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VIA Unveils All-In-One Media System Processor For Netbooks

The VX855 chipset allows HD video playback on mini-laptops by taking the computing-intensive task away from the core processor.
VIA Technologies on Thursday introduced a low-power, "all-in-one" chipset for handling video playback on mini-laptops.

The VIA VX855 Media System Processor chipset integrates a DDR2 memory controller, a 400/800-MHz front side bus processor interface, and input/output capabilities in a single chip. The product supports VIA's Nano, C7, and Eden processor lines.

The chipset makes high-definition video playback possible on mini-laptops, also called netbooks, by taking the computing-intensive task away from the core processor. The hardware supports a variety of video standards, including H.264, MPEG-2/4, VC-1, and WMV9.

"The VIA VX855 opens up exciting opportunities for several PC segments, particularly the mini-notebook category that will now be able to offer true 1080p HD video playback," Richard Brown, VP of marketing for VIA, said in a statement.

The 1-inch-square chipset combined with one of VIA's processors uses 46% less space on a motherboard than competing twin-chip, core logic implementations, according to VIA. In addition, the VIA package has a 2.3-watt power envelope, which means it does not need a cooling fan. This enables system builders to design smaller and lighter portable PCs.

VIA's x86 processor platforms compete with Intel's Atom product line, which dominates the market for netbooks. Netbooks have screens of 10 inches or less; run a full-size operating system, typically Windows XP or Linux; and cost less than $500. The low-cost systems are the fastest growing segment of the PC market, which is expected to see an overall decline in global shipments of 4.5% this year, according to IDC.

VIA in December launched a three-chip netbook platform called Trinity. The platform comprises a Nano processor, a VIA media system processor, and a discrete PCI Express graphics processor from S3 Graphics. The VX855 would fit into this platform.

Among the leading manufacturers of graphics processors, VIA suffered the most in the fourth quarter of last year, which is when the bottom fell out of the PC market as a result of the economic downturn. Shipments of VIA graphics processors fell nearly 72% year to year, while Intel shipments fell the least at nearly 21%, according to Jon Peddie Research.

Year-to-year declines of the other leading vendors were as follows: Advanced Micro Devices, 24%; Nvidia, 34%; Matrox, 46%; and SiS, 61%.

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