New TI Chips and Tools Focus on Power

Submitted by BDTI on Mon, 07/12/2004 - 20:00

Texas Instruments has introduced three 'C55x chips and a variety of tools targeting power-sensitive applications. The new chips, the TMS320C5503, TMS320C5507, and TMS320C5509A, resemble existing 'C55x family members in most respects. The new chips are notable mainly for their low-power features, starting with their support for frequency and voltage scaling. With this feature, the chips can use lower supply voltages when operating at lower frequencies. Specifically, the chips require 1.6 V at their top speed of 200 MHz, but need only 1.2 V when operating at 108 MHz. Because power consumption varies with the square of voltage, this ability to use lower operating voltages can lead to significant gains in energy efficiency. ("Power" and "energy" are often used interchangeably, but they are different concepts. Power is the rate at which energy is consumed. In most applications, energy consumption is more important than power consumption. For details, see "Power, Energy, and Battery Life" in the June 2004 Inside DSP.)

The new 'C55x chips are not the first DSPs to offer frequency and voltage scaling, nor do they offer the widest range of operating voltages. Both of those distinctions belong to Analog Devices' 'BF5xx (Blackfin) family. However, the new 'C55x chips do have an advantage in terms of standby power. According to TI, the new 'C55x chips consume only 0.12 mW at 1.2 V in standby mode. In comparison, the 'BF531 consumes about 11 mW at 0.8 V in standby mode—roughly one hundred times more power. (The 'BF351 also offers a "hibernate" mode that completely removes power to the core. In this mode, the 'BF531 consumes only 0.04 mW. To learn more about processor idle modes, see "Processor Power Consumption: Beyond the Data Sheet" in the June 2004 Inside DSP.)

TI also announced a remarkably comprehensive set of tools to support low-power design. The first of these tools is a spreadsheet-based power consumption estimator. This estimator allows designers to enter an application's resource-utilization parameters and estimate the corresponding power consumption. TI also offers a set of tools to measure actual power consumption. These include an evaluation board, a data capture card, and C5000-specific power analysis software. Last but not least, TI is offering drivers and other 'C55x software to ease use of the new chips' power-saving features, such as the voltage and frequency scaling capabilities.

The 'C5503, 'C5507, and 'C5509A are priced at $7.50, $10.50, and $16.00, respectively, in 10,000-unit quantities. All three chips are sampling now, with full production expected in August. The power consumption estimator and power measurement tools are available now; the other tools are expected to be available by the end of the year.

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