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.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken
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