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SpectraLinear rolls new PC clock chip

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Seeking to expand its market opportunities, SpectraLinear Inc. has rolled out what it claims is the industry's first non-volatile programmable, PC clock chip family.

The family, dubbed the SL2874x, is based on SpectraLinear's spread-spectrum, clock-generator technology. The devices are part of the company's so-called EProClock line of clock chips. Clock devices combine analog and digital circuits that are critical to the operation of a system.

The new 0.18-micron devices are geared for notebook PCs, netbooks and other products. It supports Intel Corp.'s next-generation, notebook platform, dubbed Calpella. Part of the Centrino 2 family, Calpella is said to be a notebook version of the 45-nm Nehalem processor.

In any case, SpectraLinear's product is said to have advantages over competitive PC clock chips from the likes of IDT, Realtek and others.

''Currently available PC system clock devices offer limited, volatile programmability, most often requiring engineers to perform board surgeries and component redesigns to meet stringent compliance and signal quality requirements,'' said Elie Ayache, vice president of segment marketing and the PC clock business unit at SpectraLinear (Santa Clara, Calif.).

Competitive devices could take six-to-eight weeks to implement, compared PC EProClock technology, which is said to take days to sample updated configurations. The programmability of the SL2874x gives designers a ''time-to-market'' advantage over competitive products, Ayache said.

The product also expands the company's efforts in the arena. In 2006, SpectraLinear acquired Cypress Semiconductor's PC clock division, immediately establishing itself as a pure-play integrated timing device company.

In January, SpectraLinear raised $10 million in Series C financing. The round included support from founding investors InterWest Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, and Velocity Interactive Group, and a more recent investor ComVentures. New investor, Horizon Ventures, led the Series C funding.

Meanwhile, SpectraLinear is rolling out its latest clock chip amid the IC downturn. The PC market is also declining, but design activity remains robust, said Ayache. “I don't see things slowing down,'' he said.

Time-to-market is key in today's environment. The company's new device can be configured per customer requirements and delivered to operate in the system at boot time.

It is said to support over 8,000 non-volatile programming bits, which covers a wide range of configurations on parameters related to center frequency, signal integrity and EMI reduction.

The SL2874x PC clock family operates at 1.8-volt internally in the core. It features less than 10-milliwatts (mW) of power consumption per PLL, approximately half of the power consumed by typical PLLs.

The PC EProClock products are available now. They come in QFN and TSSOP packages with pin counts ranging from 28 to 72 pins and are priced from $2.89 to $5.93 in 1,000 unit quantities. These devices are all lead free and halogen free.

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