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Monday, June 20, 2005, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Freescale\'s 90nm PowerPC G4 chip destined for Apple laptops

Freescale Semiconductor on Monday began showcasing the MPC7448, its latest high-performance PowerPC processor and the highly touted successor to the MPC7447A chip used in current Apple PowerBook G4 systems.

Based on Freescale's e600 PowerPC core, the MPC7448 represents the most significant update to the MPC74xx family of processors to date and is expected to offer speeds from 600 MHz to 1.7 GHz with the system bus running up to 200 MHz.

The MPC7448 is also the first product in the MPC74xx family to use Freescale's 90 nanometer (nm) silicon-on-insulator (SOI) CMOS process that will significantly increase clock and bus speeds while reducing power requirements.

Running much cooler than its predecessor, the MPC7448 offers GHz-class performance at less than 10 Watts. The MPC7448 power management features also include nap and sleep modes and introduce dynamic frequency switching that permits system software to reduce power "on the fly."

The e600 PowerPC core packs AltiVec technology, a single instruction multiple data (SIMD) engine capable of accelerating networking applications, such as security algorithms, network stack processing, routing and more.

"The MPC7448 is a seamless step up in performance that demonstrates Freescale's continued commitment to developing compatible high-performance PowerPC processors for the embedded market," the company said in a statement. It is also a stepping stone to the MPC8641D dual-core processor based on the same e600 PowerPC core.

According to Freescale documents, the MPC7448 and MPC8641D PowerPC G4 processors share many architectural similarities that make them highly compatible, including support for asymmetric and symmetric multiprocessing, identical 32KB L1 cache and 1MB L2 cache, and identical AltiVec technology attributes and performance.

Additionally the same customer application binary code can run on the MPC7448 and MPC8641D, meaning Apple could adopt the dual-core G4 chip for its mobile offerings down the line. However, by the time Freescale begins mass-producing the MPC8641D, Apple will likely be ready to debut a dual-core PowerBook based on Intel's Yonah mobile processor.

In the meantime, Freescale said the MPC7448 — which has been sampling since February — is planned to be in full production in October 2005. The chip will likely begin showing up in Apple laptop-based systems shortly thereafter, offering a substantial increase in battery performance and slight speed boost over today's systems.

According to EEMBC (Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium) certified performance benchmark tests, a 1.7GHz MPC7448 scored a 350.8 in the DENbench suite "out-of-the-box," while AltiVec engine optimization helped double application performance to 762.0.