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Via keeps 1GHz fanless chips cool

Via Technologies hopes to carve out a niche in appliances and embedded devices with its latest Eden chips, which don't require a sophisticated cooling system.

Via Technologies has increased the speed of its Eden ESP processor to 1GHz, promising that the chip still generates so little heat that it does not require a cooling fan.

The Taiwanese company is pitching its processor, based on the Nehemiah core, for devices in which low-power consumption and quiet operation are desirable, such as thin clients, consumer electronics and communications appliances. Like fellow chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices and Transmeta, Via hopes to take advantage of the fact that Intel's flagship Pentium chips are increasingly power-hungry, according to analysts, requiring sophisticated and often noisy cooling systems.

The Eden ESP10000 and ESP8000 chips, announced Tuesday, use a maximum of 7 watts of power and include hardware-based encryption and two random number generators for extra security, Via said. The chips are aimed at thin clients, personal servers and industrial PCs and can also be used in consumer electronics devices that need PC compatibility.

Several thin-client manufacturers, including C.P. Technology, BCom Electronics and Termtek Computer, are using the new chips in their products. A company called Nimble Microsystems is using the ESP8000 in a videoconferencing device, according to Via.

Via primarily manufactures chipsets, which carry data to and from the processor. Although Via chips account for less than 2 percent of the world's Intel-compatible processors, the company has snagged some noteworthy design wins. Many of the Linux-based PCs sold in Wal-Mart rely on Via chips. The chips have a following among computer fans who build PCs into lunch pails, humidors and other household items.

"The VIA Eden ESP10000 and ESP8000 processors have raised the bar for performance and innovation for an almost unlimited variety of fanless smart connected devices," Steven Lee, head of Via's embedded platform division, said in a statement.

The chips are shipping in volume, at $85 for the ESP8000 and $100 for the ESP10000.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.