The Anti-Processor

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Somebody else besides AMD and Intel is going to have a 90nm CPU, too. Via announced its 90nm SOI processor yesterday.

This is a very important announcement by Via, because if they’re ever going to make a serious move to make the Intel/AMD duopoly a threesome, it’s going to start with this chip.

What Via has been doing, slowly but surely, is coming up with what can only be called the Anti-Processor. At Via, the priorities have been to build the smallest, cheapest, lowest-power processor possible, with speed not only taking a backseat, but practically in the trunk.

The end result has been CPUs that are exemplary in size and power stinginess but . . . slow. You could live with one if you had to, but since you don’t have to, so far the Via CPUs have appealed to just niche audiences.

Esther ought to go a long way to changing that picture. Not that you’re going to want one as the basis for your genocide gaming machine, but Esther ought to offer enough performance to be more than suitable for the Joe Sixpacks in your life without compromise. Total wattage at 2GHz will be at most around 20 watts, and if that’s too much for you, Via claims you can run it at 1GHz using only 3.5 watts.

The quiet folks ought to really like that.

You may say that Dothan processors more or less do the same thing, but Esther is going to be a lot cheaper than any Dothan will ever be. Indeed, since Esther can use the Banias bus, it might even be a substitute for one.

We’ll have to wait to see how well it really works, but it does look like Esther could be the foundation for a computer that is cheap AND small AND very quiet AND fast enough for most people. Up to now, people have had to settle for at most three out of four.

Maybe not too much longer.

Even if you don’t care for one, what Via is doing is showing an alternative future for CPUs. This is what a CPU looks like when you’re not obsessive-compulsive about speed and apply technological advances in a completely different direction.

And this, I think, is the future of mainstream, Joe Sixpack computing; if not by Via, then by someone else following the same path.



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