Beijing (China) - Just in time for the opening of the Computex 2008 tradeshow, Via introduced its Nano processor, better known by his code-name Isaiah. The specifications of the chip indicate that Nano is a solid improvement over the C7 CPU and Via continues to its strategy to be different than AMD and Via by offering a product that is difficult to compare to potential rivals.
In a CPU world that is dominated mostly by Intel processors it is refreshing to see someone who is not following the beaten path but is pursuing the belief that alternatives will bring success. Nano is such a product - it holds the challenge that its size, performance and feature set is rather confusing if you were to try categorizing this product, but it may just offer compromises between existing products some hardware designers are looking for.
Via is offering the Nano processor in five different versions at launch, with models reaching from 1.0 GHz to 1.8 GHz clock speed and a thermal design power (TDP) that reaches from 5 watts to 25 watts. According to its own test results, Via claims that a 1.8 GHz Nano is two to three times faster than a 1.8 GHz C7 processor. There is not much information how Nano compares to Intel and AMD, with exception of Via’s claim that a 1.8 GHz Nano CPU is 90% more power efficient than a 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron M-520 (31 watt TDP). That may not be an especially fair comparison given the Celeron’s age, but it is a hint how Via will position its Nano processor.
Compared to Intel’s recently launched Atom processor with Silverthorne core, which many believed to be Isaiah’s main competition, the 65 nm Nano processor is substantially larger. While the 45 nm Silverthorne die measures 25 mm2, Isaiah comes in at 63 mm2, which is actually almost twice the size of the C7 die, which was 32 mm2 in size (the increased size is mainly due to the 1 MB L2 cache, which is eight times larger than the C7’s cache.) Silverthorne has about 47 million transistors, while Isaiah has 94 million. Silverthorne’s power consumption (up to 2.4 watts) is also substantially below the Nano.
According to Via, the performance of the Nano processor is above Silverthorne and competes with Intel mobile processors. However, its own performance charts suggest, that Via will seek its battles on the very low end of Intel’s mobile processor range.
It is unclear which products will actually be adopting Via’s Nano processor. The CPU package (21 mm x 21 mm) may be too large for most mobile Internet devices and the performance capability may be not enough to run Windows Vista on notebooks. What is left in the middle are entry-level and low cost notebooks such as the Asus Eee PC or the MSI Wind, as well as UMPCs. The most attractive market for Nano could actually become PCs for emerging markets, which is targeted by Intel’s single- and upcoming dual-core Atom processors as well.
We will have more clarity how Nano will be positioned when first systems based on the processor hit the market. According to Via, that will be the case in Q3.