VIA announces its Nano processor

— 9:34 AM on May 29, 2008

Watch out, Intel: there's a new kid in the low-power, low-cost processor arena that could very well give Atom some stiff competition. VIA formally introduced its Isaiah processor earlier this morning, christening it Nano and forecasting the arrival of derived systems in the third quarter of this year.


We've already gone over Nano's Isaiah architecture in detail in our article on the subject, but to sum up, VIA's CPU team designed Nano pretty much from scratch and gave it most of the goodies of a modern processor. Nano has a superscalar 64-bit architecture with speculative, out-of-order execution, much like Intel's Core 2 chips (but unlike Atom, which has simper in-order execution). Each Nano CPU also has SSE instruction support, two 64KB L1 caches, a 16-way associative 1MB L2 cache, an 800MHz front-side bus, and a wealth of on-die cryptographic acceleration and security features.

Of course, power is the name of the game in this market, so VIA designed Nano to be power-efficient from the start. The company's new baby is based on 65nm process technology, supports a C6 sleep state, and features "new circuit techniques and mechanisms for managing the die temperature, reducing power draw and improving thermal management." Because of those features, VIA can squeeze a 1GHz Nano processor into a 5W thermal envelope and make it use only 0.1W of power at idle.

But enough about architectural specifics. Let's have a look at the Nano launch lineup:

Processor Speed L2 cache FSB TDP Idle power
Nano L2100 1.80GHz 1MB 800MHz 25W 500mW
Nano L2200 1.60GHz 1MB 800MHz 17W 100mW
Nano U2400 "1.3+GHz" 1MB 800MHz 8W 100mW
Nano U2500 1.20GHz 1MB 800MHz 6.8W 100mW
Nano U2300 1.00GHz 1MB 800MHz 5W 100mW

All of these CPUs are pin-compatible with VIA's previous-generation C7 processors, and VIA claims they can offer three times greater performance within the same power envelope—good news for PC makers ogling the firm's recently introduced OpenBook reference laptop design.

Nano's power ratings might make it competitive with Intel's "Diamondville" Atom chips in low-cost laptops and desktops. However, those ratings are well above those of "Silverthorne" Atoms, which top out at 2.4W. In other words, don't expect to see Isaiah fighting it out with Silverthorne in ultra-mobile PCs and mobile Internet devices.

VIA says Nano chips are already available for "OEMs and motherboard makers," presumably as samples. For more information, you can check out both our article and VIA's introductory white paper (PDF).

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