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

A New Player In The Desktop Game?

It seems like AMD and Intel have always been the only two players in the CPU game, battling each other for market supremacy through price wars and technological advancement that continue to make their parts ever-denser and more power hungry. That hasn't always been the case, though. And it's actually not even the case today.

Intel took a big step in the direction of efficiency by killing its Pentium 4, but many of its newest parts still push more than 100 W under load. It seems that every time a new competitor steps out with something interesting, Intel is right behind them with its foot on the accelerator. Further limiting this game is the fact that Intel owns the x86 instruction set, and isn’t ready to issue any new licenses.

Yet there was one other company (besides AMD) with an x86 license, back from the days when IBM had the power to force Intel to sell them. VIA bought Cyrix and turned what had been a mediocre desktop CPU into a highly-successful low-energy part. A few generations worth of improvements later, and VIA is ready to re-enter the desktop market with a high-frequency dual-core version of its popular Nano processor.

With a pre-production CPU clocked at 1.80 GHz, the Nano DC (dual-core) platform that arrived in our lab is more a testament to the company's ingenuity than a representation of production-ready hardware. Yet, VIA is confident in the CPU's performance as it waits on its manufacturer to supply a die-shrunk version. Moreover, it wanted us to see what it’s doing with IGP graphics. Today’s article isn’t just proof-of-concept for a CPU, but an entire platform with a DX10.1 integrated GPU expected to lay waste to low-energy competitors.

VIA flew out from Taiwan to hand-deliver this sample to our lab and reminded us that it was still around, alive and kicking. Will that tenacity carry over into entry-level computing success? The company has had almost an entire year to polish up this platform, which was announced in December of 2009. Let's see how it fares in today's much more competitive market.

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