VIA announces its Nano processor

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).

Comments closed
    • ish718
    • 11 years ago

    Screw all this crap, I want to see some benchmarks…

    • Windogg
    • 11 years ago

    I want to like VIA, I really do.

    Back in the day I snapped up many Apollo Pro 133 mobos and built some great OCed P3 Coppermine systems. They made some great chipsets for the Athlon and had the first P4 DDR chipset, the P4X266.

    But then again, VIA has had its share of gaffes. The 686b southbridge issue, rehashing the same product over and over again, paper launches, and overselling performance.

    The VIA C3 Joshua/Samuel was supposed to be the game changing CPU that put Intel and AMD on notice. It was a dud. The C5 was just a rehash of the C3. The C7 was suppose to fix the C5’s ills, it didn’t. The C7 languishes in bargain basement systems and niche products. Yes HP uses it in their new EeePC clone but its not a mainstream product. Now we have the CN. Announced in late January and we finally have details in late May.

    Like the Jurassic Park followers who named everything after the Raptor a la Toronto Raptors, F-22 Raptor, WD Raptor, the Raptor roller coaster, I see the use of Nano as just another “me too” product. When Apple used Nano, it was cool. Then came the imitators. By the time Tata named their $2,500 car the Nano, the name officially fell into the realm of cheap and budget.

    My post seems cynical but with so many proven alternatives on the market already, the Nano has a fight ahead of it. Marvell has the former Intel XScale plus numerous powerhouses like Samsung and TI already have designs based on the ARM CPU, AMD has their Geode, and then we have Intel. Already they have many LV and ULV Core 2 designs plus their new Atom.

    It will be an uphill fight for VIA and my heart is pulling for underdog but my brain is predicting a third tier product. VIA has committed to a dual core design in 2009 but by then it will be too little too late.

    • gtoulouzas
    • 11 years ago

    Hope the actual product lives up to the paper launch. We’ll find out eventually, I guess, although the lack of pricing information doesn’t exactly scream “any minute now”.

    • swaaye
    • 11 years ago

    By how the power output scales, I’m guessing 1.8GHz is about all it’s gonna do for a while.

    • jjj
    • 11 years ago

    it’s amusing to see so much talk about power when price and performance are a lot more important and after all the 3 models that use under 10w should provide enough battery life for laptops
    what will be decisive for this cpu is price/performance compared with atom and since atom doesn’t apear to be that fast i’m very curious to see some isaiah benchmarks

      • ludi
      • 11 years ago

      Why are price and performance are /[

    • srg86
    • 11 years ago

    This is the first Centaur based processor that I’ve ever been impressed with and it does seem pretty good. The C7 was basically just a souped up Winchip. I’m defiantly looking forward to seeing some benchmarks. I think it’s a bit disappointing though that at 1.6 and 1.8GHz it’s TDP is 17-25W, as this seems dangerously close to some low end Core 2 based processors which I would have though beat it easily.

    I also think in this day and age for low end notebooks, they should consider a dual core version.

    • AMDisDEC
    • 11 years ago

    All they need now is to license HT from AMD. That would help their performance numbers and allow them to implement coherency for multicore.
    That would make them competitive with AMD & Intel on the low power server side.

      • asdsa
      • 11 years ago

      And AMD would just give up their only “ace” competing technology to some new player that is going to eat their market because…

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 11 years ago

        I believe hypertransport is available to anyone who wants to pay for licensing. AMD set up the hypertransport consortium, so I doubt they even have total control over it’s licensing.

        • UberGerbil
        • 11 years ago

        I don’t know it would “eat” their market. I’m not sure how eager the big server OEMs would be to pick up Via, even if Issiah looks suited to dense blade servers. There’s more to building servers than just TDP.

          • AMDisDEC
          • 11 years ago

          With QPI or HT on chip, VIA would have options on supplimenting performance using multiple CPUs and coprocessors.
          With coherency, a 10 CPU server’s CPUs would consume around 200W with total system consumption less then double that.
          Using FPGAs or accellerators to boost performance or to tune it to specific apps, they would have a differentiated advantage over AMD and Intel in power/performance in a small niche of server market, especially the mobile server farms being deployed today by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

        • AMDisDEC
        • 11 years ago

        They wouldn’t simply, “Give it up”.

        Hypertransport IP has ALWAYS been available to any company willing to spend $50K-100K for the RTL.

        It is managed thru the HT consortium as an OPEN STANDARD, which is why Transmeta and Broadcom included it on their CPUs and IBM and Motorola use it on their telecom blades.

        Very soon, Intel will make available by licensing it’s QPI IP. Many CPU and chipset manufacturers will include it on their product and AMD will have once again missed the boat on propagating it’s tech.

          • Saribro
          • 11 years ago

          That’s true for the non-coherent HT yes, but I’m not entirely sure whether the cc-HT(which is needed for your fancy ideas) falls under the same system. They have at least made it available for licensing with the Torrenza initiative, but I don’t know whether it’s as open as the regular HT.

            • AMDisDEC
            • 11 years ago

            Both flavors are available under the HT consortium.
            Broadcom has the multiprocessor coherent version, while transmeta licensed the single processor non-coherent version.
            The difference of avaialabiltity is just price.

            However, at this point, VIA has the better option of going with the soon-to-be more popular QPI, if Intel opens it for licensing, which I’m sure they will.
            Or, they can go the even lower-cost route and deploy PCIe 2.0 with multiprocessor coherency support.

    • Bombadil
    • 11 years ago

    Idle power looks nice, but I am not sure what to make of TDP numbers. The 2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo E7200 consumes <19W at full load. §[<http://www.digit-life.com/articles3/cpu/intel-c2d-6600-7200-c2q-6600-9300.html<]§ I imagine the E7200 could be undervolted some too. As noted the chipsets themselves suck a lot of power. If it really is impossible to get a full Core 2 or K8 core to idle on 100mW, then I'd prefer asymmetric cores. Why settle for the crappy load power/performance of Atom/Nano just to gain their low idle power?

    • elty
    • 11 years ago

    The modeling seems to be wacky.

    L2100 is 1.8Ghz 25W
    L2200 is 1.6Ghz 17W

    U2300 is 1.0Ghz 5W
    U2400 is 1.3Ghz 8W
    U2500 is 1.2Ghz 6.8W

    So the model number is not sorted by the performance nor the TDP…

      • poulpy
      • 11 years ago

      Yes unless they made a -really bad- double typo the list doesn’t make much sense to the human eye..

      • Hattig
      • 11 years ago

      Well the second number is clearly the order in which the products were settled upon in the productisation meeting.

      That’s the only logical explanation. Typically higher performance CPUs have higher numbers. Higher TDP CPUs typically have different letters in the model number. It’s odd.

      Never mind the ramping of power consumption past 1.3GHz…

    • anand
    • 11 years ago

    Why is the L2100 slower than the L2200? Is that a typo in VIA’s press release or do they really have a naming convention that out of whack?

    • Hattig
    • 11 years ago

    Everyone forgets that a CPU on its own ain’t any use, you need a chipset.

    So for VIA: “…the VIA VX800U delivers high quality graphics, video and memory performance, including Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 3D graphics, high definition video and audio playback, and support for up to 4GB of DDR2 system memory, all within a tiny all-in-one package with a maximum power draw of just 3.5 watts.”

    Thus a 5W Nano + 3.5W chipset = 8.5W total.

    This compares well to the current Intel offerings which use up a lot more power. Even Paulsbo (the rather limited Atom chipset that only supports 1GB of memory) uses 8W, so the total TDP is higher even with a 2.5W Atom.

      • Mourmain
      • 11 years ago

      Very good comment, thanks for the info!

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      Yeah, the chipset has really been the fly in the low-power ointment for Intel.

      • Jack Bauer
      • 11 years ago

      Hattig, I don’t know where you are getting 8W for the Poulsbo chipset. According to the datasheet, TDP is between 1.6-2.3W, depending on the sku.

      §[<http://download.intel.com/design/chipsets/embedded/datashts/319537.pdf<]§ See page 423.

    • MattMojo
    • 11 years ago

    This definitely looks promising….. hmmmmm… upgrade for my CarPC I think…..

    Mojo

    • DrCR
    • 11 years ago

    Give me a Toshiba R500eque lappy with VIA/Nvidia internals for a fraction of the R500’s price tag, and I’ll be one happy camper.

    Hanging on to my 15.4″ SantaRosa MBP until then.

    • eitje
    • 11 years ago

    this is so freaking exciting for me. 🙂

    • ludi
    • 11 years ago

    “Small.”

    “Micro.”

    “Tiny.”

    “Mini.”

    Nano.
    by VIA.

    • tfp
    • 11 years ago

    I wish they would sell a socket 478 version of this, I have a server that doesn’t need that much power and could use a low power chip.

      • bthylafh
      • 11 years ago

      Intel won’t let them, at least not without paying big $.

        • tfp
        • 11 years ago

        yeah I thought P4 buss license expired.

          • d2brothe
          • 11 years ago

          Well, that an socket 478 is rather dated……

    • donkeycrock
    • 11 years ago

    I have C7 in my laptop, which is severely underpowered, can’t wait to swap them out. Just what i had hoped for when i bought this laptop. 🙂 Props for VIA to make it compatible. And boo for AMD and the 939 pin upgrade path.

      • shank15217
      • 11 years ago

      just because its pin compatible doesn’t mean it will be a drop in upgrade.

      • srg86
      • 11 years ago

      I think these things are soldered onto the board, so I don’t think you will be able to swap it out.

        • donkeycrock
        • 11 years ago

        im going to un-solder that bad boy than

          • UberGerbil
          • 11 years ago

          Good luck with that. And you’re planning on writing the necessary BIOS update yourself too?

          Pin-compatible is a convenience/benefit for the OEMs, who don’t have to revalidate the rest of a system (VIA’s chips are used in a lot of industrial applications, among other things). It isn’t necessarily intended to be of any benefit to an end-user.

          • just brew it!
          • 11 years ago

          The Nano comes in a BGA package. You’re only going to be able to unsolder/solder it with some very specialized (and costly) equipment.

            • ludi
            • 11 years ago

            Unsoldering it is easy: Just torque the board back and forth a few times 😉

            • MBIlover
            • 11 years ago

            BGA…I shudder at the very acronym. QC has to be spot on, can’t use pulls, refurbishing is a waste of time, but if the chip is no longer made you can bet your ass it’s going to cost you $$$ to get the bad boy to fit on a board again. Evil, EVIL package.

    • Silus
    • 11 years ago

    It’s amazing how many VIA news we have lately, ever since the rumor mill said that NVIDIA could be interested in them.

    Or did I just miss the past VIA news ?

      • Turkina
      • 11 years ago

      Its an exciting time for Via, and I think other products like the Atom, and the Eee (and its clones) really give legitimacy to a space that Via has been operating in for a while (low power, small footprint x86). The relative sophistication of Isiah is also remarkable since the x86 market has been a two player game for a long time, in every market segment.

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      Actually, the “nVidia interest” rumors happened quite late in this particular Via news cycle, which started with Via’s opening up about Issiah late last year; prior to that nVidia didn’t really have anything new/exciting to talk about, and they clearly scheduled their other announcements to feed into this Issaih one. The nVidia rumors didn’t really get started until there were reports in March that nVidia was doing a chipset for Issiah, followed by the “buy-out” rumors (and denials) in April and May. In other words, the buy-out rumor mill is the cart, Issiah is the horse.

        • Silus
        • 11 years ago

        Then it was definitely me not paying much attention to VIA news before.

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