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HP chip has 1.5MB cache

Hewlett-Packard introduces its most powerful microprocessor packing 120 million transistors.

Hewlett-Packard (HWP) today introduced its most powerful microprocessor packing 120 million transistors at the UniForum '97 trade show.

The company says the PA-8500 is the industry's first chip to break the 1MB on-chip memory barrier; a total of 1.5MB of cache memory is built into the HP chip itself.

By placing a large amount of high-speed memory on the same chip as the processor, performance will be significantly increased over current designs because the processor is directly fed with a steady stream of data to process. This design helps to eliminate the slow-down which occurs when the processor must go out and access the system's slower main memory to get data.

HP claims that the PA-8500 will process information up to five times faster than other microprocessors currently on the market and three times faster than its own PA-8000.

The 64-bit RISC processor is built using a cutting-edge 0.25-micron production method, which is what enabled HP to put so much memory on the chip. The company says that there are more than 120 million transistors on the PA-8500, compared to 5.5 million transistors on a Pentium Pro from Intel. The Pentium Pro processor is manufactured using a 0.35-micron process.

In spite of the complexity of the design, systems built around the PA-8500 no longer require extra cache memory and therefore require fewer parts. Because of this, the chip cache reduces the overall cost of systems built around the PA-8500, according to the company.

HP intends to use the new processor in workstations and servers that handle applications such as transaction processing, database access, computer-aided design, and manufacturing. Systems using the chip are expected within the next 18 months, representatives said.