Via offers more performance, less power with C7

Hoping to take a larger share of the global market for computer processors, Via Technologies Inc. announced on Friday that its latest chip, the C7, will soon go into mass production.

The C7 will initially be available in 1.5GHz and 1.8GHz versions and offer substantially more processing power than the company’s existing C3 chips, said Richard Brown, Via’s associate vice president of marketing, in Taipei.

Via may now have a fraction of the market share held by rivals Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), but the company hopes the C7 will help narrow this gap. “I think its going to help us increase the size of our market share,” Brown said.

Like the C3, the C7 doesn’t require a lot of power to operate, making the chip particularly well suited for a variety of applications, including mobile computers, Brown said. The chip requires a maximum of 7 watts of power when running at 1.5GHz, and consumes less than 1 watt on average, he said.

By comparison, Intel’s Pentium M chip consumes a maximum of 21 watts, and an average of 1.25 watts, when running at 1.5GHz, Brown said.

In addition to low power consumption, the C7 offers improved encryption and security capabilities, including hardware support for SHA-1 encryption, he said.

Although, the C7 is offered as a desktop chip, tests have shown the chip offers up to five hours of battery life in mobile applications without power management, he said. A second version of the chip called the C7-M will offer a power management capability that offers even longer battery life.

Via did not disclose pricing for the C7, but said the small size of the chip will make it less costly to manufacture than chips made by other companies.

The C7, and a mobile version of the chip called C7-M, will be on show at Via’s booth during the Computex exhibition in Taipei, Brown said. Computex starts on May 31 and will run through June 4.

A future version of the C7 chip will run at clock speeds up to 2GHz and consume a maximum of 20 watts of power, Via said.

Via hopes the C7’s combination of improved performance and low power consumption will make the chip attractive to notebook makers, as well as makers of rack-mount servers and small desktop PCs. “We’re right in that mobile sweet spot at 1.5GHz,” Brown said.

The introduction of the C7 is an important milestone for Via. The company long trailed behind Intel and AMD when it came to processor performance, but that difference has now been reduced, Brown said.

The C7 is the first chip from Via that can be competitive in a high-margin marketplace, such as notebook computers, said Glen Henry, president of Centaur Technology Inc., the Via subsidiary in Austin, Texas, that designed the chip.

The chip’s performance compares favorably with Intel’s low-end mobile processors, such as the Celeron M, Henry said. “This part really opens up a lot of potential,” he said.

While most C7 customers are likely to be makers of non-branded PCs, called whitebox computers, several brand-name PC makers have tested the chip as well. “All of the major PC companies except one — Dell [Inc.] — have samples of the part,” Henry said. These samples are being used to evaluate the chip’s technology, he said.

There’s no indication that any of these companies plan to sell PCs based on the C7, but feedback regarding the technical merits of the chip has been positive, Henry said.

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