Now that Intel has created an implementation of the Tri-Gate transistor technology specifically designed for low-power system-on-chip (SoC) use – and not just using the Tri-Gate process it employs for big boys such as Core and Xeon – it's ready to rumble.
Tri-Gate has a number of significant advantages over tried-and-true planar transistors, but the one that's of particular significance to Silvermont is that when it's coupled with clever power management, Tri-Gate can be used to create chips that exhibit an exceptionally wide dynamic range – meaning that they can be turned waaay down to low power when performance needs aren't great, then cranked back up when heavy lifting is required.
This wide dynamic range, Kuttanna said, obviates the need for what ARM has dubbed a big.LITTLE architecture, in which a low-power core handles low-performance tasks, then hands off processing to a more powerful core – or cores – when the need arises for more oomph.
"In our case," he said, "because of the combination of architecture techniques as well as the process technology, we don't really need to do that. We can go up and down the range and cover the entire performance range." In addition, he said, Silvermont doesn't need to crank up its power as high as some of those competitors to achieve the same amount of performance.
Or, as Perlmutter put it more succinctly, "We do big and small in one shot."
Intel Silvermont Atom processor architecture: dynamic-range comparison with big.LITTLE architecture
Intel claims Silvermont makes 'big.LITTLE' architectures unnecessary (click to enlarge)
Equally important is the fact that a wide dynamic range allows for a seamless transition from low-power, low-performance operation to high-power, high-performance operation without the need to hand off processing between core types. "That requires the state that you have been operating on in one of the cores to be transferred between the two cores," Kuttanna said. "That requires extra time. And the long