Via Technologies is set to introduce a 1GHz processor with an integrated Northbridge chip that will allow vendors to build smaller PCs.
Called Mark, the chip includes a 1GHz C3 processor and Via's Pro Savage CLE266 Northbridge chip, which is one of the components that comprise the Northbridge-Southbridge chipset architecture used in most PCs.
In a Northbridge-Southbridge chipset there are two chips, called the Northbridge and Southbridge. The Northbridge is the chip that controls the front-side bus, which connects the processor to high-speed PC components, such as memory and the PCI bus. The Southbridge, which is connected to the Northbridge via the PCI bus, controls the lower-speed components in a PC and connects to peripherals, such as a CD-ROM drive and hard disk.
Mark offers integrated graphics capabilities and is expected to begin appearing in devices during the early second half of the year, said Richard Brown, Via's associate vice president of marketing. The chip is priced at around US$75 in 1000-unit quantities, he said.
Via is showing off a concept PC based on Mark at the CeBIT exhibition. Called Starhub, the concept PC is a 17-inch TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) that incorporates an internal PC. In addition to flat-panel display PCs, Mark is also likely to find a home in smaller laptops, tablet PCs and smart displays, Brown said.
Mark is based on what Via calls the CoreFusion processing platform and contains two silicon chips in a single package, rather than an SoC (system on chip) design which would have integrated both the CPU and Northbridge on to a single piece of silicon, he said.
"SoC (system on a chip) is too restrictive," said Brown. "We're trying to create a modular approach."
Developing an SoC would require a lengthy design period, he said, noting that by the time such a design had been completed the features that it incorporates would likely no longer be considered cutting-edge.
Putting these two components into a single chip package reduces the size of a PC but it generates more heat than would be created by two separate chips, Brown said, adding that PCs based on Mark will likely require a cooling fan for the processor. In the future, Via plans to focus on developing low-power designs that can be used in fan-less PCs, he said.