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VIA announces Isaiah, its 64bit processor architecture

by Parm Mann on 24 January 2008, 11:36

Tags: VIA Technologies (TPE:2388)

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Designed from the ground up by Centaur Technology Inc

VIA's new Isaiah Architecture, developed by subsidiary Centaur Technology, is said to "deliver significant boosts to the functionality and performance of desktop, mobile and ultra mobile PCs while minimising power requirements, saving on battery life and enabling ultra compact system designs."

Using 65 nanometre technology, the new generation of VIA CPUs are said to be four times more efficient than VIA's current C7 chips. The completely new 64bit architecture packs 1MB of L2 cache, clock speeds of up to 2GHz and a front-side bus scalable from 800MHz up to 1333MHz. All this whilst using significantly less power than other x86 processors and producing less heat.

"Today is an exciting day for everyone at Centaur," commented Glenn Henry, President, Centaur Technology Inc. "With a team of less than one hundred first-class engineers, we have created from scratch the world’s most power-efficient x86 processor architecture with state of the art features, outstanding performance, and flexible scalability for the future."

"The introduction of the new VIA Isaiah Architecture is an extremely significant milestone in VIA’s processor business," commented Wenchi Chen, President and CEO, VIA Technologies, Inc. "In achieving these new levels of functionality and performance, it provides the ideal complement to our industry-leading family of low power VIA C7 processors and will enable us to further extend our growing presence in the global x86 processor market."

It's clear to see where VIA aims to go with its new architecture. The high performance, low power CPUs will be ideal for smaller devices such as low-cost notebooks and mobile phones. Processors built upon VIA's Isaiah Architecture are expected to begin shipping in the first half of 2008.

Here are some of the VIA Isaiah Architecture highlights, taken from the official press release:

The VIA Isaiah Architecture has been specifically designed to deliver all the performance and features necessary for running the most demanding computing, entertainment, and connectivity applications on today’s and tomorrow’s Internet, including high-definition video, 3D games, imaging, and virtual worlds, within a very low power and thermal envelope that makes it ideal for small form factor mobile devices such as Mini-Notebooks and Ultra Mobile Devices. Its key highlights include the following:

-- 64-bit Superscalar Speculative Out-Of-Order MicroArchitecture

The VIA Isaiah Architecture comprises a host of advanced architectural features, including a superscalar and out of order architecture, macro-fusion and micro-fusion functionality, and sophisticated branch prediction, that significantly improve processor efficiency and performance. In addition, it also features a full and unrestricted 64-bit instruction set with plenty of headroom to support 64-bit operating systems and applications as they become available, and a new virtual machine architecture for running systems more securely and efficiently in virtual environments.

-- High-Performance Computation and Media Processing

As well as support for clock speeds of up to 2GHz in initial products and a high-speed, low power Front Side Bus scalable from 800MHz up to 1333MHz, the VIA Isaiah Architecture also has a highly-efficient cache subsystem with two 64KB L1 caches and 1MB exclusive L2 cache with 16-way associativity for more effective memory optimization.

For further enhanced multimedia performance, the VIA Isaiah Architecture also integrates the world’s fastest x86 processor Floating Point Unit (FPU) with the ability to execute four floating point adds and four multiplies per clock and also featuring a new algorithm that minimizes latency. Support for new SSE instructions and a 128-bit wide integer data path further boost multimedia performance.

-- Advanced Power and Thermal Management

To minimize energy consumption and reduce heat, the VIA Isaiah Architecture utilizes new low power circuit techniques and in addition to aggressive management of active power includes support for the new “C6” power state, in which power is turned off to the caches.

Extensive Adaptive PowerSaver™ Technology features further reduce power consumption and improve thermal management, including the unique TwinTurbo™ dual-PLL implementation, which acts like automatic transmission in permitting smooth transitions between activity states within one clock cycle, ensuring always-on service and minimize latency, as well as new mechanisms for managing the die temperature.

-- Scalable Upgrade to VIA C7™ Processor

The VIA Isaiah Architecture is pin-to-pin compatible with the current VIA C7 processor family, enabling OEMs and motherboard makers to transition to the new architecture smoothly, and to fulfill a wider range of market segments with a single board or system design.

-- VIA PadLock™ Hardware Security Features

To enhance the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of electronic data, the VIA Isaiah Architecture incorporates industry-leading on-die hardware cryptographic acceleration features within the VIA PadLock Security Engine, including the world's best random number generator (RNG), an AES Encryption Engine, SHA-1 and SHA-256 hashing for secure message digests for data integrity, and a new specialized “secure execution mode” that includes features such as a secure on-chip memory area and encrypted instruction fetching.

Official press release: VIA Unveils Next-Generation Isaiah x86 Processor Architecture

HEXUS Forums :: 3 Comments

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One of these plus a HD3450 for the ultimate low power, fully functional, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray capable media centre? I hope that will be the case. Been interested in the C-7 for a MCPC but seemed a bit too slow for my liking. This should be that bit faster and with the 3250 hopefully providing full vc-1 and h.264 decoding it could be a great, silent solution.
This sounds very interesting.

No where in the press release does it say that this new CPU actually runs the AMD64 instruction set (that modern Intel CPUs also support). If it is some other instruction set then all kinds of exciting features and great power efficiency are possible, but without windows. But I digress.

The winTurbo™ dual-PLL implementation with the possibility to change clock speed in a single clock cycle is very interesting, as most other CPUs take several milliseconds to change clock speed (millions of cycles). My old Linux box had an AMD cpu that could switch from 800MHz to 2GHz fairly quickly, and with the cpufreq support in the Linux kernel it could change speed in response to load quite fast. This resulted in a computer that felt as responsive as a 2GHz box, but only consumed the power of an 800MHz one. If you looked at a graph of CPU speed it showed most of the time spend at low speed with the occasional ‘Turbo’ spike. The new VIA implementation is much better. If there was support for it in the OS scheduler, then the CPU could change speed hundreds of times per second, and give CPU limited tasks maximum clock cycles, while saving cycles and power consumption for I/O bound tasks, and dropping the clock back to minimum anytime the system is idle. (eg the pause between each user keystroke).

I am not to keen on the new security features, as they sound like an implementation of Next-Generation Secure Computing Base. With it Microsoft could create an OS with totally airtight security (as in cutting of the air supply of anyone else), and make it so that you no longer control your computer, and it is effectively no longer your own.
VIA have had more advanced security features than most systems for a while. I think thi is because the embeded market is important to them, and this will be a good feature for those markets.