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VIA unveils dual-core Nano X2

VIA unveils dual-core Nano X2

VIA's Nano X2 packs two out-of-order Isaiah cores with server-friendly features into a single chip.

While Intel's Sandy Bridge and AMD's Fusion platforms are dominating the tech headlines at the moment, low-power chip specialist VIA is reminding CES attendees that there's still room for another CPU maker by launching the Nano X2.

As its name suggests, the VIA Nano X2 is a dual-core variant of the company's low-power Nano processors. Featuring two Isaiah cores, the company has gone all-out to ensure that performance isn't harmed by the low-power draw design of the chip.

When we had our first look at a Nano X2 chip last year, the chip was notably quicker than Intel's Atom in many tests, although it couldn't match low-power Core 2 chips. Nevertheless, the chip had enough power for basic gaming and 720p video playback. In fact, we reckoned that a bit of driver tweaking could even make 1080p video playback possible.

Both processing cores feature out-of-order execution, 64-bit support, a high-performance superscalar processing system and a speculative floating point algorithm that the company claims is 'most efficient.' There's also support for virtualisation extensions, as well as advanced power and thermal management.

Better yet, the chips are pin-compatible with the company's existing CPUs, meaning that OEMs can drop the new dual-core Nano X2s into their existing board designs without modification. In theory, this means we should start seeing devices based around the new chip hitting shelves in the very near future.

Despite its low-power credentials, the Nano X2 includes some impressive additional features: SSE4 support is included as standard, while on-chip AES encryption and decryption acceleration and VIA's PadLock hardware security technology also make an appearance.

Explaining the company's move to a dual-core design, VIA's Richard Brown stated that 'the VIA Nano X2 processor arrives at a time when software architectures are now optimised for multi-thread computing, and improvements in semi-conductor fabrication mean we can now double the number of processor cores while maintaining the same low energy consumption levels.'

VIA's Nano X2 is aimed at notebooks, desktops and all-in-one designs, although the inclusion of cryptographic acceleration technology and virtualisation extensions suggest that it could find a home in low-power servers as well.

The chip is currently sampling to OEMs, with products based on the Nano X2 expected to appear within the first quarter of this year.

Do you think that 2011 could be the year that VIA offers real competition to AMD and Intel, or will it find its share of the low-power market snapped up by ARM? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

11 Comments

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jrs77 5th January 2011, 15:50 Quote
It can only be good if there's several manufacturers competing within the ULV-segment.

Netbooks and tablets will profit from a competition of ARM, AMD, intel and VIA.
Cthippo 5th January 2011, 17:12 Quote
Low power is the future.

Most people , even bit-techers, are coming to realize that they really really don't need the massive computing power of the modern top-end CPUs. This, coupled with the demand for portable computing will drive adoption of these kinds of chips.

I think we may well see a fundamental change in the CPU market in the next decade. Intel will continue to dominate the high end consumer market, but that will become less and less relevant as the industry moves towards low power instead of "OMFG Moar performance!". So far Intel has had a hard time adapting their mindset in this area as evidenced by the poor performance of their Atom line.

I also get the feeling that AMD has decided to quit competing with Intel for the absolute top end and has instead decided to plow its R&D dollars into Low power, APUs, mainstream and server parts. It's a lot cheaper to be good enough than to try to be the best and given AMDs more limited resources this is probably a sound business decision.

And one more thing...

I think this might make an awesome basis for my next desktop. It sounds like it is already adequate for everything I need to do.
Tulatin 5th January 2011, 19:29 Quote
Finally, VIA has an arena where it can compete performance wise.
schmidtbag 5th January 2011, 20:55 Quote
unless the sandy bridge based atoms are really power efficient, it looks like for the first time ever intel will have the worst of all brands (with the exception of PPC and SPARC which are basically just server only).

based on what that zacate mini itx board said, it appears amd doesn't necessarily have the most power efficient product, however, zacate is an APU, not a CPU, and its probably a LOT faster than atom which makes up for its higher power demand.
l3v1ck 5th January 2011, 21:37 Quote
I hope we can actually buy X2 netbooks. I'm fed up of only seeing Atom ones in the shops.
Goty 6th January 2011, 02:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
unless the sandy bridge based atoms are really power efficient, it looks like for the first time ever intel will have the worst of all brands (with the exception of PPC and SPARC which are basically just server only).

based on what that zacate mini itx board said, it appears amd doesn't necessarily have the most power efficient product, however, zacate is an APU, not a CPU, and its probably a LOT faster than atom which makes up for its higher power demand.

I don't know that there is such a thing as a Sandy Bridge based Atom....
jrs77 6th January 2011, 03:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goty
I don't know that there is such a thing as a Sandy Bridge based Atom....

I think he speaks about the low-power mobile parts. They don't look too shabby on paper performance-wise, but they come at a rather high price.

http://forums.bit-tech.net/picture.php?albumid=1064&pictureid=15835
fluxtatic 6th January 2011, 05:39 Quote
I'd like to see more Via consumer-oriented products. Comparatively, Atom is and has always been pretty awful as far as...well, everything. Via's weak spot, though, has been marketing. Apparently they've been doing fine aiming at the industrial/embedded sector, given that they're still around and still spending on R&D. But their consumer-oriented offerings have been a bit lacking. Prices are way too high given what you get for the money, and that's swayed a fair number of people to compromise with Atom, figuring it was good enough given that it was a third the price of an equivalent Via board. I always thought it would be a natural fit for netbooks, but my guess is that the pricing is too high. Given that their higher-end boards (which would be equivalent to the average netbook platform) retail for $200-$300, that would be a no-go for a company looking to retail a netbook for $400. I can get a crappy Atom board for $70, while a 800MHz Via is still well over $100. Given that word is out that there will be a Win8 release for ARM, I'm about to give up on Via entirely.
frontline 6th January 2011, 08:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic
. Given that word is out that there will be a Win8 release for ARM, I'm about to give up on Via entirely.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12124887

'Next Generation' Windows running on an ARM CPU.
Phil Rhodes 6th January 2011, 11:54 Quote
So what -is- the TDP?
Nexxo 6th January 2011, 12:08 Quote
The fastest Via Nano, the L2100 (yeah, the number actually goes down as the speed goes up!) has a TDP of 25W. Given that Via promise that the X2 will offer increased performance without increased power consumption I would expect a similarly clocked X2 to have a similar TDP.
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