Welcome Home Isaiah

Welcome Home Isaiah

Welcome Home Isaiah

Because of all the buzz surrounding Intel’s latest entry into the Mini-ITX field, I thought it would be fair to talk about the originator of this form factor—VIA. It is interesting to see all the articles out there about the Atom but, yet, very little mention of VIA’s upcoming Isaiah. I am a little disappointed in the lack of consideration for VIA’s Isaiah platform. I think the new Isaiah reiterates VIA’s commitment to Mini-ITX. And, just because Intel enters into the Mini-ITX arena with the hype of a celebrity boxer, the last thing VIA is going to do is call it quits on its own invention.

I have to admit; when I first caught wind of Intel finally taking this market seriously, I had mixed emotions. Initially I was very excited about the prospect of seeing Intel’s trademark feature set of high-end specs, solid performance, and stability, in a Mini-ITX form factor. On the other hand, I feared that they would “steal” the segment away from VIA. But VIA, it seems, has no intention of giving up anything to Intel.

Some early benchmarks have already been released and the performance of Isaiah looks promising—VIA is certainly confident of Isaiah’s performance. On the power consumption side of things, VIA has said that TDP should be consistent with previous C7 based offerings (~14W TDP), with about 2-4 times the performance. Intel is reporting similar performance advantages over the VIA C7 processor, but they are also touting a considerable advantage in power consumption with a TDP of just 4W for the 1.6GHz Atom CPU (Ed. Yesterday VIA officially released specs for Isaiah). A good chart of the two different CPU lines can be found here.

VIA is reportedly working with Nvidia for a chipset solution. This is the right partnership for VIA, at the right time. Nvidia has been making very good chipsets for both AMD and Intel for the past few years. But as AMD and ATI have consolidated to produce their own robust chipset solutions, and Intel has continued to ramp up the performance of their own, Nvidia is finding itself in a tough spot with its chipset business. There have also been reports of a possible Vista oriented Mini-ITX board. Details are scarce on the project, but an Nvidia chipset for a VIA based Mini-ITX board sounds promising (although the claimed $45.00 price point sounds a bit far-fetched). I find a VIA/Nvidia marriage a perfect solution for both of them and the segment.

It is clear that Intel has officially landed on the Mini-ITX scene with a now fully baked solution. But VIA is not going anywhere without a fight and competition is absolutely healthy in any market. Fortunately the end users are the ultimate winners from such one-upmanship and I believe the Mini-ITX segment is about to get real interesting.

Comments (6)

  1. May 30, 2008

    Hi James

    I don’t really care whether Isaiah is better than Atom or vice-versa. I’d never buy VIA again.

    I have several VIA EPIA systems (SP and EX) and after the experience with VIA I’m 100% sure that the next Mini-ITX product that I buy will be for sure from Intel and not from VIA. It doesn’t matter if Isaiah has 2x the performance of Atom.

    Why? Because of support: VIA has been ignoring their customers and users since ages. Still today, the only way to solve a problem with a product from VIA is using a external forum that nobody from VIA monitors:

    http://www.via.com.tw/en/support/

    And what about Linux support?. Even after their press release saying that they were going to work with the community, what do we have? A page with non-working, buggy and disappointing binary drivers. They couldn’t be doing it worse in regards to the relations with their customers.

    I assume that you are one of the most important suppliers of VIA products. You must have suffered thousands of problems with VIA because of this, the lack of support…

    Why don’t you ever blog about your support problems with VIA? 😉

    Thank you for your blog! Why don’t you blog more often about about new products in the shop and their features? 🙂

  2. James Floyd
    james
    May 30, 2008

    Hi Super,

    Thanks for reading my post!

    I understand your frustrations with VIA support, both with direct user and Linux. They are aware of the fact that they do not currently offer all the support that their customers deserve. VIA is also always striving to improve themselves in this regard.

    Now I wasn’t trying to downplay Intel’s presence here. I was just trying to let people know that VIA has some really good hardware in the works. On the contrary, the Atom is very exciting. I think it really targets the heart of what this form factor is about. But, every tech site on the planet has covered this story to exhaustion.

    It is also nice to know that people, like yourself, who have lost complete faith within VIA now have a true VIA alternative.

    I plan on making more contributions to our blog in the future, thanks for your support.

  3. May 30, 2008

    James,

    Unlike Super Coco, I would very much like to buy VIA solutions, as I, along with everyone else who has two brain cells to rub together, don’t want a defacto Intel monoploy in the PC world. A Nano/nVidia product could be very interesting. I would also like to see anyone beyond IBM to supply PowerPC chips to the general user. Right now IBM solutions and extremely expensive. That could be a future project for VIA or nVidia. I’d buy one and install OpenSuSE on it, as I have done on an old G4. Further, it seems that you (Logic Supply) have found a way to get Linux on VIA products. We should all remember that the most satifaction comes not from doing the easy things, but from succeeding in the hard things.

  4. May 30, 2008

    Hey Peter,

    Thanks for stopping by our blog.

    I am totally down with the under dog in any contest. And I really don’t want to see Intel run away with this market. Speaking of which, I stumbled upon a first full review of 1.6Ghz Atom:

    THIS LINK IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE

    No comment.

    It would be cool to see IBM step out a little. They seem to be too content making CPUs for consoles and their high end servers. I am not sure how effiecient their current CPUs are (I have heard an XBOX 360 can generate some heat, maybe thats just the GPU?). They certainly are not affraid to collaborate with other companies and I guess anything is possible.

  5. May 31, 2008

    James,

    > VIA has some really good hardware in the works

    100% agree. I have blogged several times about VIA having good hardware products ruined by their support and drivers.

    Peter,

    It’s great that you see VIA as a real competitor for Intel, but your words prove that you have never tried to get the VIA video driver working on Linux and that you haven’t tried to get 3D or video hardware acceleration from recent VIA chipsets.

    If you said “VIA is a true competitor for Intel only in Windows”, I’d agree to that.

    Regards

  6. May 31, 2008

    James,

    IBM already has given PowerPC specs and documentation as open source, for free. I.e. if you and I were to open a chip foundry, then we could design, make, and sell PowerPC cpu’s without limit. By the way did you find a couple of hundred million dollars in your couch? I am going to check mine and if we do, then we could start making them ourselves!!!

    Super Coco,
    The real issue here is not giving up. I.e. either do it yourself or find the answer from someone else. I have done a number of difficult/seemingly impossible things. Only because I did not give up. Sometimes I had help and sometimes I did not. I admit that getting help can be harder than just doing it yourself.
    VIA will not ever be a complete full line competitor to Intel, and that is just fine. I don’t expect to hear that VIA is THE chip that all of the hardcore gamers want. However, it is good at what it does, low power and efficient cpu’s.
    Also there are more than just Linux and Windows in the embedded os space.

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