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

We have to admit that we were a little curious about VIA’s re-asserted interest in entry-level gaming from an IGP. After all, it had been a while since we'd tested anything from S3. But our skepticism proved justified when we threw a few of the games in our benchmark suite at it. As the IGP stands right now, many modern games won't hit playable frame rates, even dialed down to the lowest possible quality/detail settings. Could the Chrome IGP be a viable solution in the most entry-level games? Perhaps. There remains driver work to be done before any sort of 3D is ready for prime time, though.

The greater problem (and this is something even Intel will face with its upcoming Sandy Bridge design) is that games evolve at a rate that IGP technology simply can’t match, so that even this latest attempt comes up short. Putting this in historical perspective, the Chrome 520 IGP is probably more powerful than a TNT2, so entry-level gaming could simply be a matter of using older games.

Of course, gaming is not what low-energy platforms are designed to do, and the Nano DC does low-energy tasks like media playback and light-duty office work very well. It even outpaces Intel's Atom clock-for-clock, even when the Atom is complemented by Nvidia's Next-Generation ION platform.

Thus, what we have in the Nano DC is a high-performance, low-power platform that, like all low-power platforms, can't really compete with mainstream desktop parts, as much as VIA would probably like it to. Nevertheless, it's much more likely that the even-more-miserly production version of this platform will make a strong showing in media-oriented PCs and netbooks in the coming months.

Perhaps the real question for VIA is: when, exactly, might this platform be ready for prime time? The company announced its VN1000 chipset nearly one year ago. It's still waiting for a process shrink. And then it needs to announce design wins. This would have been a killer little platform back when it was announced (before ION 2 and before Core i3). A year later, we're still impressed with that the solution can do. Now we just need to button it up, polish the software, and make this platform available.

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