VIA's QuadCore: Nano Gets Bigger

by Anand Lal Shimpi on 5/12/2011 3:01 AM EST


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  • todlerix - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    neat Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Anand, nice review. If there is no power gating and TDP is locked, did VIA give any indication as to why they implemented clock-gating and did not just maximize the performance to begin with?

    I suspect it may be to reduce heat or wear-leveling, but it'd be nice to hear their reasoning. Still, even if the clock was maxed, I'm not sure it would generate that much heat, or have any long-term impact on the shelf-life.

  • MrSpadge - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Here TDP probably means "thermal design power" rather than "typical power draw". It's the maximum a system with such a CPU has to deal with, not what the CPU will typically use.
    And their reasoning is probably very simple: clock gating is easier than power gating.

  • Wesleyrpg - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    would be pretty cool to give VIA another go, but i haven't even seen a board to utilises the Dual Core Nano, yet alone the quad core!

    VIA, please get these out to the public!!!!
  • beginner99 - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Where are the chips? Nano has been around forever but I have never seen a single product here actually using it. Is it limited to USA? Or Asia?
    I think A dual or quad Nano could be nice for a self-made NAS or HTPC.
  • ppeterka - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Even though this is not a Nano CPU (AFAIK, but I might be wrong on that), ASRock has two VIA boards, an ITX and a "slightly bigger than ITX but lot more features" microATX one:

    They're also rather cheap, going for less than ~$60 even here in Hungary... They might be good budget x86 media-HTPC projects. Especially the one with a suitable PCIe slot to accept a video card with digital output....
  • DanNeely - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Search for miniITX, nanoITX, and picoITX boards. You'll find lots of companies selling vias hardware. Reply
  • Spazweasel - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Embedded computing, data acquisition and industrial control. Reply
  • ProDigit - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    very little boards because competition generally is better power wise, or performance wise, or feat wise, or price wise, or all 4 together! Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Its kinda bizare seeing these illuminated, windowed and overclocked boxes in a productive environment for designing different CPUs. :0 Reply
  • wordsworm - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    really, would make a good partnership. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Agreed, although I'm not sure VIA's x86 license would carry over in a buyout. In any case, Nvidia is going to be doing some neat things with ARM, with what looks like a cell-like chip in which a high performance ARM core (or more) controls many CUDA cores, that sounds like it has potential. Reply
  • rahvin - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    If the Via x86 License was transferable then nVidia would have bought them a year ago when they made all the waves about x86 licenses. All indications are that if Via changes hands again the x86 license goes away. There are also indications that when it changes hands last time Intel added some conditions about how Via could use the license at least that's my opinion. IMO Via's limited themselves to certain market segments that at the time of the last transfer Intel wasn't interested in. This may simply be economics but I also think it's possible that they are contractually limited to those areas from conditions Intel extracted during the last transfer of the Centuar group.

    Anyway, my main point is that it's pretty common knowledge that if Centaur trades hands again the x86 license is gone making the division worth nothing on the open market. If Via/S3 can't make the business work they will simply evaporate unless they can get the government to force Intel to make the sale possible.
  • gayannr - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    I wonder what AMD is using for their simulations ? i7 ? :) Reply
  • qwertymac93 - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    nah, probably magny cours. Reply
  • Prosthetic Head - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    AMD will almost certainly be using their own chips. I am a computational chemist and regularly run large simulations on HPC facilities. Most of these use AMD chips. For example the HECToR machine built using Cray XE6 units uses 44,544 cores worth of 12-core AMD Opteron 2.1GHz Magny Cours processors.

    AMD do very well in the HPC space.
  • Prosthetic Head - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Oh and the spec of the machines next upgrade has just been confirmed:

    "The solution supplied will be a 30 cabinet system utilising the next generation AMD Interlagos processor and Cray's Gemini interconnect. The machine will have a projected theoretical peak of 820TF and as such represents a greater than two-fold increase in capability over the current Phase 2b system."
  • tipoo - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    I'll reserve my judgement, but right now I can't see this being competitive at all. Its basically the dual core variant with two dual-core chips glued together, and only minor architectural tweaks. Add in the required graphics that it doesn't have, and its power consumption will be much higher than Brazos as the article says. I can't see a segment it would be better in, its kind of the awkward middle child between processors for ultramobiles and processors for netbooks, it doesn't really fit the bill of either.

    Interesting chart, are Atoms finally more powerful than a Pentium 4 2.66GHz now? AMD's even more so. Not bad.
  • L. - Monday, May 23, 2011 - link

    And that's without considering that Brazos is going to be 32nm sometime soon -- poor VIA they never could make anything useful could they ? Reply
  • Soulkeeper - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    One of the better articles i've read in awhile.

    Nice to see a small company like via rolling up their sleeves and making cpu's "24 at a time" to compete with the monster intel.

    the extra 2 cores + beefed up padlock is very interesting
    i'd be interested in seeing how that competes with i7
  • tipoo - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    "i'd be interested in seeing how that competes with i7 "

    It won't. The Nano competed with the Atom, the dual core one with dual core Atom and Brazos, this one probably aims a bit higher at ultraportable laptops. It's definitely not a high end i7 competitor. Maybe a ULV competitor, but its wattage ratings aren't even that good, hence why I was confused about its purpose in my comment above yours.
  • simple_inhibition - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    im thinking that soulkeeper was talking about AES encryption, something that VIA cpu's have always excelled and even lead at in comparison to AMD and Intel. with Intel rocking AES-NI instructions on their latest and greatest, it would be an interesting comparison between the 800lb gorilla and the 24 chips at a time VIA Reply
  • swaaye - Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - link

    VIA has had AES hardware in their CPUs for generations, probably because the companies that use VIA CPUs require it for their applications. It's not something that's particularly useful to have in the CPU in many situations though. Reply
  • GullLars - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I'm also interrested in seing how the AES of VIA stacks up against i7s. It could make for a good budget crypto-fileserver on Gbit network when paired with an older cheap RAID controller (like PERC, Adaptec 5xxx, or HighPoint X3xx/x4xx). Reply
  • L. - Monday, May 23, 2011 - link

    It's not going to compete, by the time it's out and gets a tiny wee bit of market adoption it'll be slaughtered by 32nm products from both Intel and AMD , and on the lower side by ARM designs .. maybe 6 months earlier it could have been useful .

    At least it show there's competition, always a good thing.
  • ZL1Corvette - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    I wonder if you bumped into any other hardware site people while you were there? Reply
  • Veerappan - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    I'm thinking so. One of those pictures was very similar to one I saw on TR yesterday afternoon (guy in front of wall-sized die shot). You can also hear a few voices in the background of that first video explaining things. Reply
  • ICBM - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    I have used several single core nano itx boards here at the office. Performance has been good for single core. I have been waiting since the dual core announcement for those to show up, but still nothing.

    When will VIA have boards with the dual-core chip? What about board availability with quad-core?
  • krumme - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    At its very best for many years. The world has not come to an end yet :)
    Its so damn impressive VIA can survive this game.
  • ICBM - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    For how long though. :( Reply
  • xxtypersxx - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    Great article Anand, nice to see Via still churning out product. I work supply chain in the industry and the shots of their facility remind me of several other smaller component shops that seem so heavily concentrated in Phoenix.

    I do want to point out however that while Via is a huge underdog, they certainly aren't making chips 24 pieces at a time on a normal basis. This is their initial silicon testing (as the guide said in the video) so they are just utilizing their internal low rate capacity to crank out a few hundred test units. The vast majority of their output undoubtedly happens in Taiwan or China and likely gets sold directly to board oems over there to be integrated before ever reaching the US or other target markets.
  • xxtypersxx - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    *Point out to the posters above that is, Anand surely knows this. Reply
  • ProDigit - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    Not mentioning their quadcore CPU consumes more than double what an Atom N550 consumes with GPU together!

    For real, if netbooks existed with 2 atom N550 processors worked in them, they would not only overpower this via chip(being faster) , but also underpower it (using less power)!

    This via chip is everything but efficient!

    Still, I'd say it's a nice try, though I can't find any space in the market for this chip!
  • softdrinkviking - Saturday, May 14, 2011 - link

    as much as i would like to see them succeed, it just doesn't seem like nano has made a big enough dent to keep going like this.

    there must be someone, or someones, evaluating the profitability of this project and trying to decide if it's all worth it, right?
    and how long before intel pulls out the rug from under them with the x86 license? that's not set in stone, if i remember correctly.
    maybe they would do better to compete with ARM design or something?
  • ChuckDriver - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - link

    When I saw the very impressive array of bare motherboards and cased, water cooled, & overclocked computers running Intel processors in Centaur's simulation lab, I was reminded of the old line about Airbus' fleet of Super Guppies: "every Airbus is delivered on the wings of a Boeing."

    There is a similar story about Seymour Cray. When told that Apple had recently bought a Cray to design the next Macintosh, he responded by saying that he bought a Macintosh to design the next Cray.
  • crwl8 - Thursday, May 19, 2011 - link

    I suggest VIA to go additional way, performance way. Is it so dificult to increase voltage and multiplier to get around 3GHz and go to compete with Athlon X2,X3,X4 (if not with performance, then with price/performance)?

    Approach of two segments (ulv and budget desktop) ,with minimum effort, could have double success

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