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Crusoe and Benchmarks 121

duffbeer703 wrote to us with a ZD story regarding Transmeta's Crusoe speed and benchmarking. As we've heard the benchmarks haven't overwhemled people - but are we measuring things the wrong way? Of course emulation is slower then native chipsets - that's a given - but are the other elements of Crusoe enough to make up for it?
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Cruse and Benchmarks

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  • Exactly... if I want a mini-laptop like one of those slick VAIO's that's based on the crusoe, or a cool webpad, or something similar, I don't care how well it will run Quake, 3DStudio, or how many Linux kernels it will compile per second. I'd want to be able to run a browser, a word processor, an email client, and maybe a DVD player. My old K6-III/400 handles that beautifully. Price, heat dissipation, size, and power consumption are all one should worry about in this case.

    "Evil beware: I'm armed to the teeth and packing a hampster!"
  • by Samrobb ( 12731 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @01:07PM (#669772) Homepage Journal

    Sigh. It's a troll, but I'll bite...

    You may not run the same program twice in a row. (I do. Often. But let's ignore that for now.) But... Within a single program of any complexity, there will be code that gets executed repeatedly. It might be the menu-redraw routines, or the file load/file save routines, or the search routine, or the "EMACS has consumed all available memory" error dialog... whatever; there is code that will be executed repeatedly.

    Crusoe will most likely perform better than the benchmark shows in these real-life instances. Benchmarks are an artifical environment... how many benchmarks incorprated floating point calculations before FPUs became common? Given that Crusoe is the first chip of it's kind, I'm not surprised that it does poorly on current benchmarks, which were written assuming that performance on the benchmark would not change significantly from one run to another. If Crusoe (or other code-morphing chips) gain in importance, we'll probably see new benchmarks designed to test the new capabilities of these processors.

  • by ca1v1n ( 135902 ) <snook@guanotroni[ ]om ['c.c' in gap]> on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:46PM (#669773)
    We need a good set of common use benchmarks. Things that run the spellchecker in Word while trying to play MP3s. Then the tests need to be done, on these mundane tasks, with non-virgin crusoe chips. Chips that have been run through these routines and have adjusted themselves to those tasks.
  • The goal of a benchmark shouldnt be a best case scenario. Maybe I'm wrong, but when I see a benchmark, I want to be able to think 'this is the least I will get out of product XYZ'. I dont want to see benchmarks which have had every extra .0001 tweaked out of it. If I see a benchmark exceptionally high, only to get the product home, and see it low, what has the product gained, other than my dissatisfaction?

  • All very well and good, speed and stuff, but I've been reading articles for weeks about how manufactures want this for PDAs, cel phones and other tiny little low power devices.

    Hell, I'll probably find one pushing my Howard Miller clock some day. Why did they need a CPU to do this?

    Transmeta's edge is small, fast-enuff, low power consumption and flexibility. I swear too many articles pop up on /. questioning its viability and not enough people spend time in at Best Buy, Fry's, Circuit City, et al, watching masses of perfectly happy buyers fish out the plastic for something they perceive will make their life better.

    As you rightly point out, this is not the number cruncher and stupid people like me (who try to do photo editting on a 300mhz win98 choked laptop) would best remember the AMDs, PIIIs, Alphas, et al are the CPUs for the serious crunch work.

    Yeah, I'm sure I'd like a 1GHz 64bit laptop stuffed with DDR SDRAM and a RAID5 Array of UW-SCSI drives, but these boogers really do suck to do much work on and this isn't going to make my cel calls any clearer when I order a thai take-out "Thzz wzn gzzmpd zhhhzh bzzf wzh zhoo rizz, yzz?" "No! wzh zoozfzz, z rizz!"

    Better off lounging in one of them Cyber chairs, hands on keyboard and pasting Natalie Portman [] into photos of me with my backyard Space-O-Rocket built for two.


  • by Anne Marie ( 239347 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @01:32PM (#669776)
    We're still not measuring the correct quantities: consumer value and whether the damn thing will have to be recalled within the first week of hitting the market because of some stupid FOOF error like Intel's have been known to do.

    You make a correct point, but you don't take it far enough: what's important is not whether Crusoe is clock-for-clock equivalent to Intel's and AMD's offerings. The question is whether a device can be put together using Crusoe at a reasonable price that taken as a whole, fulfills consumers' needs.

    The issue is not so much that Crusoe cannot compete in markets currently dominated by Intel and AMD. The question is whether Intel and AMD are the appropriate choices for those markets to begin with. For most consumer devices, they're overkill, both in computing power and electrical power dissapated. Crusoe has a bright future in these markets, and if it were publicly traded, I'd consider picking up a couple shares.
  • It's the economy, s....d!

    Seriously, the following things matter:
    1. longer CPU life for same wattage (power times time) means CPU can sleep better
    2. lower power CPU sleep mode means longer non-use time
    3. lower power CPU means more RAM, which means less hard disk, more caching
    4. both of the above in a proper system mean a 4 hour webpad now runs for 6 hours.
    5. lower battery usage means lower weight

    As you point out, manufacturers need to work on screen usage, since you can compensate for hard disk with increased RAM and cache. But now this becomes the biggie.

    There is no single answer, all laptops are multi part systems. But this allows you to work on the other two.

    [note: I'm biased, I'm down for 500 shares of TMTA on IPO through the lead broker, and I don't own Intel or AMD]

  • I have an older Toshiba Satellite Pro at 120MHz. I have Slackware Linux and Windows 95 dual booting, and I use it for mobile CD playing, MP3 playing, and basic word processor/spreadsheet stuff for note taking, problem solving, etc. I'm not using the hell out of it for performance, doing stuff like 3d gaming, tons of source code compilation (though in Linux I do end up doing some), and complex modelling... It doesn't matter what the processor is the the greatest extent as how long I can keep using it.

    I can see this Transmeta based laptop being something I would buy if I could afford it. It's faster than the mobile computer that I have now, it's got a good screen, it runs for many, many hours on just one battery, it won't give me 3rd degree burns to my lap.

    How much processor power does it take to load a web browser or a telnet client or such? USE is more important than simple speed...
  • Why does everyone worry so much about speed? Why not worry about "enough to get the job done"? I've got a PPro200 system on my desk, because I dont *need* anything faster. My wife's favorite system is a Toshiba Libretto 100CT - a Pentium 166MMX-based micronotebook. I mean, HOW MUCH cpu do you need for Netscape, SSH, and an occasional MP3? CPUs are getting like cars; people think they have to upgrade JUST BECAUSE a company has released a "bigger faster better" version - not because they actually NEED the increased speed or performance. Gamers will argue with me, of course, but I'd say the majority of computer users can get by with a Pentium 166-class machine for the majority of their daily work. The "must upgrade to faster CPU" thing is just propagated by Intel and the other CPU manufacturers to drum up business.
  • the one you run yourself, doing the things you do every day. Everything else is just hype.
  • Face it guys: the concept is great of this code morphing, reminds me of the Common Hardware Reference Platform which also promissed to run multiple systems (besides MacOS, also NT).

    However, this world is still run by Microsoft and ceteris paribus Crusoe will never be able to break the unofficial Intel-MS marriage. Transmeta should gamble 100% on Linux notebooks and perhaps on embedded systems too.
    Linux doesn't need to devore every few months an increase in processor power and can also focus on stability and technical neatness besides blunt power. Windoze may have a shorter time to market although one can discuss that, but it is also made fast-fast with major bugs waiting to burst (or to patch, depending which one happens first - usually the bug which forces to patch)

    I think there is a market for a notebook which as primary system runs Linux and just in the second place Windoze 9x/NT/2000. That would be a lean mean portable Geek Machine!!! After all most of us work for the corps and must be able to run from time to time an Wintel app.

    Transmeta, do you hear me?!?!? I am waiting for your open notebook platform, open both in hardware as well as in software of course!

  • So, what you are saying is that Crusoe concept is interesting? So is FX!32, Napster, Iridium... Being interesting does not make a product successful in a market place. What I hear about Crusoe is that it gives 10% battery increase for 30% drop in performance in an average notebook. I think I'll pass...
  • This whole business with emulation is very interesting, but I fail to see where this will fit into the current marketplace. When I need to run an x86 OS, I'll buy an x86 chip. When I need IA-64, I'll buy an IA-64 chip. The people who are buying these things for future compatabilty are the ones that baffle me. If the Crusoe can't even keep up with current IA-32 architectures, how is it going to keep up with Merced and its successors? Why doesn't Transmeta just focus their efforts into producing a native x86 chip? or a native IA-64 chip? Who the hell needs one chip to do both? Certainly not the average road warrior that runs Win98/WinNT/Linux. This is the demographic that the Crusoe is targeted at.
  • OK Hemos, it's "overwhelmed", not "overwhemled". One misspelled word in a three sentence burst wasn't so bad. However using "slower then native" instead of the correct "slower than native" was pathetic. Even though Slashdot will never have journalistic integrity, it could at least have grammatical integrity.

    flame on...
  • by BluedemonX ( 198949 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @03:39PM (#669785)
    There are three ways to lie: lies, damned lies and statistics. Benchmarks are, have been, and always will be about politics.

    Every time I see a benchmark or other metric in the computer world, I have to constantly ask myself, "Is that Linux worse than NT article comparing a Linux box on a 386 vs NT on a 8 processor SMP Alpha?", excuse the exaggerating to make a point.

    So what if the benchmarks suck. Is getting the highest numbers the aim of the game? If so, then the person who wins hands-down is going to be the guy with the 5000W power supply that has to be plugged into a 220V outlet, with a liquid-nitrogen cooled non-conducting fluid bath containing a 20 PowerPC SMP Beowulf cluster with attached tachyon cache. The thing'll weigh 250 lbs, be totally impractical for practical use and burst into flames within five hours, but by God, it gets some serious BogoMips before heat death.

    A processor that runs really cool, with low power consumption and the capacity to adapt to whatever's thrown at it is pretty cool in my book.

    And given that most people do email and write documents, really a 8088 would do. I think we should get over the whole comparing antler or genital size thing that men do. RRR RRR RRR Thog have 200 MhZ! Ug have 240 MhZ! GRAR! Ug get girl!

  • I've never seen a hacker compiling a kernel in a plane. Humm... may be Eric Raymond?

    I am not Eric Raymond, but I have done it occasionally - more often, however, on a train, and more often compiling not kernels, but other systems (most likely my equational theorem prover E [] . And higher speeds also come in handy for LaTeX-ing large documents.

    I generally agree that it makes sense to trade speed for longer battery life. However, given that I can work for about 5 hours on my new notebook (P3 600 with SpeedStep, 64 MB Memory under Linux, the current technological compromise is quite ok for me.

  • The question that begs to be asked here is, "How many users NEED to search and replace a 250 page document? How many Excel users even know what a Black-Schols analysis is?" Honestly, that's like telling the average user that they need a Cray because it runs weather simulations so much faster than their Macintosh.
  • hmm... the processor isn't designed for running benchmarks... it is made for running real apps. and it's kind of slow. AND... according to the newest german c't it's still slow at the third run
  • I must admit that I haven't looked at the Transmeta design very closely, but there is one thing that seems to have gotten relatively little attention yet...

    What happens if the code morphing cache is too small for the workset used by the benchmark or application, and how likely is this going to be, given the 16 MB cache used, I believe, by the Sony device?

    In other words, can it be expected that the entire translated code of your average application fits into the code morphing cache, so that optimizations from multiple independent runs can really take effect? After all, this is what most reviewers seem to assume.

    Also, does paging in and out of code through the operating system's VM manager influence the effect of code morphing in any way?
  • by tesserae ( 156984 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @01:12AM (#669791)
    I still don't understand this rush for ultra faster processors in notebooks

    You mean you don't understand the marketing, or you don't understand the bragging rights? ;)

    I've never seen a hacker compiling a kernel in a plane.

    Getting serious: I don't compile kernels on an airplane, but I do serious scientific and engineering work on 'em -- often with a dozen or so heavy-hitting apps running at once -- and sometimes I even attempt as much CAD as I can manage, without having my tablet available.

    Some people need the power: my notebook has to do most of what my desktop (a dual PIII 800) does, while I'm on the road. So I have a Dell Inspiron with a PIII 650 (SpeedStep is usually OFF!), 320MB RAM and a 1400x1050 screen... and it's barely enough to get me by.

    All that said, I agree with you that 90% of the notebook users don't need more than a 300 MHz processor for what they do. At least, not this year...


  • Huh? It can run any code they write a morphing engine for -- Java byte code included. That's one of the two big points they're trying to make (the other being low power consumption).


  • if a copy of Linux was ported to transmeta's native CPU (Very Long Instruction) would the performance be better than under "morphing"?
  • by Fnordulicious ( 85996 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:47PM (#669794) Homepage
    AFAICT the Crusoe is far more interesting for its design and the possibilities for emulation that for its raw processing power. If I wanted to have a fast IA32 machine I'd go buy one. But if I wanted a processor that had the potential possibilty of letting me design my very own processor to simulate atop it, and at near-hardware speeds, then I'd buy a Crusoe. Battery life is nice too, but I'm much more swayed by the possibility that I could even conceivably use the processor as a nice emulation engine for some other existing architecture, or one of my own design.
  • What I don't understand is the trillion of dollars spent in expensive notebooks, with short live batteries (due to the high speed processors) only for word processing.

    I also own an Inspiron (7500, PIII 500 Mhz, 256 MB of RAM), but this is used as desktop due to small size and it's cheaper that most of medium notebooks in the market. For the airplane, I still use my old Toshiba (P-MMX, 200 MHz) with a new battery, which gives me 5 to 6 hours without any problem.

    I am convinced that Intel can produce new processor with the same capacity as old Pentiums and Celerons with a very low battery consumption, the problem is that the braindamaged "market" is eager for faster processor...


  • by Anonymous Coward

    And once more:

    This processor is any processor that morphing instructions can be written for.

    How long till the ultra low power solid state hdds come into being?

    And wouldnt you rather use a headset display such as I-Glasses then a large (anyone can see) display when you are working in your resume? or looking at your Natalie Portman jpeg collection ?

    Try not to think of tomorrows computer systems by todays standards

  • by Tarnar ( 20289 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:49PM (#669797) Homepage
    Ok, so how does that relate to real world computing then? How often does an application do the same thing over and over again?

    Yes, this is a good thing for the Crusoe, but just how many people sit there and run their favorite program twice in a row with the exact same data both times? Seems kinda redundant.
  • OK, let me see if I have this right. Crusoe sacrifices speed for longer battery life, but battery life is dominated by power requirements of the screen and hard drive so the gain is marginal.

    What am I missing here?

  • Yes, they are different. However, they are still slaves of x86. They can only emulate x86. This may change in the future, but until then they are a cooler, relatively slower, and likely (haven't seen the costs) more expensive machine. They are not for performace any more than a K6-2 is. They are supposed to run relatively quickly, but not compete with say an Alpha.

    Personally, for cost-go x86, for performace-go alpha, for battery life/heat-go cruose or G4.

    However, I see good things in the cruose's future. A friend has a PCI board with a Celeron 350 or so which plugs into the PCI bus, and takes over, perhaps curoses could do that because of power (eg cruose might run where a P3 or Athlon doesn't). (Yes, I know that is an 'old' way of doing things, but if they had a card like that, how may of us have old P75s and the like sitting around?)

  • Looks pretty clear to me. Crusoe, while being fast enough for the average joe, isn't as fast as folks had hoped. But because Torvalds works for Transmeta, every last Slashdotter is hoping and praying for Crusoe to come out on top. Linus working on something that isn't successfull?! Slashdot won't let that happen, or at least let its readers think that.
  • I would only trust benchmarks wcreated by an unbiased third party. Would you believe MS Benchmark 2000 when it showed Win2K was faster than everything else.

  • Close enough to KEY for me. I got one of those cute little low power jobs, which runs for a couple hours, assuming you define runs as:

    Dims screen to save power every 5 seconds.

    Spins down HD every 10-15 seconds of no disk activity.

    Runs much slower on battery, in low power mode.

    Is basically dead weight and bulk when it's dead.

    I'd like to try something that runs moderately faster with considerably more battery life. Extra battery packs are just plain annoying and expensive.


  • For this you don't need even a PII, an old 233 Mhz P MMX or Celeron 300 MHz with 64 MB for Linux or 128 MB if you run Windows (or StarOffice), it's more then enough. Even those processors used in the news PDAs, especially iPaq (a 206Mhz RISC) would fulfill all your requirements.

    I still don't understand this rush for ultra faster processors in notebooks, while more than 90% of the people use them only for text processing and power point presentations. I've never seen a hacker compiling a kernel in a plane. Humm... may be Eric Raymond?


  • It wasn't meant to be a troll, I apologize. I honestly wondered how much of an effect this had. You talk about actions repeating, and I thought of stuff like that too. But what's the 'memory' on the chip? How far back does it remember to optomize?

    I know that programs do the same things over and over and over, but what I wanted to ask was if this actually made a large impact in relation to the Crusoe itself.
  • The Register also has an interesting editorial [] from Wednesday about Transmeta's benchmarks.
  • The question is whether a device can be put together using Crusoe at a reasonable price that taken as a whole, fulfills consumers' needs.

    That's sort-of the question, but not really. The real question is whether the Crusoe chip provides better (or at least equivalent) performance for the same price as Intel or AMD offerings. As the original poster correctly points out, there is an open question as to whether the Transmeta chip is really going to make that much difference in battery life compared to the cost in performance.

    For most people, "not Intel or AMD" is not a feature. In fact, for most people "not Intel" is a bug. Transmeta needs to be considerably better or cheaper to make a dent in the industry.

    I think I would take some Transmeta stock if I could get it for the opening price, but then would promptly sell it after the irrational run-up. :)


  • I'm assuming that the cache memory is used to hold the translated information. The amount varies by processor - the Crusoe 5600 in the Loox T has twice as much as the 5400 in the Loox S, even though they're at the same speed. I'm not sure offhand how the 3200 for mobile devices compares.

    Similarly, I suspect (because it seems obvious) that the processor keeps track of how often translated code is used so it can discard the less-used translations when it starts to run out of space. It's like virtual memory, but instead of getting paged out to disk the less-needed translations are discarded since they can be redone if they're needed again. It sounds bad to repeat work, but the impact of re-translating is likely to be fairly small, because the code that needs it doesn't get called as often as the code that's kept.

    One other thing that might be interesting is what sort of changes might be made to the code morphing software to improve the optimization. Perhaps it doesn't do a good least-recently-used discard of optimized code, but a processor firmware update adds that capability. What kind of impact will that have on system speed? I don't know if updates like that would be free, but would you pay $20 for a 10-15% improvement processor speed on your system?

    It's interesting that Transmeta has four areas of potential improvement where Intel and AMD have only three. The first is improving processor speed, the second is improving the cache size and/or speed, the third is architecture improvements, and the third is better code morphing software (which is a form of architecture improvement). Intel has its BIOS update to let it address fixes in the same way that Transmeta could, but that's not going to make a difference in the overall performance of a processor.

    I suspect that internally Transmeta is continuing to test processors to find out things like how much cache memory is needed to keep frequently-used translations from being discarded. I'm sure we'll never publicly see those, but eventually it'll probably be clear from the point at which Transmeta stops increasing the amount - when the amount of local cache stops growing it means they've either hit the point where most of what gets discarded wasn't going to be used again anyway or they've hit the point where indexing into the cache becomes a problem.

    -- fencepost

  • by Nurf ( 11774 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @02:03PM (#669808) Homepage
    Something I see over and over again is that emulation has to be slower than the original, yadda yadda blah blah.

    This is not true.

    There are a lot of advantages to being able to modify the code at run time. Most of them involve the optimiser being able to check its initial guess about how to optimise the relevant code. Think of it as a sort of runtime profiling followed by regeneration of code segments.

    One example is HP's Dynamo, a PA-RISC CPU emulator that runs code faster on a PA-RISC than the same code running natively. Try: o-1.html for more information.

    Another example would be Dr Michael Franz's work on Dynamic Optimisation. Try: for more information.

    Right. Now stop making assumptions. :-)

  • The same is often said about the Java Just-in-time compilers; that the dynamic emulation has to be slower than native static compilation. Urg.
  • Trying to compete with the price/performance ratio of the x86 architecture is a lost cause. The crusoe architecture might have a bright future if it could run Java byte code instead of x86 code.
  • by MarNuke ( 34221 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @05:07PM (#669811) Homepage
    I'm sitting here using an old pentium pro 200 with 256 megs of ram. It does everything I basicly need it to do. Sure it won't do four VMWare sessions, but it can run netscape 4.75, a dozen eterms and a ssh session for each term, dia, gimp, xmms, apache-ssl, and X11 all at the same time. That's all I really need. I mean really, do I care that this thing can only do quake at 200 fps? No.

    I do the same thing day in day out on this machine. Every now then, I might compile a kernel or some other package on this machine, but I have a cluster of dual 600's to build packages on. Of course I wouldn't do compiles on my laptop, and for the love of god not on this machine. Why would I?

    When I'm not on my desktop, what will I be doing? Most writing a letter, checking email, ssh'ing into a server, posting on /. , reading Nealz Newz, and IRC'ing becuase grep can't find 'life' anywhere in /proc/sys/marnuke/. What I do need in a laptop is something that can last for hours even days without losing power, not a damn supercomputer.

    If I have a choice between four days uptime on a laptop and being able to compile a kernel in a minute, I'll take the four days uptime.

  • It looks like Dr. Franz's research partner/former student, Thomas Kistler, also has a PhD and you'll never guess who employs him ( and find out :)
  • I just hope this is being fair, and not whining. After all, emulation is slower, but Linus does work for these guys...
    1,2,3,4 Moderation has to Go!
  • I'm not sure it matters if the current production run of Transmeta's chips are competitive or not, the question is more whether this is the right way to make chips in the future.

    By allowing the instruction set presented to the world to be set by software the chip has a lot of advantages in terms of customizability and turnaround time for fixing bugs. Software is also more compact that the corresponding hardware so the chip is overall less complex and presumably more reliable, once debugged.

    There is another whole category of applications that may become possible thru use of the native instructions, or better, by custom design of a logical instruction set for a given use.

    Four revisions ago, the transmeta chip took half an hour to boot Windows. Consider where they'll be four revisions from now before discounting them on speed alone.

    This information and more can be found in a good Technology Review article I found on Linux Today here. []

  • by demaria ( 122790 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:29PM (#669815) Homepage
    Okay fine, let's run the benchmark program 3 times in a row. Are we getting similar results?

    Besides, benchmarks should be run at least 3 times and the result should be the average of the runs, assuming there's no large discrepancy.
  • be recalled within the first week of hitting the market because of some stupid FOOF error like Intel's have been known to do.

    Not to nitpick (well, allright, I'm nitpicking) the F00F bug did not involve a recall and is considered (by me, at any rate) a relatively minor bug. It's just a case of an opcode which should cause a segmentation fault actually crashing the system (eg, only likely maliciiously). That on it's own would be fairly serious (though irrelevant to most users of the Pentium - who use windows which binaries have all kinds of ways of fucking up), except that the F00F bug can be worked around completely in software, and indeed, certain operating systems who we all know who they are had patches out within like 6 hours of the announcement of the bug.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They used traditional benchmarks to test a non-traditional system. It is unfair & irresponsible of ZDNet. Not to mention uncreative and weak. Don't base your opinion on these marks. They're misleading.
  • While notebook computers may be the initial application for the Transmeta chips, there should eventually be a sizable market for x86 compatible chips that run cool enough that you can embed them in any of a variety of consumer devices where a cooling fan is a big drawback. As a simple example, an advanced set-top box sits next to the television and the noise from a fan interfers with the audio from the television. As such devices run more software that is ported from the desktop world, there will be advantages to having the x86 instruction set available.

    For some of the situations that I look at, I especially like the previous suggestion about putting four processors (and implicitly, the needed SMP chipset support) on a single die.

  • What's to stop Transmeta from tweaking the software a bit and slapping 4 of these cores on a single chip. Heat? Gate density?

    They might end up with a CPU that burns 4 watts, is a little bit warm, and runs at about 280% the equivalent Pentium III.

    Maybe they could put 4 cores onto a single chip, but this would certainly reduce yields (and thus increase costs). So you'd end up paying somewhat more than 4 times as much for this multi-core chip than for a single chip.

    And this system wouldn't give you 280% of the performance of a PIII of the same clock: The things most software does isn't perfectly parallelizable, so there's a diminishing return that comes with each additional CPU.

  • All I use my latpop for is browsing code and typing. I am currently using a 266 AMD, it works find but the battery life is horriable. I have a 900 AMD for compiling my work on, so all they really need to do is, for most users, give decent speed at running word, so even if their 600 is only comparable to a intel 400 or even a 300 it will still do what most consumers use laptops for. Besides it sucks flying from Californa to North Carolina and have to cary 3 extra batteries just to use my laptop while I am on the plane.
  • As far as we _know_, their purpose wasn't to create amazingly high-speed processors. They probably expected to have the clock speed a bit higher than the competing x86 chips on the market at the time of release. I'm sure the power consumption was one of the design parameters, but I suspect they simply couldn't push the first model fast enough to make it worth competing on equal ground, and shifted their focus to move the product from vapor into market entity.

    Not that I think that's bad, or that their chip isn't useful for the purposes they're advertising. They've chosen their strenghts to market on, and you can't tell me that a chip performing so much in software _isn't_ being constantly developed. I really think they have the benefit of being able to try lots of tricks with hardware and software for a quicker turnaround, should they choose to take advantage of the "virtual" nature of their chip.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    > Of course emulation is slower then native chipsets - that's a given

    It's not a given at all... That was the whole point. The point was that you can fit more run-time optimization smarts into emulation sw than into microcode or whatever. I think they exactly that over at HP - an selfhosted emulated system running faster than the native one or whatever. Correct me if I'm wrong

  • so instead of hyping up benchmarks to absolute best case indications, then maybe change them to 'this was BEST case, dont expect it all the time, this was WORST case, you'll get at LEAST this." I want to know real numbers. I want to know what they got, every time. Not what they got 'after running it a few times, it increased to ...' I dont want a medium, its deceptive. I dont *want* to go home and find it slower to start up, but get very fast later if the sales person or benchmark said 'its average speed'.

    just my personal opinion.

  • Despite the fact that I'm glad /. is finally back up today, I'm saddened to see this as the first story. This is news? All along they've been saying that Crusoe would give incredible battery life at the expense of speed.
  • what should be really interesting to see is how the runs when linux is coded natively for the chip, which should = less/0 code morphing, this I see is the main advantage of having Linus(tm) :) on the team, what's gonna happen to Linux in the future.. the future is HURD
  • I agree with you, but most of the laptops are used n a corporative environment, and don't use their batteries. My company is giving a laptop to every employee, in order to sutitute every PC in the office. They want the performance of a powerful PC in a laptop, they don't want 10 hours of life in a battery
  • by technomancerX ( 86975 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:32PM (#669827) Homepage
    Of course it's slower...

    But what REALLY isn't being taken into account is that the benchmark suites run everything ONCE... but the Transmeta chip gets faster with subsequent runs...

    Check this [] article on Wired for more info.

    According to something else I read (sorry no link on this one) performance improves an average of 30% on subsequent runs... so take the benchmarks with a grain of salt.


  • They're just questioning the usefulness of a processor that adjusts it's speed. "Is the decrease in speed worth the battery life?" It's the same mindless drivel as usual. If you can run [insert office app here] for that much longer when you need it, should the speed make a difference? I doubt the speed will drop to a rate where you type faster than the screen refresh can keep up. Just a thought...

  • It also says that DDR RAM will be used in the new Hitachi model. That should help a lot because the translation/caching along with normal load/store instructions has to give the memory bandwidth a helluva workout.
  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:33PM (#669830) Homepage
    Crusoe simply doesn't perform as well. In fact, it performs much more poorly. It does consume less power, but doesn't lower the power consumption of the hard drive, memory and display, resulting in less bang for the buck without a huge gain in battery life.

    That's what the press is saying, and it's true. The Crusoe has an interesting design, and will clearly be a useful chip, but it is not competative against Intel and AMD. Perhaps when they get the speed up and let it run code frm several ISAs at the same time (say, PowerPC and x86 at once), it'll be cool.

    I think Transmeta gets a lot of hype-factor from employing Linus.

  • So would it be unfair and irrisponsible for a user to buy one of these and complain that the traditional Windows2000 ran like crap on it?

  • I know what you mean -- but again, I don't think people really have them just to do word processing... even is that's all they do with 'em. ;)

    It's interesting to point out that my Inspiron (also a 7500, BTW -- love those high-capacity LiIon batteries!) gets good enough battery life that I've never had to change batteries on a flight within the US; I live in the mountain West, and there isn't a national flight that lasts more than 4 hours (well, unless you count Alaska or Hawaii). And 4+ hours is pretty good for a fast notebook -- even without much tuning for endurance. With the second battery replacing the CD/floppy drive, I suspect I'd get around 9 hours, which is plenty long for any use I've had to date.


  • Ah, this poster is obviously a gamer or of similar ilk who doesn't care about the complexities involved in design, research, and experimentation. At least he'll have a good career in management.

    People with this sort of attitude towards computing systems, ie "I want it fast and 31337 and hyped to the max!" scare me. I only hope that they grow out of teenagerdom and actually learn something about what sort of work actually goes into producing computer hardware and software.

    This is the same sort of response from an uneducated art or music critic: "I don't like it because it's not my favorite {style,color,sound,*}." This sort of attitude is usually found amongst the consumer society, which is why automotive manufacturers can get away with producing such horrible products but still sell them to humans who foam at the mouth when the competitor to their favorite brand is mentioned.

    The above is much too wordy. I think I just meant to say "*plonk*".
  • for a portable.

    No one complains when their Palm won't run Quake Arena. (well they do, but they shouldn't...or should they???) This chip is not meant to be a full fleged asskicker. It's not competing with the Athlon or PIII. It's in a market all by itself.

    If this chip is not noticably slower when I surf the web or read email or such from my laptop, and does noticably extend battery life, then that's enough for me.

  • Yes, and, more importantly, whether the Crusoe can be properly and effectively marketed to the market to which it is being addressed.

    Granted, most users cannot type so fast as to bring down the sampling of their UART, but, in the distorted world of marketing, it is dollars spent and Megahurz. Crusoe has its work cut out for it. Its only hope for success lies in getting heavy hitter marketers, such as as Sony, etc. to come up to the plate for them on this front.

    It's a good concept and will succeed if this marketing hurdle is overcome. Otherwise, it will join other companies with superior technical solutions that have not properly marketed them in the face of heavy competitors.

    P.S. If you still doubt the importance of a proper marketing organization and its effectiveness, then I remind you of the 2 major political parties and their respective set of candidates to run the most powerful nation in the history of the world. The defense rests.

  • Which one would you pick if you had the choise of taking a Palm Pilot with the 33MHz Dragonball in it or the same machine with a 500MHz Crusoe in it for the same CPU power consumption? I'd bet that Crusoe will out-perform any PDA cpu anytime with the same power consuption.

    The products Crusoe is really ment for are entirely different from traditional laptops. The Crusoe chip is technically near ideal for WebPAD and PDA-like machines that do not need excessive amounts of computing power, but more like reasonable amounts of it with as low power consumption as possible.

    The equipment Crusoe is ideal for is, say a WebPad which has enough of CPU power to play MP3's & MPEG2 (DVD) and perhaps runs a web browser & an office suite at the same time and is using solid state memory for storage, it's housed in an A4 size enclosure with an 13" 16:9 TFT screen and accesses the Net via WLAN.

    Here we can see the scenario where the power saving features of Crusoe (and the rest of the design naturally has to support similar unified power saving features) can make a big difference.

    In equipment like this the difference of operating 3 hours / battery or operating 8 hour / battery makes all the difference. I'd kill if my Toshiba Tecra laptop would stay alive on one battery more than 2h45m. Say 8-12h ago would be sweet indeed.


  • Why perform the benchmarks on non-virgin chips? I mean really, benchmarks should be about worst case scenarios, not best case. Best case benchmarks only disappoint people later when performance decreases.

  • There is a fundamental difference between the HP's dynamo and a "normal" emulator: it emulates the SAME processor as the initial target.
    I think that it is a *BIG* difference which may help a lot in this case!

    Transmeta's CPU was conceived to emulate first a 80x86 CPU, this can avoid some ISA "mismatch" where every gain which occurs thanks to dynamic optimisation is lost by the necessary translation from one ISA to another..
  • If the processor had 20megs or so of cache to hodl all the past 15 minutes worth of cpu commands then yeah, that would probably help.

    However if the benchmark did everything 10 times before moving on to testing the next command then yeah, that benchmark may show an improvement.
  • and what of the temperature difference ... overtime a chip from intel or AMD will slow down because of the extreme temperature.. while crusoe whizz'ess along..
    "The world is coming to an end. Please log orff."
  • by Paladin128 ( 203968 ) <aaron@traa[ ]rg ['s.o' in gap]> on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:58PM (#669841) Homepage
    Have you ever written code at a low level? Most programs often do a small set of operations multiple times in succession, and perform complex tasks. How often does Word draw a character on the screen? How often does Excel add two numbers?

    Most of my coding experience involves taking large amounts of stuff to do, breaking them into smaller, re-usable parts, and using those parts in various order to perform complex tasks.

    "Evil beware: I'm armed to the teeth and packing a hampster!"
  • So, according to these benchmarks, at the same core frequency, a Crusoe is 30% slower than a Pentium III, right? Well, I think it's pretty good. I was expecting this code morphing stuff and this very low consumption architecture to hurt performance by a factor 2 or 3, and things are obviously much better than that. I'm especially pleased with the fact that the FPU is not ridiculous (which is definitely not the case for StrongARM and most ARM CPUs).

    As far as I'm concerned, the speed of a Crusoe is waaayyyy enough for my needs, especially on a laptop, and I think it is true for most users. Besides, apparently a 1Ghz version is expected to ship by the end of the year, so there really is very few to complain about.
  • Thing is, it's not the data that gets optimized. It's the way it runs the code that gets optimized.

    In the real world, executible code tends to stay the same (excepting viruses and self-modifying code), and its major bottlenecks don't change much.
  • The first device listed running the Crusoe is the Sony PictureBook, a neat, ableit superflous, sub-notebook, running Windows, if i'm not mistaken.
  • What I would like to see is how well Java runs on x86 OS compared to an an x86 VM. I wonder how long it will be before we see a large variety of other platforms supported.
    I'm just curious as to how well the processor will virutalize something like your video card if X or Windows is running. Are they going to be releasing apps that run under Linux that access the processor to get this kind of stuff up and running?
  • I don't mean to be flamebait, but, if this were Intel would we be asking for different benchmarks?

    SPEC works for everyone. If Crusoe doesn't perform well on SPEC, why do we need to design a new SPEC?

    And yeah, it runs longer on a laptop's batteries. So do Speedstep chips. I just received a new laptop (a screamer from Dell) that runs beautifully in both Windows and Linux. It uses a Speedstep chip, and the battery power I save is noticable (I've run the battery sometimes up to 4.5 hours).

  • Actually, just by visiting their homepage you can find out that the translated code is in ordinary RAM since the cache would be much to small. And one suggestion they have is that you would select yourself (in BIOS setup) how much of your RAM is going to be translation cache and how much will be available to the x86 machine, whatever turns out to be a good balance for your needs. In future operating systems this would probably be handled more intelligently in runtime.
  • Opinion noted.

    Crusoe simply doesn't perform as well. In fact, it performs much more poorly

    Any evidence? What the article argues is our measurements are biased against Crusoe. It would be more constructive to have some measurements that are not biased against Crusoe as much as the current benchmark test. For instance, we may design benchmark tests repeated for n times and take the average scores, and publish the scores for different n? There exists n* that closely match with actual work.

    Or, at least the previous poster stated that, "I tried a Crusoe based notebook, ......, and it simply doesn't perform..."

  • A low-power CPU doesn't give you much more battery life at all, in a full-featured notebook. That's really all that needs to be said to put the final nail in Transmeta's coffin.

    What I would like to see is a company like IBM design a notebook completely from scratch, using nothing but custom-designed components designed to use as little juice as possible. I mean seriously, shouldn't we be able to get at least 5 or 6 hours of HARD use out of a notebook before it needs to be recharged? 3 hours, which seems to be what most notebooks manage these days, just isn't enough.
  • I think that we ought to have a 'lies, damn lies, and statistics' category, or something of the kind, for all of the benchmarks to be put under. Since all benchmarks are is a big field of FUD that no one seems to be able to cross, it would be nice to be able to block the stories.

    Of course, since I read, clicked, and then trolled this article, I suppose that I have absolutely no reason to complain. Not that that stops anyone else, so I don't feel too much like a hypocrite for doing it.

  • Why is it that I keep seeing this same story re-hashed over, and over, and over again.. this has to be at least the third time the *same* story has been addressed here. By the way you guys hear anything about the playstation 2 ;)

  • Power saving on things like the CPU fan that are no longer needed help, too -- besides making for a sexier machine.
  • You are right in a way, this argument was given before anyone actually benchmarked the chip; afterwards I never heared it again... Run-time optimization is tricky to say at best and I don't really expect it to be faster than the native chipset. (There are other advantages, of course) After the code was run you can say which optimization would have been great but if you have to optimize at runtime it is difficult to say if a very expensive optimization should be used or it. _If_ the code will be called very often it might be ok but if the code is only called once or twice you might actually loose performance because of the expensive optimization.
    And for those zealotes out there, usually from the Java fraction: Don't tell me: "Oh, but the smart optimizer will notice this all at runtime, runtime optimizition is much better and faster and all..." You can actually proof that for some (most) code it is not possible to determine if a line of code will be called. (see computer science) At best you can find a heuristic and even this is difficult (look at the normal CPU branch prediction; this is very basic to say at least) and probably expensive, too.

  • but doesn't lower the power consumption of the hard drive, memory and display, resulting in less bang for the buck without a huge gain in battery life
    But it's a significant saving in itself and it's being used with other technologies to dramitically increase battery life. There's an NEC transmeta portable that uses a "transflective" (or similar) display that doesn't have/need backlighting for a total battery life of 11 hours. I'm a little low on details (and on the wrong PC for a link, sorry) but I think that's a normal/internal battery, not a clip-on thing like my Ultralight uses for 8.5 hours.

    Has anyone got any details on this new NEC? Specifically I want to know what the screen's like...

  • I would use a crusoe laptop/webpad for serial consoles on servers, browsing the net with some stripped down mozilla, or otherwise just using a terminal for daily tasks. I don't need a huge PIII system, cuz I won't use the thing for games, photo editting, or ray tracing. That's what my desktop is for. But I do want either a huge 15"+ XGA TFT display or a nice sized webpad with no fan that runs cool enough to hold comfortably.
    I would also hope that transmeta is not going to be another stuck up proprietary IP company like Intel, MS, Sun, Apple and the like. If they want to be a proprietary IP company, that's fine. Just don't use Linus as some marketting ploy. That's like a slap in the face to anyone who supports the ideology of the GPL. I know I won't be buying a Crusoe until Transmeta releases some information about their code morphing technology.
    But I must admit they created a system that will live up to its intentions. To be an efficient, fairly fast and usable webpad/linux PC. As long as they come with wireless net connections or at the very least a PCMCIA port, and cost me no more than $1000, they will help change the way I use computers to store my information. Palm Pilots just don't cut it with their 8MB of ram. Crusoe is just a step up, not the portable server you were expecting. And NO, they don't perform like a P3 500 or 700, they're different. Wish they'd post REAL benchmark numbers on their site and stop causing all this bad PR by trying to live up to the high end systems.
    You want performance, go with a Pentium. You want something usable for several hours at home while you are watching the TV, that uses your home net to access all your personal information and the web, that is fast enough to get your work done, potentially upgradable to support other OSs, light weight and cool running, get a Crusoe... but only after Transmeta releases their IP on code morphing. We can at least hold out for that.

  • As I understand it, this chip:

    -Takes x86 instructions and decodes them to its own ISA and executes it.

    -Runs very cool.

    -Is a pretty simple chip.

    -Runs at about 70% of the equiv. Pentium III.

    What's to stop Transmeta from tweaking the software a bit and slapping 4 of these cores on a single chip. Heat? Gate density?

    They might end up with a CPU that burns 4 watts, is a little bit warm, and runs at about 280% the equivalent Pentium III.

  • I remember doing similar benchmarks when I worked at Sun. We were introducing some PC emulation, and normal benchmarks didn't give the whole story. So, we created our own. One example was to do a search and replace on a 250 page Word document. Another was running a Black-Schols analysis in Excel. Do any readers have a new Sony Picture Book they can spare?
  • Too bad Intel has low power faster chips already that dont emulate code. How about the xscale, or the low power P3 due to come out soon? I dont see why they are getting so much hype for a slower and more power demanding chip.
  • by ekrout ( 139379 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:37PM (#669866) Journal
    We can't forget that the goal of Transmeta wasn't to create amazingly high speed processors compared to today's standard, but to make comparable (and slightly better) processors for mobile Internet-connected computers (or web slates, laptops, etc.). It's ashame that people are "dissing" the company, so to speak, because the benchmarks (very old-school traditional ones, mind you) don't amaze them. Give Transmeta time, and I think you'll be incredibly pleased at what they produce. After all, working with code-morphing technology is just a bit challenging ;-D
    Eric Krout
  • by Steve S ( 35346 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @01:01PM (#669867)
    My company is working with some Transmeta products. And I can tell you from our own benchmarks that there is a huge improvement between first run and third run. Even discounting cache.
  • First, I understand the argument that benchmarks aren't necessarily relevant. I can only type so fast in Microsoft Word, so provided it runs at a decent speed, I'm happy. For the user who just wants a cheap laptop, these might provide adequated performance coupled with a long battery life; that's just great.

    But I'm a nerd, and I want to see the benchmarks. First, I remember reading *another* article about this from Slashdot, where they claimed that the Crusoe really shined at memory bandwidth, perhaps because it had so much integrated on the chip. That's really important nowadays, and people tend to ignore it.

    Also, if anyone has one of these, could you please post results for the BYTEMarks? The Unix port includes numbers for memory bandwidth as well as integer and floating point, and the benchmark statistically repeats the tests until it gets a steady-state result for performance, which means that the Crusoe would get to optimize them after the first few passes through, and therefore this test should be more than fair to the Crusoe.

    Also, the Crusoe should be compared against an equivalent (specced or priced) *laptop* configuration; remember that.
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • You may have a point, but the benchmarks simply are not taking into account battery life -- which is very important to the non-quake crowd. What they need is someway to benchmark the performance over the duration of battery life. Start the tests going with a full charge and see not only how fast, but how long it runs for. Perhaps someone could workout how many blocks or S@h WUs can be completed on a single charge with some of these transmeta portables...
  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Friday October 27, 2000 @02:51PM (#669877) Homepage Journal
    This is pretty funny. In the processor wars, it's all about speed. The Intel/AMD battle for *clock speed* has provided ample fodder for Slashdot over the past several months.

    Usability, however, has never really featured as a big item on Slashdot. For example, in coverage of Gnome and KDE, most of the articles seem to be more about the politics, personalities involved, and so on than the actual usability of the environments.

    The overall usefulness of computer products is difficult to quantify, and is one of the reasons why companies like Apple have had a tough time. Issues of user-friendliness are thought of as the whinings of computer-illiterates.

    Interestingly enough, now we arrive at the Transmeta speed reviews, and it appears that many of the same people who decry anything "pretty" are offering up excuses as to why their favorite chip doesn't run as fast as the others. "But it's more *useful*" they complain.

    Hmm... usefulness rather than pure numbers as a benchmark. What an interesting concept.

  • Because 99% of all situations you will ever run into come very close to your best case scenario, and very far from your worst case scenario, assuming you have a properly designed algorithm. It would be accurate for Intel to say "Crusoe is sometimes a lot slower" but it would be deceptive advertising to say that across the board if in fact Crusoe is only marginally slower under most conditions.

  • Instead of having Transmeta go off and build a new style of (no doubt self-serving) benchmark practice, how about emulating the SPEC benchmarks with their "train" and "ref" benchmark runs.

    For those of you who aren't SPECheads, "train" benchmark runs are used to profile and optimize your code for the final, measured "ref" benchmark set (although I think this only occurs for reporting of peak numbers, as there's a lot of opportunity for benchmark-specific compiler skullduggery here).

    This is a well-known practice. It models well the fact that while there is a fair bit of common coverage between different runs of a program, it's not perfect. It affords opportunities for the "other camp" (IA-32) to do their own optimizations.

    Granted, there's a difference between standard profile-driven optimization and on-the-fly optimization, but there's a lot less difference than you'd think in many applications.

    A bit off my topic, here, but by the way: locality is typically much worse in real applications than it is in SPEC-style benchmarks, even the more realistic ones. Don't be too optimistic about all of that 90%/10% stuff you learned in undergrad CS; sometimes it applies, but a lot of bigger apps are not nearly as tidy as xlisp and m88ksim - or, god help us, the long-departed eqntott ("I think I'm an 8-line microbenchmark").

  • Another example of emulation, I believe, would be any new IA86 chip (Pentium II+, Athlon, K6(?)), which has a RISC core and translates IA86 instructions into that internal representation.

    Which would be to say that emulation is pretty much all there is, so "faster than emulation" doesn't mean that much.

    Heck, gcc is just a highly aggressive C optimizer, capable of translating the C instruction architecture into a variety of other architectures (IA86, MIPS, etc). The magic of Turing-equivalence.

  • My post said "enough to get the job done" - obviously your job needs are higher than mine.

    Most of my work is done on a server (Sun UltraSPARC running Solaris 7) colocated at an ISP, so all *I* really need at home is a fancy dumb terminal (SSH), a web browser (Netscape), and some entertainment (MP3s). Your needs might (and obviously are) different. What I'm saying is that not *EVERYBODY* needs the latest and greatest CPU and video card for the routine things most people use a computer for.

    Of course, for multimedia applications, "faster is better"; same for engineering work, but I dont think Johnny writing his 10 page research paper for school needs a 1Ghz CPU and a 32mb video card.

    As for "luddite xterm-bound world", I prefer to use *nix as my desktop OS of choice, but that does not mean its the ONLY operating system I use. I've got this *nix PC, an identical (hardware-wise) Windows 2000 machine (for ham radio applications), 2 GRiD laptops running DOS, and even a VAX 6000 in the garage. Certain commercial OSes *do* do some things better than others (Visio comes to mind, for one), so dont be so quick to judge.

  • by Lupulack ( 3988 ) on Friday October 27, 2000 @12:40PM (#669888)

    After all, you don't expect your laptop to have a 19" screen? Four speaker Dolby (tm) surround sound? In a laptop, you want it to be light, easy to carry, fast *enough* and to have *enough* battery life for your needs.

    As has been said in previous articles, many people would be THRILLED with a Pentium 200 based laptop, if only it would have a reasonable battery life. The Crusoe chips appear to give FAR better performance than that, with lower power usage ( gotta love intigrated memory controllers! ).

    Who REALLY needs a P-III Coppermine 800 in their laptop? And if you do, don't bitch about battery life, you're getting other benefits.

  • SPEC works for everyone.

    No it doesn't. SPEC is a very poor indicator of whether an office suite in runs well. The only benchmarks worth the paper they are printed on is:

    • Performance under the workload the machine is purchased for - try it yourself with your own data.
    • If such a benchmark is not feasible, a standard benchmark that closely approximates the workload the machine will be used for is a half-decent substitute, but the details of your workload can still lead to massive discrepencies between the benchmark and reality.

    Beyond that, you may as well base your purchase decisions on bogomips or the tacky little 8-segment mhz displays that PC clones used to have.

  • Ok. I'm sorry, but I think it is almost humorous to watch /. react when positive things come from 'evil' places or negative results come from 'good' places. I'm really not trying to troll here, but I'm beginning to think of silicon valley business as /. sports. Root for the home team!

    Transmeta has posted poor results, so now we want to change the way we test, etc. They have sacrificed speed for battery life. I think that is acceptable, I want to see longer lasting laptops (even at the expense of speed). I wonder if Linus didn't work for Transmeta if it would get such a defensive response.


"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors