Surfboard: VIA releases new platform for mini-notebooks

Taipei (Taiwan) – On Tuesday, VIA released a new ultra-compact reference mainboard design called VIA Surfboard C855. It houses their C7-M ULV CPU, a new VX855 unified IGP chipset, advanced multimedia and connectivity, and is targeted specifically at the 10″ to 12″ low-power mini-notebook category.

The C855 reference design was unveiled at the VIA Global Mobility Bazaar Tech Forum in Shenzhen, China. This event traditionally brings together PC manufacturers and partners focused on creating products for the affordable, power-efficient low-end of mini-notebook space.

VIA is a long-time producer of alternate x86 CPUs for the extreme low-end. Prior to Intel’s 45nm technology, VIA’s CPUs could compete very well on power savings. Today, they can compete but typically use more power. VIA’s C7-M comes with several power saving modes and the ability to change clock frequency on-the-fly in a single clock cycle (Intel CPUs take 2,000 clock cycles to switch frequencies). This allows VIA’s motherboard monitor to have much higher granularity in clock speed switches without sacrificing any performance.

VIA’s C855 Reference Design specs:

Processor 1.6 GHz VIA C7-M ULV, 800 MHz FSB
Chipset VIA VX855 Media System Processor
Display Internal 1366 x 768
External 1920 x 1440
Graphics VIA Chome9 HCM IGP
2D/3D accelerator
512 MB shared memory
Memory One SO-DIMM, DDR2 667/800, 2G GB max
Storage 2.5″ 9.5mm SATA HDD
1.8″ PATA HDD (ZIF Connector)
Mouse Touch pad, left/right buttons
Audio Codec Vinyl VT1702S
Ethernet RJ45, Rhine VT6107 10/100
Controller ITE8502E
Card Reader 3-in-1, ITE IT1337E / Genesys GL827S
Web Camera VGA 0.3 Megapixel USB
WLAN VT6656, 802.11b/g
USB 2 ports, optional USB hub
Battery 24.4Wh (351P) 3.6V x 2.2AH x 3 Cells, 10.8 volts
48.8Wh (352P) 3.6V x 2.2AH x 6
Cells, 10.8 volts
DC Jack AC 110-240V, DC 24V @ 40 watts
Audio Jack Mic-in, HP-out
Mini-PCIE 2 sockets, USB interface only
SIM Card Reader Optional 3G module

The system uses VIA’s C7-M ULV (ultra low voltage) CPU, which includes this family:

Clock Speed FSB TDP (max)
1.6 GHz 800 MHz 8 watts
1.6 GHz 400 MHz 7.5 watts
1.5 GHz 400 MHz 7.5 watts
1.2 GHz 800 MHz 5 watts
1.2 GHz 400 MHz 5 watts
1.0 GHz 400 MHz 3.5 watts

VIA C7 CPUs come with a built-in hardware random number generator, part of their Advanced Cryptography Engine (ACE), which includes five software accessible modes through x86 assembly instructions not found on Intel or AMD CPUs: 1) Electronic CookBook, 2) Cipher Block Chaining, 3) 128-bit Cipher FeedBack, 4) Counter and 5) 128-bit OutputFeedback. The system offers a sustained throughput of 22 Gigabits per second on encryption, and 40 Gigabits per second on decryption operations. This hardware feature produces true random numbers and is not replicable.

See VIA’s press release, C855 page and C7-M page. VIA has a 64-bit CPU coming out later this year which is socket compatible with C7-M, called Nano (to compete with Intel’s Atom).