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Speedy RISC chip announced

The SH-4 microprocessor would significantly improve the performance standard of handheld computers.

Hitachi (HIT) today announced a microprocessor that will significantly improve the performance of handheld computers.

Hitachi's SuperH SH-4 is a low-cost, low-power chip that runs at 200 MHz, much faster than the chips found in many current handhelds. Hitachi's SH-3 chip, for instance, runs at 60 MHz.

Handheld computers utilize specialized processors designed to consume small amounts of power. Many run Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, an OS that's stripped down to accommodate the slower processors and limited hardware resources of the devices.

The announcement of the SH-4, which can perform up to 360 MIPS (millions of instructions per second) at 200 MHz, marks one of the first instances of a chip for low-cost handheld devices achieving the processing speed of a mainstream desktop class machine.

The SH-4 will be priced at $40 per chip in quantities of 10,000. Sampling will begin in the first quarter of 1998, and volume production will begin in the third quarter.