Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are not the only ones innovating in the x64 chip racket. VIA Technologies has carved out a niche for itself for low-powered chips suitable for netbooks, small form factor PCs, micro servers, and other embedded devices, and is double-stuffing its sockets with the QuadCore X4 chips to better …
I used to be a VIA fan
back in the days when they were the only way to get a fanless system to play MPEG2 but they have dropped the ball too many times for me to like them anymore:
* Rubbish opensource support.
* Vapourware announcements .
* Slow IA32 exection.
And now I'm using an ASUS AT3IONT-I to drive my TV, it does H.264 at 1080p60 with real de-interlacing.
So this is 23% better power? - not if you can't buy it yet.
The real reason to have via is AES
I have been using their stuff for jobs that need AES for more than 5 years now. It used to run circles around a Dual Xeon on AES benchmarks. In fact it still performs admirably when facing Core2 or Phenom opposition on this. 60+Mbit AES at 256bit key causes around 3% load average on my firewall and virtually no latency. I also run my backups through that getting free crypto at 100MBps (more or less limited by the network interface speed).
My only serious gripe Via them is that there is virtually no third party cooling solutions. So if via has decided that your stuff is downmarket and put a 6000 RPM 40mm fan on it there is no way to fix it. You either have that or a 500g fanless job. Things like a 1000rpm slow and quiet fan with a medium size heatsink are simply not part of the equation.
-20% power; nearest competitor
Based on past reading, I believe they compare themselves to the 45nm Atom cores (possibly N270 still with FSB), rather than the ION's video acceleration capability :-) I have to say that the current Nano yields quite some neat number-crunching oomph, considering the 2W (or so) power envelope.
Regarding the open-source woes, actually it's not that bad - I believe their disk controllers are supported by the mainline Linux kernel, the S3 graphics subsystem is basically supported by X.org - correct me if I'm wrong here, I haven't checked for a while. In the low-power segment, DM&P Vortex has perhaps better open-source support (quite a bit of open documentation) and even lower absolute TDP - but also significantly less crunching power (which is no problem in many control applications).
actually via has had video accel for very long
Via has had video accel for very long and it is exactly of the kind which other vendors are coming around to settle upon - Full variable length decoding on-chip combined with mo-comp.
Starting from Apollo 266 all of their onboard videos support it and from 400 onwards (if memory serves me right) there is support for MPEG4. The latest ones support H264 as well. The usual complaint regarding it is deinterlacing. However, it is geared for proper DVD (and HD in the more recent ones) playback so it is not expected to need to do complex deinterlacing.
In my sitting room have a vintage 2003 Via at 600MHz (M6000 motherboard) with 256MB RAM (64 eaten by IGP) playing natively encoded DVD scaled to 1368x768 with flying colours. All of that while eating only 21W. Makes up for a great pacifier if the dinner is not on time and the 2 and a half year old brigand is hungry.
Via has failed to market it correctly, failed to advertise it and failed to package it after being there first 3-4 years before everyone else. It is truly the Daihatsu of the IT world :)
In any case as the ancient maxima says imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Intel is now imitating it by combining VLD and MO-COMP (so do others) and by putting AES on chip in the Xeons. 8 years after. And it costs several hundred pounds and eats 70W+. So much for "innovation".
I'd so buy one for a media/net PC.
Also - Competition!
This is same folks that own HTC?
"... so hypervisors can run atop the Isaiah cores."
And while this dual-dual-core chip is still probably a bit too weak to use for serious application server virtualisation (in other words, you're probably not gonna run a bunch of Windows-based virtual servers stuffed to the gills with SQL on it), the ability to do true x86-64 virtualisation could make these chips very useful to real-time/embedded systems designers.
They'd also be a pretty neat way to do massively parallel number-crunching on the cheap. If you're computation task is a lot "wider" than it is "long" (i.e., you get more benefit from having more processors, as opposed to fewer really, really fast ones), then a parallel processing cluster constructed from a bunch of these CPUs may fit the bill quite nicely...
And as GoFaster mentioned, above, more competition is always a good thing.