The Third x86-based SoC Player: VIA & Centaur's Isaiah II

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2014 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: x86, VIA, isaiah II, Intel, centaur, arm, amd

There might be a third, x86-compatible processor manufacturer who is looking at the mobile market. Intel has been trying to make headway, including the direct development of Android for the x86 architecture. The company also has a few design wins, mostly with Windows 8.1-based tablets but also the occasional Android-based models. Google is rumored to be preparing the "Nexus 8" tablet with one of Intel's Moorefield SoCs. AMD, the second-largest x86 processor manufacturer, is aiming their Mullins platform at tablets and two-in-ones, but cannot afford to play snowplow, at least not like Intel.

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VIA, through their Centaur Technology division, is expected to announce their own x86-based SoC, too. Called Isaiah II, it is rumored to be a quad core, 64-bit processor with a maximum clock rate of 2.0 GHz. Its GPU is currently unknown. VIA sold their stake S3 Graphics to HTC back in 2011, who then became majority shareholder over the GPU company. That said, HTC and VIA are very close companies. The chairwoman of HTC is the founder of VIA Technologies. The current President and CEO of VIA, who has been in that position since 1992, is her husband. I expect that the GPU architecture will be provided by S3, or will somehow be based on their technology. I could be wrong. Both companies will obviously do what they think is best.

It would make sense, though, especially if it benefits HTC with cheap but effective SoCs for Android and "full" Windows (not Windows RT) devices.

Or this announcement could be larger than it would appear. Three years ago, VIA filed for a patent which described a processor that can read both x86 and ARM machine language and translate it into its own, internal microinstructions. The Centaur Isaiah II could reasonably be based on that technology. If so, this processor would be able to support either version of Android. Or, after Intel built up the Android x86 code base, maybe they shelved that initiative (or just got that patent for legal reasons).

Android-x86.png

But what about Intel? Honestly, I see this being a benefit for the behemoth. Extra x86-based vendors will probably grow the overall market share, compared to ARM, by helping with software support. Even if it is compatible with both ARM and x86, what Intel needs right now is software. They can only write so much of it themselves. It is possible that VIA, being the original netbook processor, could disrupt the PC market with both x86 and ARM compatibility, but I doubt it.

Centaur Technology, the relevant division of VIA, will make their announcement in less than 51 days.

Source: 3d Center

VIA is not dead yet; maybe?

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2014 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: VIA, rumours

VIA, that once famous company which has petered out in the North American market is back in the news.  According to DigiTimes they recently joined forces with a firm owned by the Chinese government and is now moving production over to new facilities.  VIA has only 20% of this new joint venture which could signal the final end to their existence as a producer of x86 processors.  The move could be influenced by Intel, who license both the PCIe and x86 technology to VIA but this is deemed unlikely as Intel would like to stay on the Chinese governments good side.  The current Nano and V7 are Vista capable and appear in mobile devices in the AP region.

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"VIA Technologies is rumored to have started shifting its x86 CPU technologies and related personnel to its newly formed IC design joint venture with a China government-owned investment firm, according to market watchers, adding that VIA recently notified clients that it will stop supplying x86 processors temporarily."

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Source: DigiTimes

JPR Releases Q1 2013 GPU Market Share Numbers, Good News for NVIDIA

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 20, 2013 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: VIA, Q1 2013, nvidia, jpr, Intel, gpu market share, amd

Market analytics firm Jon Peddie Research recently released estimated market share and GPU shipment numbers from Q1 2013. The report includes information on AMD, NVIDIA, Intel, and Via and covered IGPs, processor graphics, and discrete GPUs included in desktop and mobile systems powered by X86 hardware. The report includes x86 tablets but otherwise does not factor in GPUs used in ARM devices like NVIDIA's Tegra chips. Year over Year, the PC market is down 12.6% and the GPU market declined by 12.9%. It is not all bad news for the PC market and discrete GPU makers, however. GPUs through 2016 are expected to exhibit a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.6% with as many as 394 million discrete GPUs shipped in 2016 alone.

In Q1 2013, the PC market is down 13.7% versus last quarter (Q4 2012) but the GPU market only declined 3.2%. This discrepency is explained as the result of people adding multiple GPUs to a single PC system, including adding a single discrete card to a system that already has processor graphics or an APU. By the end of Q1 2013, Intel holds 61.8% market share followed by AMD in second place with 20.2% and NVIDIA with 18%. Notably VIA is out of the game with 0.0% market share.

Q12013 Market Share.jpg

In terms of GPU shipments, NVIDIA had a relatively good first quarter of this year with an increase of 7.6% for notebook GPUs and desktop GPU shipments that remained flat. Overall, NVIDIA saw an increase in PC graphics shipments of 3.6%. On the other hand, x86 CPU giant Intel saw desktop and notebook GPUs slip by 3% and 6.3% respectively. Overall, that amounts to PC graphics shipments that fell by 5.3%. In between NVIDIA and Intel, AMD moved 30% more desktop chips (including APUs) versus Q4 2012. Meanwhile, Notebook chips (including APUs) fell by 7.3%. AMD's overall PC graphics shipments fell by 0.3%.

In all, this is decent news for the PC market as it shows that there is still interest in desktop GPUs. The PC market itself is declining and taking the GPU market with it, but it is far from the death of the desktop PC. It is interesting that NVIDIA (which announced Q1'13 revenue of $954.7 million) managed to push more chips while AMD and Intel were on the decline since NVIDIA doesn't have a x86 CPU with integrated graphics. I'm looking forward to seeing where NVIDIA stands as far as the mobile GPU market which does include ARM-powered products.

Skip the Pi and go straight to cardboard computing

Subject: General Tech | January 17, 2013 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: cardboard, APC, ice cream sandwich, arm, Cortex A9, VIA

APC has released a version of their Rock PC called the Paper which comes in a recycled cardboard case which resembles a hard cover book.  Powered by a Cortex A9 based Via Wondermedia chip running at 800MHz, 512GB of RAM and 4GB of NAND storage and sporting a pair of USB ports, ethernet and HDMI this Ice Cream Sandwich system is great for browsing the web.  At an MSRP of $100 it is an interesting device, almost as expensive as a tablet but in a very different form factor, if it could be convinced to act as an HTPC you could hide it in your bookshelf and only the wiring would give it away as anything but another book.  Check out more at The Inquirer.

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"TAIWANESE TECHNOLOGY FIRM APC has shown off a PC that comes in a book-like cardboard case.

The firm calls its under $100 PC Paper, because it comes with a cardboard case that looks like a book. Inside Paper is the firm's redesigned Rock board. Both run Android and both are designed for mouse and keyboard inputs."

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Source: The Inquirer

VIA Launches ARMOS-800 Embedded PC

Subject: Systems | January 16, 2013 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: VIA, pico-itx, embedded system, cortex a8, arm

VIA has launched a new small form factor PC for embedded applications and powered by ARM hardware. The ARMOS-800 is ruggedized and low power. It features a fanless design with an aluminum chassis that can operate between -40 and 80 degrees Celsius.

Internal hardware includes a pico-ITX motherboard, and Freescale ARM Cortex A8 processor clocked at 800MHz. It also has two integrated GPUs capable of dual display outputs. Other specifications include 1GB DDR3 SDRAM, 4GB eMMC internal storage, and a microSD card slot.

 

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IO options on the ARMOS-800 include a COM port, DIO port, CAN port, and three audio jacks (line in, line out, and mic in). Rear IO includes one VGA, one HDMI, one Ethernet jack (10/100), three USB 2.0 ports, and an optional VNT9271 Wi-Fi card attached via an internal USB header.

The ARMOS-800 PC uses an average of 3.14W during normal operation. It can officially support Android 2.3 or Embedded Linux 2.6. The PC measures 15 x 4.6 x 10.8 centimeters. The ARMOS-800 is available now. You can find more information on the VIA product page.

Source: Via

Podcast #231 - Intel NUC, AMD 8000M GPUs, Building a Hackintosh and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2012 - 03:16 PM |
Tagged: video, virtu, VIA, tegra 4, Samsung, radeon, podcast, nvidia, nvelo, nuc, lucid, Intel, hackintosh, gigabyte, Dataplex, arm, amd, 8000m

PC Perspective Podcast #231 - 12/20/2012

Join us this week as we talk about the Intel NUC, AMD 8000M GPUs, Building a Hackintosh and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Chris Barbere

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:13:41

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. 0:01:50 We are going to try Planetside 2 after the podcast!
  2. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:02:50 Intel Next Unit of Computing NUC
    2. 0:17:55 Corsair AX860i Digital ATX Power Supply
    3. 0:19:00 HP Z1 Workstation All in One
    4. 0:25:00 Building a Hackintosh Computer - A Guide
  3. 0:32:35 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  4. News items of interest:
    1. 0:33:30 Cutting the Cord Complete!
    2. 0:36:10 VIA ARM-based SoCs in upcoming ASUS tablet
    3. 0:42:00 Lucid MVP 2.0 will be sold direct
    4. 0:44:50 Samsung acquires NVELO SSD Caching Software
    5. 0:49:00 AMD announces mobility 8000M series of GPUs
    6. 0:54:15 Some NVIDIA Tegra 4 Details
    7. 0:58:55 NEC Unveils Super Thin Ultrabook
    8. 1:00:30 Win a Sapphire HD 7870 GHz Edition FleX!!
  5. Closing:
    1. 1:02:30 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: Panasonic GH2 Micro 4/3 Camera
      2. Josh: Preparation is key!
      3. Allyn: Cheap RAM
      4. Chris: Had solar panels installed this week
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

ASUS Partners with VIA for Tablet SoCs

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | December 13, 2012 - 04:37 PM |
Tagged: asus, VIA

We have not heard too much about VIA Technologies developing CPUs in recent history. They still hold an x86 license until at least some time in 2013. VIA also develops ARM SoCs, apparently, and have recently struck a deal to get in multiple 7-inch tablets by Asustek. These models will be exclusively sold to China.

ASUS set a goal of 12 million sales for tablet PCs for 2013 and one way to accomplish that milestone is to provide cheap but decent devices. This goal is firmly in the same order of magnitude as iPad sales. Still, ASUS already has a fairly big presence in the tablet market with its strong Transformer line and more notably Google’s Nexus 7.

VIA will provide ARM Cortex A9 processors for the lower end of ASUS’ product line. The model which they will be embedded in will retail for somewhere between $99-$149 USD. These devices will be available in China for the Lunar New Year season of 2013.

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Interestingly Asustek has not contracted out Pegatron to manufacture the device, opting instead for Wistron Corp. to fulfill the order. The two companies, Pegatron and Asustek, were once one-in-the-same; founded by a businessman with a fascination for the Greek mythological Pegasus. The company changed with the climate like any other and Pegatron was spun off into its own independent entity. Since then, Pegatron has been hard at work developing laptops and tablets for ASUS as well as picking up orders from Apple and others.

The first shipment of 2-3 million manufactured devices is rumored to be delivered to Asus by the end of December. Perhaps these sales can help bolster VIA and their ability to develop CPUs once more?

Source: CENS

Via Debuts EPIA-M920 Mini-ITX Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | September 23, 2012 - 09:21 PM |
Tagged: VIA EPIA-M920, VIA, mini-itx

VIA recently announced a new motherboard and processor combination meant for embedded systems like Point of Sale (POS) machines and digital signage. The EPIA-M920 is the company's first mini-ITX form factor board to feature its VXIIH chipset. VIA has packed a lot into this 17cm x 17cm motherboard, and the specs suggest that it is a capable machine. It can't match the NUC, but it should cost less -- and one SKU can even be run fanless. The EPIA-M920 comes in two iterations depending on the processor you select: the 12Q and the 10E. The EPIA-M920-12Q packs a 1.2GHz VIA QuadCore E processor, and requires a CPU HSF with fan. On the other hand, the EPIA-M920-10E is powered by a VIA Eden X2 dual core processor at 1.0GHz. The 10E version can run without any heatsink fans, and is passively cooled by two small aluminum heatsinks over the VXIIH chipset and processor.

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The VXIIH chipset includes the Chromotion 5.0 video processor that hardware accelerates a number of video codecs includinig MPEG-2, MPEG-4, VC-1, and H.264. VIA claims that the graphics processor can handle videos with those codecs at resolutions up to 1080p (they did not specify bit rates, however) without affecting the CPU. Further, the GPU supports DirectX 11 graphics and stereoscopic 3D content.

The VIA motherboard can support up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM running at 1333MHz (via two SO-DIMM slots). Internal headers include:

  • 2 x LVDS (Low Voltage Differential Signaling)
  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x SATA
  • 3 x RS232 (congifurable: 5V/12V)
  • SDHC card slot
  • PCI-E x4 slot

In addition, the mini ITX motherboard will happily accept power connections from either an AC or CD power supply and is compatible with the slim, low wattage, DC PSUs though no specific recommended wattage was stated.

EPIA-M920_io_L_medium.jpg

Rear IO on the motherboard is also fairly impressive considering the size. Via has packed in the following connectors.

  • Dual Gigabit LAN ports powered by two VIA VT6130 controllers.
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x HDMI
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x COM
  • 3 x audio jacks (VIA VT2021 HD codec)
  • 2 x PS/2 ports

The VIA EPIA-M920 motherboard supports Windows 7, but it is primarily aimed at embedded markets, and as such is compatible with the Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows XP Embedded, and POSReady 7 operating systems. VIA intends for this system to be used to power digital signage, point of sale machines, ATMs, kiosks, embedded gaming platforms, and other digital media applications where low power flourishes. VIA Technologies Embedded Platform Division Head Epan Wu stated that "the VIA EPIA-M920 Mini-ITX packs in all of the latest technologies from VIA providing embedded system designers an ideal platform to create groundbreaking new devices."

Unfortunately, no pricing or availability information was stated in the press release. It should be available to system integrators soon, however. You can find more photos of the EPIA-M920 mini ITX motherboard in VIA's photo gallery.

Source: Via

Remember VIA Technologies?

Subject: General Tech | August 16, 2012 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: VIA, purchase

There was a time when VIA was a common name in computers for motherboard chipsets and low power processors, but it has been quite a while since they've been in the news.  It's PC division has been having a very rough couple of years; only their telecom, USB and ARM branches have been bringing in money.  They do however own quite a few patents which has attracted the attention of an unnamed China-based communications chip player who, according to DigiTimes, are looking to purchase VIA.  This will likely have little effect on the North American market but could put them in much better standing in the Asian markets.

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"In the first half of 2012, VIA suffered net losses of NT$1.86 billion (US$62 million) and compared to the same period a year ago, the amount increased 63% with EPS already at negative NT$1.89. Although the company achieved an on-month growth in July revenues, due to the weak global economy and strong competition in China's white-box market, market watchers are mostly conservative about its future performance."

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Source: DigiTimes

VIA unveils the APC $49 Android PC

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems | May 22, 2012 - 05:22 PM |
Tagged: VIA, htpc, APC

VIA tops Gingerbread with a banana for some reason. They also unveil a $49 system powered by Android 2.3 which has been customized for mouse and keyboard support. The system draws between 4 and 13.5 watts (idle and load respectively) and can be mounted into any standard Mini-ITX or microATX chassis as well as chassis for the new Neo-ITX standard.

I guess VIA wants to be more than just Android-in-law to HTC.

It seems as though the low powered computing market is continuing to be eaten by ARM with devices such as VIA’s just announced APC Android PC. The APC seems to be aimed at the home theatre and enthusiast markets. VIA also hopes that the low price point will introduce more people to computing.

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Apparently VIA prefers bananas to Apples.

The APC is powered by an 800MHz VIA ARM11 system-on-a-chip with 512 MB of DDR3 RAM. 2GB of flash memory is embedded on the device which can be expanded by a microSD card slot. It may also be possible to install extra memory through one of the four USB2.0 ports on the device although that is not explicitly stated in the press release. Display output will be limited to 720p. Power usage will vary between 4 and 13.5 watts depending on load.

VIA is also promoting the device for its Neo-ITX form factor. The APC is 17cm x 8.5cm in dimensions -- which is just under 6 3/4” by 3 3/8” for you non-Metrics -- and can mount in Mini-ITX or microATX cases. It apparently is also smaller than a banana.

The APC is expected to ship this July for $49.

Source: VIA