With the currently hot market for Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs), it's no surprise that everyone is getting into the act. You'd expect Intel and AMD to get into this market, but what about the smaller players? In this review, we'll look at a CPU from someone you've probably heard about only in passing: VIA. Can its little Nano compete with the big boys? Keep reading to find out.
I feel like almost every article I write these days is somehow related to Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPC). This is because UMPCs are the new laptop; it is what everyone wants right now. This article almost seems like it is a direct result of the nVidia and Intel feud, and the Intel Atom CPU. This is another UMPC CPU, but this time, not from Intel or AMD.
You may have heard of VIA, but probably don't know too much about them. They are the little player in the CPU, motherboard, and memory market. You probably know Intel and AMD, but not VIA. Years ago they were pretty popular, but they seem to have fallen off the radar lately. They still produce a good number of motherboards, specializing in ITX and other smaller sized components.
VIA has had some CPUs in recent times that simply didn't catch on due to their performance. This looks like it is going to change soon. VIA has been hard at work for the past few years, and has an exciting new CPU getting ready to hit the market soon, called the VIA Nano.
What is the Nano?
The Nano is the next generation CPU from VIA. It is twice as fast in integer performance and four times as fast in floating-point performance as its previous generation. It is one of the few x86 CPUs not made by Intel or AMD, as VIA is one of the rare companies that still holds a license for the x86 architecture. You may remember rumors of nVidia trying to buy VIA; if that had happened, VIA would have lost their license.
So at this point VIA is continuing by themselves. At this time there is only a single core version of the Nano, but multicore versions are expected in the future. As a smaller company, VIA lacks the R&D budget that Intel or AMD can devote to developing dual core CPUs.
VIA's CPU will have all the multimedia instructions up to SSSE3. It will use the same socket as previous generations, meaning it might be able to fit right into an older computer and work -- but the CPUs are all soldered in, so that is going to be tricky. A surprising feature is that it will support the new C6 power-saving mode, which means the caches are flushed, internal state saved, and core voltage is turned off.
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