Faster x86 chip for small notebooks coming

Centaur Technology, a subsidiary of Via Technologies, is shipping samples of its new x86 chip to customers.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Via Technologies is shipping samples of the new Isaiah processor targeted at low-cost compact computers.

Via Isaiah Architecture die plot
Via Isaiah Architecture die plot Via Technologies

Via's current C7 processor is already used by Everex in its CloudBook, by OQO in the Model 02, and by Hewlett-Packard in thin-client computers and in certain models that the computer maker sells in China. Both the C7 and Isaiah are x86-compatible processors, meaning they can run the same software that Intel amd AMD chips do.

Samples of the Isaiah-architecture-based x86 chips are now being shipped "aggressively" to customers with a release timeframe of May-June, said Glenn Henry, CEO of Centaur Technology, the Via subsidiary that designed the chip. The first generation of Isaiah-based products will be pin-compatible with the C7 processor family and offer two to four times the performance, according to Henry. Fujitsu is manufacturing the chip.

Isaiah is targeted specifically at the low-cost "thin-and-light notebook area," Henry said. The same market segment that Intel is targeting for the upcoming Atom "Silverthorne" processor. (Intel prefers to call this segment "netbooks.")

Correction: Isaiah's TDP (Thermal Design Power or power envelope) is not confirmed at this point. However Henry said that Isaiah will consumer more power than Intel's Atom processor.

Other differences include: Atom uses a more simple "in-order execution" design compared to Isaiah's Superscalar, out-of-order design. Because of this more sophisticated design, Isaiah may deliver higher performance than Atom, though independent benchmarking will be the final judge.

Via will need all the technological advantage it can muster just to avoid getting buried by Intel's marketing juggernaut. Intel is "formidable but won't take it all. We've already got design wins. The cost to a manufacturer to change their whole design is quite high unless there's some real benefit to it," Henry said.

Henry also noted that Intel is following Via into the low-cost, small-device market--where Via has been a player for many years--not the other way around.

Via is also planning a dual-core version of Isaiah but Henry would not provide any more details.