, can be reached at

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