RealTime IT News

VIA's One-Watt Processor

VIA Technologies is not ready to give up on the lower power, embedded processor market just yet. The Taiwanese company late last week announced a new x86-based processor with a fraction of the power consumption of its competitors.

The VIA Eden ultra low voltage (ULV) processor family is a 500MHz processor that consumes just 0.1 watt of power while idle and one watt while under full load. VIA showed off the Eden chip along with small motherboards at the Embedded System Conference in Taiwan.

Because of its extremely low-power design, the chip is fanless, which helps reduce the package for a board with the chip to just 21mm x 21mm in size.

"With its performance, energy efficiency and compact size, our new VIA Eden ULV processor provides a way for embedded developers to add real value to their systems and push the market forward," said Richard Brown, vice president of corporate marketing for VIA in a statement.

The Eden processor can be combined with the VIA CX700/M system digital media processor, and together the two can be used in multimedia, connectivity and storage options and enabling system platforms with a maximum power draw of less than 10 watts.

Despite its low power and a much lower clock speed than is standard these days, the Eden chip has some strengths, most notably in security. The VIA PadLock Security Engine features a number of security tools for real-time, military-grade encryption of data. It comes with AES encryption, Secure Hash Algorithm SHA-1 and SHA-256, a Montgomery Multiplier and NX Execute Protection on chip.

Dean McCarron, president of semiconductor research firm Mercury Research, said VIA are "pioneers in their sector of the market, which isn't cutting edge in a performance sense, but they have put emphasis on embedded PC architecture. This is just continuing that effort," he told internetnews.com.

He notes that Intel  and AMD  are also going for the low-power embedded market, Intel with its Silverthorne effort and AMD with Geode, a product designed by Cyrix, which VIA acquired years ago. "So there's this weird, circuitous route where Cyrix competes with itself," said McCarron.

But VIA has its own tricks. "One of the things that has made them unique for some time is that they have really focused on tiny die designs. They are not throwing a lot of transistors at the problem. They try to figure out how to do it with less. They recognize there may be a performance hit but it's half the size of an Intel part," said McCarron.