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VIA Nano ultra-low power processor

Atom smasher?

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The Atom left us unmoved despite its low price because the performance is none too great. We reckon the dual-core Atom could have some potential, but in the meantime we'd like Intel to combine its low-power CPU with a chipset that was younger and better than the i945G it's currently saddled with. And while Intel is giving Atom a workover, could it please sort out the silly heatsink on the chipset.

Atom may well be the natural competition for Nano, but heading into this review it seems to us that VIA has set the bar for comparison rather low.

VIA Nano under Vista

How Vista rate Nano: not good for graphics
Click for full-size image

VIA makes a number of claims about Nano - codenamed 'Isiah' - to whet our appetite. For starters; the chip's pin-to-pin compatible with the C7 series of CPUs, which is the sort of thing that will please motherboard manufacturers. Atom is a new design.

Nano has 64-bit, superscalar architecture and can handle out-of-order instructions. According to VIA, Atom can’t do any of those things so it’s worth pointing out that Intel lists drivers for the D945GCLF Atom motherboard for Windows XP x64 along with 32-bit XP and 32-bit Vista.

Other nuggets of information about Nano obscure and inform in equal measure. For instance, there is a dual-core Isaiah on the roadmap, but we don’t know when it's due to be released. We do know that a shift to 45nm is planned for H2 2009, and you might well expect that the dual-core changeover will happen at the same time, but that’s pure speculation on our part. Either way, we’re looking at a full year and that’s a long, long time to wait.

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