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Friday, December 05, 2003, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

Sources confirm 90nm PowerPC G5 next month, add details

IBM will, indeed, begin delivering volume quantities of its new 90-nanometer (nm) based PowerPC 970 G5 to Apple Computer next month, sources confirmed last evening. These new microprocessors are rumored to become the brains behind the first revision to Apple's Power Mac G5 desktop computer line — known to sources solely by the reference tag 'Power Mac 8,1.'

Up until now, the 90nm G5 has unofficially been deemed the 'PowerPC 970+' by Apple enthusiast and online journalists following IBM's PowerPC roadmap. Most recently, however, IBM contractors have begun slipping the name 'PowerPC 970FX' when referring to the chip.

Although the PowerPC 970FX makes great strides in the realm of power consumption, it is still hungry compared to the rest of the PowerPC family, one source said. At the lowest — albeit unknown — clock-speed, the PowerPC 970FX dissipates approximately 12-Watts. Preliminary tests conducted earlier in the year on a 2.5GHz PowerPC 970FX G5, built around the 90nm process, showed the processor to dissipate 62-Watts. For comparison, a chip of equal clock frequency, which was manufactured on IBM's current 130nm process, dissipated a considerable 96 watts.

Among is many advancements, the PowerPC 970FX will also boast a feature called 'PowerTune,' which allows for rapid frequency and power scaling, and features electronic fusing.

The chip was officially taped out in November, and is reportedly being manufactured on an SSOI process (Strained Silicon on Insulator). "Unlike Intel, IBM has kept current leakage to a minimum using SOI, and using SOI on strained silicon will reduce current leakage by a further 15%," sources told AppleInsider last month.

Meanwhile, Apple has been prepping its own hardware to accompany the updated microprocessor. According to earlier reports, the Power Mac 8,1 will sport a 'U3 revision II' system controller and include support for 533 DDR II RAM. The units are also rumored to feature a ASIC controller built around the 90nm technology and support a front side bus of up to 1.5Ghz.

Industry insiders and sources close to Apple are sighting a high probability that these new machines will make an appearance during Apple's annual Macworld San Francisco trade show, which takes place in the first week of January. Volume shipments of the units to consumers and the retail channel may take a little long, sources said, citing dates from late January to early March.

The Cupertino based computer maker will reportedly proceed with a set of Power Macs in the latter half of 2004 based on the Power PC 980 — a chip that will elevate its professional desktop line well beyond the 3GHz barrier.