VIA Creates Reference Design for 1080p Netbooks

Last week Via showed off a new energy-efficient chipset that’s slick trick is decoding 1080p video. Now the company is cramming that capability into a netbook.

Via’s VX855 Media System Processor brings support for 1080p high-definition video to Via's line of Nano, C7 and Eden processors. It was originally designed for mobile PCs and SFF systems, but this week the company showed a reference netbook design that incorporates the VX855.

Via calls its reference design the Surfboard C855, which incorporates the C7-M ULV processor and the VX855 unified IGP chipset for easy integration into netbooks.

The Via Surfboard C855 supports playback of high bit-rate 1080p HD video, which at first does sound a bit overkill for the 10- to 12-inch internal display resolutions of up to 1366 x 768 pixels, but the netbook can output externally up to 1920 x 1440.

High definition audio is supported through VIA Vinyl 8-channel HD audio, and a range of connection options includes support for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G.

"A key advantage of the Via Surfboard C855 is the head start it affords mini-notebook system developers or those seeking to enter the market," said Richard Brown, VP marketing at Via. "Not only is VIA in the unique position of being able to offer customers a complete, ready-to-build solution, but the new board’s HD capabilities mean Via-based mini-notebooks will provide a superior multi-media entertainment experience."

The real star of the setup is the VX855 IGP chipset, which features an HD video processor that is capable of providing smooth hardware accelerated playback of high bit-rate 1080p videos, including videos in standard formats, such as H.264, MPEG-2/4, DivX and WMV9.

The package size of the new chip is 27 mm x 27 mm, which combines all the features of a modern North and South bridge, including an integrated Via Chrome9 HCM 3D graphics core and support for up to 4 GB of DDR2 800 MHz memory. The integrated graphics core has DirectX 9.0 support, up to 512 MB frame buffer memory.

The thermal design power (TDP) of the chip is just 2.3-watts, which is low enough for the chipset to run without a fan. Via also said that the entire system can playback high bit-rate HD video while utilizing less than 40 percent of CPU resources.

For most purposes, the VX855 looks like a compelling solution for netbooks aspiring to do more than just run a web browser. The fact that 1080p video output is possible from a portable, small device makes it automatically a quick and easy solution for home theaters.

With any luck, Via will get OEMs signed on to bring one of these to market in hopes to give a little pressure to Intel and its Atom-paired chipsets. Things will really get interesting when Nvidia introduces its second generation Ion platform that will support Via’s Nano CPU.

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  • Let's hope VIA can except Nvidia's support better than Intel can.
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  • Now this is what i would like to see in a box under my plasma screen, a system costing in a beautiful box around $250 low power high efficiency
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  • accept?
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