IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING, but VIA has finally gotten around to releasing a new chipset with a serious boost to the feature set. This might be just the shove VIA’s Nano processor has been waiting for to make it a serious Intel Atom competitor. In saying that, we’re less than a month away from Intel’s new Atom processors with integrated graphics, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The VN1000, as the new chipset is called, not only features an upgraded graphics engine that goes under the name of VIA Chrome 520, but it’s also VIA’s first chipset with support for DDR3 memory. VIA has only implemented support for DDR3 800 and 1066MHz memory, but the memory controller retains support for DDR2 667 and 800MHz. The chipset supports a total of 12 PCI Express 2.0 lanes, but these seem to have to be configured as a single x8 interface and four x1 interfaces.
The new Chrome 520 graphics core has 32 stream processors and four sampling units. This doesn’t exactly make it cutting edge, but at least on paper it’s better than Nvidia’s Ion. We’ll have to wait until we see some real world performance tests before we draw any conclusions though, as even with the help of S3, VIA’s graphics chops have never surpassed those of Nvidia in the past. It also supports DirectX 10.1, Shader Model 4, OpenGL 3.0 and OpenCL 1.0. We doubt that it’ll be a great gaming platform, but hopefully VIA will add support for GPGPU type applications in the future.
VIA has incorporated a wide range of video playback features. With full support for Blu-ray and a wide range of other video formats to be decoded by the IGP in full 1080p resolution, VIA might still have nailed it this time. Connectivity-wise there’s support for all the digital interfaces you could want, including DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.
The VN1000 is meant to be a low power chipset and combined with the new VT8261 southbridge, it’s consumer friendly at a fairly respectable 12W. However, 12W is way too high for this to be a solution ready for the mobile market space and, as such, VIA is pitching it for compact desktop systems and all-in-ones. Speaking of the southbridge, the VT8261 supports four SATA 3Gbit/s ports, up to 12 USB 2.0 ports, five PCI slots, VIA’s Vinyl HD Audio codecs and, unusually, it also incorporates support for an SD/MMC memory card reader directly into the chipset.
We’d like to see a slightly less power hungry version of this chipset paired up with VIA’s recently announced Nano 3000 series CPU’s, but that might be some time off, considering how long it has taken VIA to get the VN1000 out the door. At the moment VIA’s greatest weakness is its lack of decent chipsets on the mobile side and we don’t really see VIA as a big contender in the desktop market anymore. In saying that, if VIA can find the right partner to work with, this might prove to be a price and feature competitive solution compared to Intel’s upcoming Atom D410 and D510 processors.S|A
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