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Motorola to debut 450MHz PowerPC G4 next month

Oh, and IBM will have a 580MHz part to show, too

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Motorola looks set to debut its next-generation PowerPC processor, codenamed G4, processor at next month's 1999 IEEE International Solid-state Circuits Conference, to be held in San Francisco. At the same time, IBM will unveil a 580MHz PowerPC 750 (aka G3) based on Silicon-on-insulator technology, according to US newswires. The G4 will be introduced at 450MHz and will be the first PowerPC to contain Motorola's AltiVec vector processing instruction set extensions, rivals to Intel's Katmai instructions. Reports suggest the copper-based chip (the first Motorola has offered; fellow PowerPC producer IBM began shipping copper CPUs last September) will contain 10.5 million transistors at 0.18-microns. That suggests the processor Motorola will unveil at the conference is the version of the G4 known as Max, which is due to offer all these features and ship in the 300-500MHz range. With PPC 750s already clocking in at 400MHz, with higher speeds to come, 450MHz would make an obvious starting point for Max -- for a given clock speed, Max is estimated to be 30-50 per cent faster than the 750. According to details seen by The Register last year, Max will also contain two 32K on-chip L1 caches and support up to 2MB of backside L2 cache. A 1.8V processor core will offer reduced power consumption. The chip will also provide a new 128-bit 'MaxBus' bus technology, which allows CPUs in multi-processing configurations to communicate directly with each other. The IBM processor, meanwhile, appears to be a variant on the standard 750, the last design IBM and Motorola co-operated on before falling out over AltiVec. Comments made last year by Mike Attardo, general manager of IBM's Microelectronics division, suggested the two are once more firm friends, a fact possibly confirmed by Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs' comments at MacWorld Expo earlier this year that the Mac makers would be sourcing CPUs from both companies (though the poor fellow still managed to call Big Blue "Intel"). The 580MHz CPU will be based on the silicon-on-insulator process in which conductive material is wrapped in an insulator to minimise noise from other circuits -- a major performance sap at 0.18 microns. ®

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