VIA HAD A lot of goodies to show off at Computex, from USB to ARM to dual core Nanos. On top of it all, they had several of the buzzworthy ‘$100 tablets’ to show off.
USB3 Hub in foreground, port card in the background
One of the technologies that will have the biggest impact in coming months is USB3, and Via seems to be leading that charge. They were showing off several USB3 ICs at CES, and now two of the three, a USB3 hub controller and a USB3 to SATA bridge, are in mass production. The last one, a 2 or 4 port USB3 host controller IC is sampling now so it should be out soon. USB3 hubs can’t come soon enough.
One of many $100 tablet variants
The big buzz of the show is a so called $100 tablet, something that could change how the ‘cloud’ is viewed. As far as specs go, it is a 7″ touchscreen with an 800 * 480 screen, a Wondermedia (Via subsidiary) WM8505 CPU/SoC, 256MB DDR2, and 2GB of flash. As is all the rage right now, the tablet runs Android 1.6. Connectivity is through 802.11 b/g, and the tablet has a camera, SD slot, USB ports, and a g-sensor.
It should be a fairly snappy performer, the WM8505 has an ARM9 core with 2D graphics acceleration, and full video acceleration support. It won’t astound anyone with it’s raw number crunching ability, but the speed of the CPU should be more than adequate for most tasks aimed at phones and tablets.
In addition to the ubiquitous Android App store, the tablet has a bunch of built in apps including a photo frame, office apps, and everything else you hoped the iPad would have. To top it off, there isn’t just one of these, there are a lot of different versions from several companies that all start off at around the $100 mark. If you want more, there are upgraded models with more storage and other amenities.
The reason this will change the cloud is simple, money. Most current tablets are very expensive, costing as much if not more than a low end laptop that will run rings around it. If you have that much power and expense, you should have a lot of local storage, so the cloud becomes more of an option than a necessity.
With a lower specced tablet, the cloud becomes a necessity, and more importantly, the price is approaching both impulse buy level and disposability. Your data is safe ‘out there’, and if your device gets stolen, broken, or hacked, just get a new one. It isn’t like you lost your precious iDevice that all the people at the coffee shop approve of.
Two cores under the heatsink
Last up is a CPU that I have been waiting for for a long time, the dual core Via/Centaur Nano. This particular example is an MCM running at 1.6GHz on a 1GHz FSB, not bad for a chip that is still made on a 65nm process. I want to see this architecture on 45nm with a single die instead of an MCM. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.S|A