VIA unveils new VN800 chipset for mobile apps

We haven't seen a new chipset from VIA for a while now, but the chipset maker is back with the new VN800 core-logic silicon for mobile processors, including the Pentium M and VIA's own C7-M CPU. Notable features of this two-chip solution include support for DDR2 memory speeds up to 533MHz, a dual-pipe UniChrome Pro integrated graphics core developed by S3 Graphics, and flexible support for both Intel's front-side bus protocol and VIA's own V4 bus interface on the C7-M. The chipset also includes hardware logic to accelerate MPEG-2 decoding, and VIA says the VN800 is overall optimized for "ultra low power consumption."

Conspicuous by its absence is PCI Express connectivity, as VIA PCI-E implementations continue to be rare in the wild. Instead, there's an AGP port hanging off of the VN800 north bridge and up to six PCI slots off of the VT8237A south bridge. The VN800 could pick up a few PCI Express lanes when the long-awaited VT8251 south bridge arrives (VIA told me last week that it's ready to roll), but not for graphics. In any event, mobile systems based on the VN800 will more than likely use the S3 Graphics IGP pretty much exclusively.

The most important thing about the VN800 is that it provides the infrastructure for the C7-M processor, giving VIA a Centrino-like platform solution for thin-and-light notebooks and smaller sub-notebooks. My big hope for the C7-M and VN800 combo is that it will prompt the availability of relatively cheap and plentiful devices like the Flybook or these mostly ill-fated Transmeta-based systems in North America. I'm still angling to get my hands on a C7-M system to see how it compares to the Pentium M in terms of power consumption, performance per watt, and everyday usability. Perhaps we'll have something soon.

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