OLPC laptop drops AMD for Via

As part of a wider hardware refresh, the XO laptop for education in developing countries will get a Via C7-M instead of an AMD Geode processor
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The One Laptop per Child project's XO laptop will switch to a Via processor as part of a general hardware refresh.

Generation 1.5 of the XO machine will have the same industrial design as the original model, but will use a Via C7-M processor, John Watlington, OLPC's vice president of hardware development, wrote in a post on Friday. Currently the XO, which is aimed at educational markets in developing countries, uses an AMD Geode processor.

"The design goal is to provide an overall update of the system within the same ID and external appearance," Watlington wrote. "In order to maximise compatibility with existing software, this refresh will continue with an x86 processor, using a chipset from Via."

XO Generation 1.5 will arrive in November, OLPC chief Nicholas Negroponte told ZDNet UK on Monday. He said the shift to the Via chip came about because AMD had discontinued its low-power processor.

Watlington said the refresh was separate from the 'Gen 2.0' project, in which OLPC will switch to an ARM-based, instead of x86-based, processor. The first of the XO 2.0 laptops will launch in early 2011, Negroponte said.

In the XO Generation 1.5 refresh, the memory of the XO will be boosted from 256MB to 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM. Its flash storage will go up from 1GB to 4GB, with an option for 8GB.

The Via processor will have a clock range from 400MHz to 1GHz, resulting in power consumption of 1.5W to 5W, Watlington said. It will be integrated into the XO as part of Via's new VX855 chipset, which will also boost the XO's audio and video performance, he added.

While the revised XO will use the existing display, the OLPC is working with screen designer PixelQi to improve its brightness and efficiency, Watlington wrote. The new machine will also require an update to the OLPC software in order to support the new hardware, he said.

Watlington said early versions of the new hardware will be released for driver development at the end of May, with more prototypes coming out for software development and testing "around the end of August".

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