VIA goes multimedia

— 1:18 PM on June 3, 2002

COMPUTEX — During the first day of Taiwan's massive Computex show today, VIA staged a shotgun-blast press conference announcing a range of new products. I'll mention them in order of interest (to me, at least):
  • The Envy24HT audio controller — VIA is aiming squarely at Creative with this new audio chip, which is based on technology VIA acquired a while ago with the purchase of ICEnsemble. I've heard it, and it sounds pretty good, but I wouldn't venture a guess about how it compares to the Audigy or other competitors without a side-by-side listening test. VIA claims this controller can process audio with 24-bit resolution at up to 192KHz sampling rates—and that's not just the DAC, it's the controller chip. In fact, in this case I believe the DAC will be the limiter. A number of cards, ranging from low-mid-range to the high end, will be coming from the likes of M-Audio and Terratec. M-Audio is claiming 24-bit/96KHz audio for their implementation.

    Whether or not VIA's participation will be the kick in the pants the PC audio market needs remains to be seen, but it is always nice to see a semiconductor company take a stab at a PC sound chip.

  • The SavageXP GPU — S3 Graphics is back with a new Savage-line GPU, and this time out, they're aiming for the way-under-$100 market. I don't have full specs on pipelines or the like yet, but Savage XP is a DirectX 7-class part; it has hardware T&L, but no pixel or vertex shaders. I would expect performance near the low end of the GeForce4 MX range.

    Tyan was on hand to announce their entry into the graphics card market with the SavageXP-based Tachyon 3300.

    If we emit an inverse Tachyon pulse through the deflectors, will it overclock?
    Tyan's participation here is a bit of a depature for them, but Tyan is safe to make VIA-based cards without fear of reprisal from NVIDIA or ATI, so it makes a kind of sense. As for this chip's prospects, VIA is likely just staking a claim to a slice of the graphics market here; this graphics core will probably find more use integrated into north bridge chips.

  • The AlphaChrome mobile graphics line — Near as I can tell, this is just a mobile version of the SavageXP. There's a discrete version of AlphaChrome and something called the AlphaChrome333 that's apparently a north bridge for mobile apps with integrated graphics. Curiously, VIA didn't mention which processors the AlphaChrome333 would support. I presume that means it's a Pentium 4 chipset.

  • The C3 1GHz processor — Now you can go slow at 1GHz clock frequencies! This is just a speed bump for the C3 Ezra core. The next big revision, Nehemiah, will get SSE instead of 3DNow! support.

  • The VIA Apollo CLE266 chipset — This is the C3's life support. The CLE266 a new Socket 370 chipset with built-in graphics and a hardware MPEG2 decoder to keep DVD playback running smooth. Since Intel is moving away from Socket 370, VIA is stepping in to keep support for the C3 alive.
VIA also announced support for AMD's 8th-gen processors, and VIA-based Hammer motherboards could be seen hanging on display walls in mobo maker's booths all over Computex—all unoperational, unfortunately.
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