Most modern day Intel CPUs run at or above 1V depending on clock speed. For years we had seen decreasing core voltages as Intel transitioned to lower power manufacturing processes, however in recent history it has remained almost flat. While actual transistor switching happens well below 1V, it's very difficult to accurately detect transistor state (off or on) at such low voltages. At what point are you measuring an actual switch vs. just noise? By mapping your high (or on) signal to higher voltages it's easier to tell when the transistor is actually on (e.g. 1V looks very different than 400mV, while 500mV doesn't).

Intel has done a lot of research into running CPUs near their threshold voltage (NTV), the actual voltage at which transistors begin conducting current. There's a lot of work that has to be done to make this happen but the end result is you get tremendous power savings. The chip Intel showed off today can run at less than 10mV (presumably when idle) and operate somewhere in the 400 - 500mV range when higher performance is needed. 

In testing NTV Intel turned to its original Pentium architecture for the basis of the chip. The result was a chip that didn't require any heatsink to operate. This NVT Pentium won't be productized but the research will be used for future Intel many-core and ultra-mobile CPUs. Operating at lower voltages is important to both ends of the spectrum - whether you have dozens of cores or a handful of them in a phone, NTV operation would result in huge performance or battery life gains.

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  • doylecc - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    The current conducted by a transistor is an exponential function of the input voltage. The amount of current you consider to be the "on" state determines the associated "on" input voltage. Thus the Treshold voltage is somewhat arbitrary; it depends upon the current chosen to represent the "on" state.

    The "on" current, and thus the threshold voltage, can be chosen over a wide range. For low power operation, the current, and associated threshold voltage, would be chosen to be a very low value.
    Reply
  • toyotabedzrock - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    The 3d transistor gate may have improved made it an even steeper curve.

    Isn't the atom based on the Pentium?
    Reply
  • Bubbacub - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    <i>"NVT Pentium won't be <b>productized</b> but the"</i>

    ahhhhh

    my pet hate

    cant you just say won't be produced. or wont be manufactured.

    maybe its an acceptable americanism. in which case the americans can ignore the post whilst i bask in the fellow hatred of this word with my compatriots......
    Reply
  • JKflipflop98 - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    Since you and your countrymen seem to be a little dull, I'll help you out.

    "In general terms, "productization" means simply taking an otherwise generic type of service or support offering, and redefining and packaging it more as a "product" offering. For example, if your organization provides a variety of computer-related customer services to both the business and consumer markets, you may wish to "productize" these offerings to appeal to each market directly. By differentiating and packaging your offerings as either "professional computer services for the business community" and "professional-style computer services for the home or school PC user" may be one way of doing so."
    Reply
  • fluxtatic - Saturday, September 17, 2011 - link

    Yes, but it's stupid, is the point. It's a classic example of corporate douche-speak. If this is what you're trying to get across, say "it will not be put into production". If you're "packaging" your offerings, say that, not that you're "productizing" your offerings. I think if somebody said that to me in a sales pitch, that would be the end of the meeting right there. At the very least, I'd push a shedload harder for better terms than I might otherwise. I once started steering business away from a major vendor because the sales rep said "irregardless" in conversation. It only went for a few days, but it was a few grand they missed out on because their college-educated (MBA, if I had to take a guess) rep speaks worse English than most of the high-school dropouts I've known (and there have been a lot.)

    Assuming by the way you look down on Bubbacup and his compatriots that you're an American, JKflipflop98, please stop. You're making the rest of us look like assholes.
    Reply
  • Bubbacub - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    is there a way of getting italics in comments? html in text doesnt work as in my last post Reply
  • Camikazi - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    Anandtech uses BBCode I believe, let's see if I am right... Reply
  • Camikazi - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    [noparse]Yep BBCode, so it would be for Italics for Bold.[/noparse] Reply
  • Camikazi - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    OK so not all BBCode :P anyway [ i ], [ /i ] and [ b ], [ /b ]. Reply
  • CZroe - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - link

    Uhh, there were many CPUs with no heat sink in the original Pentium era. In fact, I seem to recall seeing some Pentium systems that managed it. Is This really the accomplishment they are making it out to be? Reply

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