Ambiq cuts power in half with Apollo4 SoC

September 14, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
Ambiq launches Apollo4 SoC on 22ULL
Ambiq Micro Inc. (Austin, Texas) has announced the extension of its Apollo range of microcontrollers with the launch of the Apollo4 and Apollo4 Blue SoCs.

Ambiq specializes in the use of sub-threshold voltage processing to reduce voltage and thereby power consumption. Apollo4 will consume 3 microamps/MHz compared to Apollo3 which consumes 6 microamps/MHz.

This is partly due to miniaturization and partly due to a non-volatile memory change. The Apollo4 generation implemented in the 22ULL 22nm process from foundry TSMC compared to Apollo3 which is implemented in the 40nm 40ULP process. Whereas the 40ULP provided embedded flash memory TSMC offers embedded MRAM on 22ULL.

The Apollo4 includes 2Mbyte of MRAM and 1.8Mbyte of SRAM to help it run complex algorithms and some neural networks.

Dan Cermak, vice president of architecture and product planning at Ambiq, said that Apollo4 will target battery-powered, end-point IoT equipment with always-on voice processing.

Apollo4 is based on the Cortex-M4 core with floating-point unit and supports a top clock frequency of 192MHz, compares with 96MHz on the Apollo3.

Apollo4 also includes an upgraded 2D/2.5D graphics accelerator to allow improved graphics in the interface. The graphics core is licensed in but Cermak declined to name the provider at this time.

The Apollo4 Blue includes a Bluetooth Low Energy 5 radio on a separate die but in the same package. The BLE supports 2Mbps data rate and direction-finding Angle of Arrival (AOA) and Angle of Departure (AOD) for always-on applications. The Apollo4 and Apollo4 Blue are available in CSP and BGA packages.

With the increased performance capability Apollo4 is able to serve as both an application processor and coprocessor.

"Our 22ULL technology complements Ambiq's design expertise with the most competitive ultra-low power planar technology to enable low leakage with enhanced computing power to support value-added IoT features," said Simon Wang, senior director of IoT business development at TSMC. "TSMC's innovative 22nm embedded MRAM technology is essential to support on-chip code storage for MCU functions to achieve industry-leading power performance."

The Apollo4 is sampling.

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