Not many of us could convince our bosses that we’re most efficient when working slowly. But then, we aren’t microprocessors. For decades, researchers have known that processors achieve peak energy efficiency when their transistors operate at very low voltages near the threshold between their on and off states. Unfortunately, the circuits also become unstable at those low voltages. Nevertheless, Intel is trying to apply that research to future products.
The technology is called near-threshold voltage (NTV) computing. In effect, it’s extreme underclocking. PC users are more familiar with overclocking—cranking up the processor’s clock frequency and/or voltage to squeeze out more performance. Although overclocking works, it consumes more power—a small price to pay when we’re hungry for speed.