The Era of 1.58-bit Large Language Models: A Breakthrough in Efficiency

May. 14, 2024.
3 min. read. 1 Interactions

Researchers at Microsoft have introduced BitNet b1.58, a novel variant of 1-bit LLMs that achieves state-of-the-art performance while significantly reducing computational cost and environmental impact.

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Credit: Tesfu Assefa

As large language models (LLMs) continue to grow in capabilities, their increasing computational demands have raised concerns about efficiency, cost, and environmental impact. In a groundbreaking development, researchers at Microsoft Research have introduced BitNet b1.58, a novel 1.58-bit variant of LLMs that could usher in a new era of high-performance, cost-effective language models.

The Era of 1-bit LLMs

The field of AI has witnessed a rapid expansion in the size and power of LLMs, but this growth has come at a significant computational cost. Post-training quantization techniques have aimed to reduce the precision of weights and activations, but a more optimal solution was needed. Recent work on 1-bit model architectures, such as BitNet, has paved the way for a promising new direction in reducing the cost of LLMs while maintaining their performance.

BitNet b1.58: The 1.58-bit LLM Variant

BitNet b1.58 represents a significant advancement in this area, introducing a unique quantization approach that constrains every parameter (weight) of the LLM to ternary values of {-1, 0, 1}. This innovative technique, combined with efficient computation paradigms and LLaMA-alike components for better open-source integration, enables BitNet b1.58 to achieve remarkable results.

Results: Matching Performance, Reducing Cost

In a comprehensive evaluation, BitNet b1.58 demonstrated its ability to match the perplexity and end-task performance of full-precision (FP16) LLM baselines, starting from a model size of 3 billion parameters. As the model size scales up, the benefits of BitNet b1.58 become even more pronounced, with substantial reductions in memory usage, latency, throughput, and energy consumption compared to FP16 LLMs.

At the 70 billion parameter scale, BitNet b1.58 is up to 4.1 times faster, uses up to 7.2 times less memory, achieves up to 8.9 times higher throughput, and consumes up to 41 times less energy than its FP16 counterparts. These astounding results demonstrate the potential of 1.58-bit LLMs to provide a Pareto improvement over traditional models, delivering both high performance and cost-effectiveness.

Credit: Tesfu Assefa

Discussion and Future Work: Enabling New Possibilities

The development of 1.58-bit LLMs like BitNet b1.58 opens up a world of possibilities and exciting future research directions. One intriguing prospect is the potential for further cost reductions through the integration of efficient Mixture-of-Experts (MoE) architectures. Additionally, the reduced memory footprint of BitNet b1.58 could enable native support for longer sequence lengths, a critical demand in the era of LLMs.

Perhaps most significantly, the exceptional efficiency of 1.58-bit LLMs paves the way for deploying these models on edge and mobile devices, unlocking a wide range of applications in resource-constrained environments. Furthermore, the unique computation paradigm of BitNet b1.58 calls for the design of specialized hardware optimized for 1-bit operations, which could further enhance the performance and efficiency of these models.


In the rapidly evolving landscape of large language models, BitNet b1.58 represents a groundbreaking achievement, introducing a new era of 1.58-bit LLMs that combine state-of-the-art performance with unprecedented efficiency. By addressing the computational challenges associated with traditional LLMs, this research paves the way for more sustainable and cost-effective scaling, enabling the deployment of these powerful models in a wider range of applications and environments. As the field continues to advance, BitNet b1.58 stands as a testament to the innovative potential of quantized LLMs and the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.

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