Via enters 0.13-micron race

Intel and AMD have a serious contender in the latest speed race

VIA Technologies jumped on the 0.13-micron processor bandwagon Tuesday.

The Taiwan-based chip and chip set maker announced plans to base a future generation of VIA Cyrix processors, expected next year, on a new 0.13-micron process from its manufacturing partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

The new manufacturing process will be an important piece of the puzzle for VIA as the company moves its low-cost Cyrix processor forward. The process, dubbed CL013LV, will allow VIA Cyrix chips to hit higher clock speeds and at the same time reduce their power consumption.

"TSMC has clearly demonstrated that it is ahead of the curve with its state-of-the-art process technology," said VIA's chief executive Wenchi Chen in a prepared statement. "Through our close partnership with them, VIA will be the first company in the world to launch a CPU using an advanced 0.13-micron process onto the market."

VIA's first 0.13-micron chips are expected to be based on a future processor core called C5C, which is due next year, the company said recently. The planned C5C clock speeds will range from 733MHz to about 867MHz. The C5C core will begin sampling in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of next year. VIA expects to ramp 0.13-micron chips based on C5C into volume production, starting next summer, said Paul Ayscough, vice president of marketing for VIA company S3.

Taiwan Semiconductor announced Tuesday that it had delivered silicon wafers based on CL013LV to VIA, a major milestone in the development of the process. VIA in turn, said it had verified the functionality of the wafers. In the manufacturing process, wafers are printed with circuits and then divided to create individual chips. The CL013LV process, according to Taiwan Semiconductor, is about 72 percent smaller than its current 0.18-micron manufacturing process.

VIA joins Intel and AMD in the 0.13-micron migration. Both Intel and AMD recently announced plans to convert to the new process. Intel, which recently produced sample Pentium III chips based on its 0.13-micron process, dubbed P860, aims to make the conversion by mid-2001.

AMD officials said recently that the company is installing 0.13-micron technology at its plant in Dresden, Germany. It plans to ship a variety of 0.13-micron Athlon and Duron chips starting in the first quarter of 2002.

See Chips Central for daily hardware news, including interactive roadmaps for AMD, Intel and Transmeta.

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