Intel notebook demos '100% Transmeta compatible'

Volt farce on the mobile spin front

Analysis Intel used its mobile chip launch this week to allay fears of incompatibilities between Transmeta presentations and its own demonstrations of mobile Notebook chips.

Previously, spin engineers had encountered technical difficulties in the demanding science of reproducing Transmeta publicity point-by-point. But The Register was on hand at the launch of five new mobile chips in San Francisco, and we can confirm that the Intel has largely achieved compatibility with the Transmeta instruction set.

This tricky feat involves synchronising both PowerPoint slides and real-time demonstrations of CPU voltage. It requires a clean room environment in which the slightest trace of FUD can lay waste to the entire presentation.

On previous occasions residual elements of "MHz boasting" in the publicity manufacturing process have obliged Intel to abandon the low power message altogether. However, today those factors were largely absent.

You can read about our preview here, and the prices and details of today's new chips here.

What has happened is that Intel has brought power consumption down - through a combination of SpeedStep and blue smoke™ - more of that in a moment - to a sweet spot somewhere close to what Transmeta was claiming for its Crusoe processors back in January. For example, Intel's genial Frank Spindler - a very tall man indeed - demonstrated a DVD movie playback during which he observed that the average power consumption was two watts. In fact the graph hardly dropped below three watts from what we could tell, and certainly not enough to move the average down to two.

But it's lower than before. And some desultory clicking around Microsoft Office didn't see the power consumption get much above one watt.

Transmeta says that the impressive figures are the result of the computer not doing anything. Morphzilla reckons that the figures Intel was touting yesterday were under a 80 per cent idle usage, and that even Intel's revised Thermal Design Guidelines recommend designers work around a maximum power consumption of 16-17W. We checked, and it looks like the most recent revision of these - amended only Tuesday last week - suggests maximum power of 15.8W at 600MHz and 19.1W at 733MHz. And regardless of usage, that's what builders have to prepare for. You can find that document here. Maybe someone can clear that up?

Transmeta reckons it can perform DVD playback at 1W, thanks to LongRun, which dynamically throttles the frequency back to the lowest necessary.

We gather that Wintel notebooks from four OEMs will be on display at PC Expo in New York next week. Intel had production models of Acer, Toshiba, Dell, Compaq, Sony and IBM notebooks on display today. ®