Via chipset gives notebooks a shot in the DDR

AMD-based laptops will get fast DDR memory for the first time, speeding up system performance. At the same time, Via postpones its chip for Internet appliances
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Via Technologies on Wednesday launched the first chipset to let laptop computers use the high-speed memory standard Double Data Rate DRAM, running at 266MHz. The new chipset will allow for mobile systems with faster overall system performance, without appreciably adding to system cost.

At the same time, Via said it will delay the launch of its "Matthew" processor, aimed at very low-cost devices like set-top boxes and Internet appliances.

The ProSavageDDR KN266 mobile chipset, which is compatible with AMD Athlon and Duron processors, follows on from a Via's P4X266 chipset, which brought DDR to desktop systems based on Intel's Pentium 4 processor earlier this year. Intel won't release a DDR chipset for desktop PCs until January, and is suing Via over its Pentium 4 chipset. AMD desktop machines can already use DDR memory.

Most laptops are restricted to 133MHz SDRAM memory, which can limit overall speed for systems with fast processors. Via claims the new chipset can speed up the operation of office applications by up to 33 percent, compared with the previous generation of chipset.

The new ProSavage includes graphics technology from S3 Graphics, a Via subsidiary, to eliminate the need for a separate graphics card. Via says the chipset is optimised for video applications like DVD playback.

Via said separately it will delay manufacturing the long-planned integrated chip "Matthew" until the fourth quarter of next year, citing an immature market and quality verification problems. The "system on a chip" (SoC) was originally to be launched early this year, and its delay follows the cancellation of Intel's planned integrated chip, Timna.

Both Timna and Matthew are aimed at low-cost, "integrated" digital devices like set-top boxes, Internet appliances, gaming machines and home servers.

Via on Tuesday launched an embedded platform called Eden, which uses the Via Apollos PLE133 processor, ProSavage PN133T north bridge and VT8231 south bridge to offer a low-power option for many embedded systems. The north bridge and south bridge are chipset components, used to connect the processor to other parts of the system, like memory.

Via says that Eden will also be developed in system-on-chip form, which involves integrating all the elements into a single, highly efficient unit, but says that for now the flexibility of a multi-component system is more useful to customers.

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