The more complex a processor core, the larger the area and power consumption. But increasing complexity is not a single dimension as processors can be more complex in different ways. In selecting a processor IP core, it is important to choose the right sort of complexity for your project.
Some ways of thinking about complexity include:
- Word length
- Execution units
- Virtual memory
- Security features
Generally, the smaller the word length, the smaller the core and the lower the power, however this is not always the case. An 8-bit core, such as the 8051, is comparable in gatecount to the smallest 32-bit cores, but power consumption is usually worse. An 8-bit core requires more memory accesses due to less computation per clock cycle requiring more cycles. The net impact is that it requires more power to complete a computation.
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