AMD answers Intel's SpeedStep with PowerNow

Unlike Intel's SpeedStep, which was designed to optimise processor speeds for either A/C or D/C operation, PowerNow is designed specifically for substantial power savings and increased battery life for mobile users relying strictly on battery power.

"PowerNow goes beyond simply ramping down to a lower processing speed when the unit is unplugged. It actively monitors the system resources and programs being run to perform dynamic voltage/frequency transitions to a number of processing speeds," said Gary Baum, the director of mobile products for AMD, during a demonstration of the technology.

With PowerNow, a mobile user can select both performance and battery-life priorities. Manual controls allow a user to choose either a battery-guzzling, high-performance mode; a battery-saving mode which sets the processor at the lowest frequency required to support the working program; or a user-optimised mode that automatically adjusts the processor speed as programs are manipulated, booted up, or shut down.

OEMs can customise the implementation and the BIOS of PowerNow-enabled processor technology, according to Baum.

"PowerNow is designed for the significant extension of battery life," Baum said. "And I don't mean five or 10 minutes more operating time; I mean significant. The technology actually reads the operation of the system, meaning that even as you launch a new program, the processor speed will increase to meet the need of the boot-up, then settle back into a lower mode as the program idles."

AMD has set no official release date for PowerNow, but those familiar with the technology expect to see PowerNow shipping in mobile systems by the end of the year.

AMD also announced its plans for a mobile Athlon processor, code-named Mustang. The lower-power, copper technology processor with on-chip L2 cache and new thermal heat sync technology is also expected to ship by the end of this year, according to Baum.

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