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ST-Ericsson slashes quad-core power consumption

Latest chip in NovaThor family harnesses STMicro's innovative new process but no ARM A15 yet

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 16 January, 2013

READ MORE: ST-Ericsson | Processor | LTE

Quad-core mobile processors are coming thick and fast this year, and beleaguered ST-Ericsson has announced its own latest device, the NovaThor L8580, which integrates the modem and apps processor, and is manufactured in a low power 28nm process.

The baseband supports multimode Cat 4 LTE (150Mbps downlink, with TDD and FDD) and can span up to 10 bands for LTE, HSPA, GSM and China Mobile's TD-SCDMA. It is combined with a 2.5GHz eQuad processor, which runs on an ARM Cortex-A9 core - not, yet, the A15 as seen in Samsung's Exynos and others - and Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX544 graphics processor, running at 600MHz.


It uses a somewhat different approach to power reduction than ARM's big:Little or Nvidia's fifth 'companion core'. The eQuad powers down to energy saver mode when only one core is active.

The company uses an innovative process (FD-SOI or fully depleted silicon-on-insulator) developed by one of its parents, STMicro. This claims to use 50% less power to deliver the same performance as chips made in bulk planar CMOS. The technology is licensed from GlobalFoundries for use in ST's own fabs, and it will drive it down to 20nm before year end. STE says it makes the L8580 the world's fastest and least power hungry mobile processor.

The chip will sample before the end of this quarter. It will need to make a hefty impact to rescue STE from its lengthy struggle to regain profitability. Its other parent, Ericsson, aims to exit the business this year but it is unclear whether another player will bid for the Swedish firm's stake - or for the whole firm if ST backs off too.

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