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VIA's pc-1 platform overview - Image courtesy VIA

The VIA pc2500 motherboard reference design
Insiders reveal new CPUs, new platforms, new VIA

Several years ago, AMD announced a project to have 50% of the world's population internet-capable by 2015.  The project revolves around providing low-power, reliable AMD Geode PCs to developing and third-world countries at very low costs.  Combined with the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project, AMD is leading the way for everyone to have a computer.  Not to be left out, VIA is also about to announce a similar project, called pc-1.  VIA insiders have leaked the specifications of pc-1 to us on the verge of the official announcement -- which should be one of the company's largest in some time.

The heart of VIA's pc-1 platform are the pc1500, pc2000 and pc2500 CPUs; all three of which are unannounced at this time.  The model name is supposed to correspond to the equivalent performance of a Celeron processor in MHz; so a pc2500 CPU should perform approximately the same or better than a 2.5GHz single-core Celeron.  The 90nm x86 processors feature 128KB L1 and 128KB L2 cache -- 32-way, victim replacement.  The new CPU supports also SSE1, SSE2, SSE3, as well as enhancements for cryptography including SHA-1, AES and RSA optimizations. A 400MHz front side bus connects the CPU to the CN700 or CN800 Northbridge over the V4 interconnect.  Since the CPU has no integrated memory controller, DDR1 or DDR2 support is entirely up to the core logic chipset. VIA C7 and C7-M configurations for pc-1 also show up on the roadmap, though it appears as the majority push is using the pc2000 and pc2500 CPUs.

Here is the kicker though -- the whole CPU consumes less than 500mW at idle, with a TDP envelope of 25W for the pc2500 and 13W for the pc2000.  The low power is essentially what the pc-1 platform is all about.  VIA's documentation claims the pc2500 CPU is approximately on par with a Celeron 2.8GHz CPU, but over the course of a year a pc-1 platform will consume half as much energy as the Intel system.  Not only is the pc-1 cheaper at initial purchase, but the long term power benefits are really where the savings kick in.  Even lower power pc-1500 CPUs will not even require active cooling in certain configurations, but VIA has not released specifications about those systems yet.

VIA's roadmap details that system affordability for a pc-1 desktop is approximately $300, though it appears as though no firm price has been set as many of the components (Northbridge, Southbridge, CPU) appear interchangeable.  All pc-1 CPUs come in ball-grid array (BGA) form; there is no option to upgrade processors as the CPU is soldered onto the motherboard.

Like AMD's 50x15 and OLPC, pc-1 platforms are designed to run off everything from AC grids to car batteries.  The internal documentation claims the pc-1 PHD reference platform can run on a car battery for up to 20 hours at a time at full load, with a mere 90W power supply.  The company also plans to announce a solar-power kit for the PHD platform in August of this year. 

VIA's internal roadmap reveals the company is almost completely refocusing itself on CPU-based products with its core logic divisions only consuming a small part of the company's overall resources.  Coupled with the smart investments over the last few years (VIA is a majority shareholder in the cell phone giant HTC), the company is certainly poised to make some waves in 2006 and 2007.

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RE: Niche
By stmok on 6/16/2006 9:31:43 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, AMD does have CPUs in the same performance class as VIA C3/C7s...They are called Geode. The Geode is divided into 2 different lines.

One is called the Geode LX, and the other Geode NX.

The LX is basically the same Geode of the past. (as was made by National Semiconductor, now owned and made by AMD, and renamed as Geode LX).

The NX is a K7 (Mobile Athlon) based solution. Its a Thoroughbred core and comes in 3 models: 667MHz, 1Ghz and 1.4Ghz...At 667Mhz and 1Ghz, its TDP is 6W. While the 1.4Ghz is 14W.

My friend has a Mini-ITX mobo based on the 1Ghz model. Its fanless, but the heatsink gets a bit hot after a while. (it doesn't crash or fry, though). It does completely dominate the C3 and C7 CPUs at the same clock...With exception to encyption. This is where the VIA CPUs win, as they have built-in hardware encryption that offers encryption performance which rival top-end Opteron setups.

VIA CPUs are nice if you have specific uses for them. They make nice little quiet Linux boxes for routers, home file servers, thin clients, industrial or embedded applications, etc. But don't use them for something like modern day gaming or playing HD video (1080p)...Or even compiling a Kernel or OpenOffice. (That'll take days!)

I personally don't believe VIA's marketing. They hyped the C7 so much, that you may have thought it was a decent competitor to the Celeron-M (Budget Pentium-M)...Well, it isn't. It offers about 10% overall performance improvement over the old C3 series. Clock for clock, its still no match for Intel or AMD's low-end offerings. But it has an advantage of being much cheaper, while providing "adequate" performance. (So most people around here won't be interested).

They do make pretty good "Car-PCs", if you pick the right Mini-ITX mobo. (There is one at, that can operate +65°C to -40°C temp range, without skipping a beat).

I use my C3 1Ghz box as a Multi-WAN router for my two Cable connections. Under such a networking scenario (routing packets, NAT, packet filtering), it performs about the same as a PIII 500Mhz, but consumes much less power. It hasn't crashed or failed since I put it in service...That was like 2 yrs ago.

It completely craps on those commercial routers. (Even when we put it under ridiculous loads by having 4 people doing BitTorrent at the same time).

RE: Niche
By encia on 6/18/2006 5:23:48 AM , Rating: 2
The LX is basically the same Geode of the past. (as was made by National Semiconductor, now owned and made by AMD, and renamed as Geode LX).

Unlike GX, LX is also equiped with 64K I/64K D L1 cache and 128K L2 cache.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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