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.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • Tindytim
    Let's hope VIA can except Nvidia's support better than Intel can.
  • Humans think
    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
  • FrozenGpu
  • Tekkamanraiden
    I like the though of a via & nvidia based system.
  • cletus_slackjawd
    I believe there is a strong market demand for an inexpensive, efficient, and flexible Home Theater PC that can output 1080P. I'm really scratching my head as to why it's not on the market yet? Something similar to the MSI WIND Desktop (dual core Atom) but with a decent integrated video card to output 1080P through an HDMI connection on board. Why can't I buy something like that right now? I mean really!
  • cletus_slackjawd
    And I know you can buy a "media box" of sorts like the western digital one, but I want the flexibility to use an open source, non-proprietary interface for my media center software.
  • sonofliberty08
    when can we D.I.Y it ?
  • SAL-e
    cletus_slackjawdI believe there is a strong market demand for an inexpensive, efficient, and flexible Home Theater PC that can output 1080P. I'm really scratching my head as to why it's not on the market yet?
    We have to wait longer, because neither Atom or VIA C7 CPU has the horsepower to decode the stupid DRM encryption on 1080p HD video stream in real time. This board and ION could work as HTPC only if you remove the encryption offline (and become a criminal in USA, thanks DMCA) before you start streaming it.
  • scarpa
    Yes a VIA processor with a Nvidia graphics board sound good.
  • fuzzymath10
    It's not quite the same thing, but I've been running an Antec Minuet on the floor by my TV setup, and it works and looks great. With a cheap CPU like the E2140 and a passive low-rise card like the HD 3450, it's also cool and quiet, and has room for 2 hard drives (I have 2TB internal). I have a blu-ray drive in it, and it connects using DVI (with HDCP). All of this easily runs with the included 300W MATX PSU too.

    It's a bit warmer and slightly nosier after upgrading to a Q6600, but the box can do a lot more things now.