Preview: VIA VN1000 And Nano DC Platform: An IGP With Game?

It's been a long time since we've previewed a VIA chipset. And yet, here we are with an S3-based DX10 GPU that VIA claims is ready for gaming. How does the VN1000 compare to Intel's Atom and Nvidia's ION? Is it strong enough to ward off Core i3?

It seems like AMD and Intel have always been the only two players in the CPU game, battling each other for market supremacy through price wars and technological advancement that continue to make their parts ever-denser and more power hungry. That hasn't always been the case, though. And it's actually not even the case today.

Intel took a big step in the direction of efficiency by killing its Pentium 4, but many of its newest parts still push more than 100 W under load. It seems that every time a new competitor steps out with something interesting, Intel is right behind them with its foot on the accelerator. Further limiting this game is the fact that Intel owns the x86 instruction set, and isn’t ready to issue any new licenses.

Yet there was one other company (besides AMD) with an x86 license, back from the days when IBM had the power to force Intel to sell them. VIA bought Cyrix and turned what had been a mediocre desktop CPU into a highly-successful low-energy part. A few generations worth of improvements later, and VIA is ready to re-enter the desktop market with a high-frequency dual-core version of its popular Nano processor.

With a pre-production CPU clocked at 1.80 GHz, the Nano DC (dual-core) platform that arrived in our lab is more a testament to the company's ingenuity than a representation of production-ready hardware. Yet, VIA is confident in the CPU's performance as it waits on its manufacturer to supply a die-shrunk version. Moreover, it wanted us to see what it’s doing with IGP graphics. Today’s article isn’t just proof-of-concept for a CPU, but an entire platform with a DX10.1 integrated GPU expected to lay waste to low-energy competitors.

VIA flew out from Taiwan to hand-deliver this sample to our lab and reminded us that it was still around, alive and kicking. Will that tenacity carry over into entry-level computing success? The company has had almost an entire year to polish up this platform, which was announced in December of 2009. Let's see how it fares in today's much more competitive market.

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  • damasvara
    At last, VIA! Let the triple threat flame war begins! :lol:
  • dEAne
    VIA shouldn't stop it should move right away.
  • Ramar
    I'm interested, but I guarantee that I won't be by the time this is actually released.

    Technology seems to be the one thing in which the underdog third-party can't seem to do better. =[
  • luke904
    im glad they are making a good try. I believe they will be on par (or maybe even better than an intel and ion platform) by the time the chip is manufactured at 40nm and drivers are finalized.
    D525 and ION2 is expensive combination. If VIA can deliver at price level of D400 series with ION2 or cheaper it would put good pressure on Intel.

    nVidia was late to market with GTX460, but given it's price point a lot of pressure was put on ATI.
  • firebee1991
    Very interesting. While they should take their time and not try and get into the market too quickly, I would be happy to have a third competitor to Intel and AMD. The more competition the better.
  • super_tycoon
    Oh good, Tom's did examine the performance of a d525/ion2 platform. For this, I am pleased, even if they chose relatively intense dx10 games, not oldish dx9 ones.... point being I still love my 1215n. The i3 efficiency is damning though, too bad all the optimus ultraportables are (imho) way overpriced.

    However, when the new shrunken processor arrives, I think Tom's should also include netbook-like tests. These low-energy platforms aren't meant to encode videos or apply 100 photoshop filters to a terabyte tiff. The atom was specifically built to reduce cpu overhead (it doesn't even have out-of-order execution). Maybe toss in a ulv i3 if you can scrounge one up. So ya, I'll be waiting.
  • Jarmo
    Doesn't this remind me of previous S3 GPU offerings?
    Pretty decent low end performance... if the drivers were up to the task. But they're not.
    The shipping product needs to be rock solid if Via wants to overcome the suspicion.
    5 bucks cheaper but doesn't work... is not the way.
  • sudeshc
    At least they are trying and seems like a good one. They should speed up things a bit.
  • lashton
    correct me if im wrong but i thought no intel CPU had OOO execution
  • theshonen8899
    Yay VIA! I hope they can finally topple Intel and bring back powerful mobile solutions. All hail competition and the price drops that follow!
  • Crashman
    CTPAHHIKD525 and ION2 is expensive combination. If VIA can deliver at price level of D400 series with ION2 or cheaper it would put good pressure on Intel. nVidia was late to market with GTX460, but given it's price point a lot of pressure was put on ATI.
    I will be very happy if the production version can stomp on the D525 while consuming similar power at a lower cost, mostly because I think the low-energy market is far too inflated right now.

    Yet rather than brag about what could be a performance leader in the low-energy class, VIA calls this a "mainstream desktop" solution. I think they need to rethink the marketing on this.
  • Darkerson
    All things considered, I was rather impressed by what Via has to offer, especially since its not finalized yet. While I would never game with this, I would more then consider using it for an always on file server/NAS. Heres to hoping they are able to further improve it along the way. In the long run, the more options we have, the more these companies will compete for our money. Good job Via!
  • liquidsnake718
    at least its good to know my dual core atom 330 and nvidia ion 1 12inch netbook is in good company and almost as good as a general laptop while my PC is still a beast.... asus really makes the lightest and thinnestdual core atom netbooks..... check out the asus eesashel 1020n... its a great netbook...
  • IzzyCraft
    I enjoyed you VIA when you made mobos that didn't need expensive rambus ram for intel but sorry you mean nothing to me anymore :T

    The thing i would look for was movie playback and in that arena it's not exactly a show stopper. With that platform i'd be most concerned with if it can play full 1080p movies and flash particularly flash playback. then i'd look into power consumption etc.

    Really these low power solutions are meant for cheap media playback or cheap workstation solution.
  • randomizer
    :fou: Heatsink orientation is all wrong! Must resist urge to straighten...
  • dominatorix
    I' want to see this on a netbook/notebook solution.
  • Reynod
    No AMD products in the comparison charts?

  • elbert
    I want to see the 40nm Nano DC clocked at 3GHz with an Nvidia discrete GPU compared against i3's. Good review but could the Nano DC been tested for OCing. I would like to get an ideal of how far a 40nm Nano DC can OC.
  • K2N hater
    Looks pretty good for HTPCs rather than gaming.
  • mchuf
    reynodNo AMD products in the comparison charts?

    Really, what's up with that? AMD has a set-up that is used in some netbooks. I would have liked to see a comparison including that.
  • COLGeek
    Back in the day, I was a huge VIA fan and nearly all of my mobos used VIA chipsets. I even had a few of their mini-ITX offerings (C3 and C7 based) for special uses (linux firewalls and file servers). The thing I really appreciated about VIA was the lost cost of ownership and stable products with good driver support. It would be good for the market for VIA to offer viable (and desirable) products to consumers, again.
  • tommysch
    reynodNo AMD products in the comparison charts?


    The real question here is: can it play crysis?

    Hell no it can't.
  • ta152h

    The Nano has nothing to do with Cyrix. Via bought Centaur, and the Nano is from that lineage, not the Cyrix design, which was killed. The design team is still Centaur. They were part of IDT before VIA bought them.

    Having said that, I'm glad someone finally gave them some attention. Although, AMD may have given them too much with the Bobcat, which may compete for the same market.