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.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • damasvara
    At last, VIA! Let the triple threat flame war begins! :lol:
  • dEAne
    VIA shouldn't stop it should move right away.
  • Ramar
    I'm interested, but I guarantee that I won't be by the time this is actually released.

    Technology seems to be the one thing in which the underdog third-party can't seem to do better. =
  • luke904
    im glad they are making a good try. I believe they will be on par (or maybe even better than an intel and ion platform) by the time the chip is manufactured at 40nm and drivers are finalized.
    D525 and ION2 is expensive combination. If VIA can deliver at price level of D400 series with ION2 or cheaper it would put good pressure on Intel.

    nVidia was late to market with GTX460, but given it's price point a lot of pressure was put on ATI.
  • firebee1991
    Very interesting. While they should take their time and not try and get into the market too quickly, I would be happy to have a third competitor to Intel and AMD. The more competition the better.
  • super_tycoon
    Oh good, Tom's did examine the performance of a d525/ion2 platform. For this, I am pleased, even if they chose relatively intense dx10 games, not oldish dx9 ones.... point being I still love my 1215n. The i3 efficiency is damning though, too bad all the optimus ultraportables are (imho) way overpriced.

    However, when the new shrunken processor arrives, I think Tom's should also include netbook-like tests. These low-energy platforms aren't meant to encode videos or apply 100 photoshop filters to a terabyte tiff. The atom was specifically built to reduce cpu overhead (it doesn't even have out-of-order execution). Maybe toss in a ulv i3 if you can scrounge one up. So ya, I'll be waiting.
  • Jarmo
    Doesn't this remind me of previous S3 GPU offerings?
    Pretty decent low end performance... if the drivers were up to the task. But they're not.
    The shipping product needs to be rock solid if Via wants to overcome the suspicion.
    5 bucks cheaper but doesn't work... is not the way.
  • sudeshc
    At least they are trying and seems like a good one. They should speed up things a bit.
  • lashton
    correct me if im wrong but i thought no intel CPU had OOO execution