Intel, Altera make a programmable Atom

The Atom E600C series embedded chips will have integrated Altera FPGAs

Intel will integrate configurable processors from Altera in a new family of Atom chips, the E600C series, for embedded uses such as industrial, military and transportation applications.

Adding the Altera FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) will make it easier for device makers to program the chips for customer-specific requirements and to update their products after they are sold and in use. Integrating the Atom and the FPGA in a single package provides tighter integration than using separate chips, allowing for smaller devices, said Jonathan Luse, Intel's director of marketing for low-power embedded products, on a Monday morning webcast.

The E600 series, which had been code-named Tunnel Creek, was introduced at Intel Developer Forum in September. It was designed for use in embedded computing systems such as in smart grids and in-car entertainment and information systems. In the E600C series, Intel attached the Altera FPGA to the E600 via a standard PCI Express connection with two lanes. Luse declined to comment on if or when Intel might manufacture the Atom and FPGA on a single die.

The E600C series will go on sale in January, starting with 1.0GHz and 1.3GHz versions built for commercial or industrial applications, with different temperature ranges for each. The 1.0GHz chip for commercial purposes, built to withstand temperatures ranging from zero to 70 degrees Celsius, will cost US$72 each in quantities of 1,000 units. The 1.3GHz version for industrial applications, built for temperatures from -40 to 85 degrees Celsius, will cost $106 each. In all these chips, power consumption for the Atom processor alone is estimated at a maximum 3.6 watts. Power consumption of the FPGA depends on configuration, Intel said.

Later in the first quarter, Intel will introduce 0.6GHz versions, which will be priced at $61 for commercial temperatures and $65 for industrial. These chips will consume 2.7 watts maximum, counting the Atom component only.

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