It seems as if we hear announcements of new chip developments practically every day. Which ones are merely incremental improvements, and which ones will really make a difference? It’s always hard to tell, of course, but here are several that should be memorable.
Let’s start with a new offering from VIA Technologies. The Taiwan-based developer of low-budget microprocessors came up with a new standard for competing with Intel and AMD. Instead of trying to make the fastest or most powerful chip, VIA is trying to make the greenest one.
The company just released the C7-D processor, what it refers to as “the world’s first carbon free computing solution.” These aren’t what you’d call macho chips. They come in two speeds, 1.5 GHZ and 1.8 GHz, at a time when top CPU clock speeds are approaching 4 GHz. Even VIA’s web site makes it very clear that these chips are designed to be used in business PCs. So what’s interesting about them?
Well, for openers, they’re power sippers. Even the faster chip consumes just 20W. Less power consumption means you can use smaller power supplies and cooling fans, which makes for a quieter computer (just the thing if you have a bunch of them together in an office setting). But that’s not the most interesting selling point.
VIA has decided to throw its weight behind environmental initiatives in direct proportion to the chips it sells. Specifically, VIA and environmental experts calculate how much electricity the chip will use over its lifetime (assumed to be three years). From that amount of electricity, VIA calculates how much carbon dioxide will be released into the environment as a result of the chip’s use (for example, from power plants that burn fossil fuel). Then it works with regional organizations to offset that amount of carbon dioxide release through programs such as reforestation, promoting alternative energy use, and energy conservation.
VIA has also introduced a new benchmark, dubbed the “TreeMark.” The calculations for the TreeMark were validated by independent consulting firm Best Foot Forward, and are supposed to show the number of trees required to offset the carbon dioxide produced as a by-product from the electricity required for operating the chip during its lifetime. VIA maintains that its C7-D chip requires only four broad-leaf trees, while its competitors require 26.
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