Via aims for 2GHz processors

Taiwanese chip supplier Via Technologies is to increase the speed of its processors to 2GHz.

Taiwanese chip supplier Via Technologies is to increase the speed of its processors to 2GHz.

Via plans to introduce 2GHz versions of its low-power C3, Eden and Antaur processor lines, with the first 2GHz chips to enter production during the second half of this year, said Steven Lee, head of Via's Embedded Platform Division.

The fastest processor available from Via runs at a clock speed of 1.4GHz and is produced using a 130-nanometer process by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC).

To reach clock speeds of 2GHz and higher, Via will shift some processor production from TSMC to IBM's Microelectronics division, said Wenchi Chen, president and chief executive officer of Via.

The faster chips will be produced using a 90-nanometer process and SOI (Silicon On Insulator) technology at IBM's 300mm chip fabrication plant in New York.

TSMC will remain Via's most important foundry partner and will continue to produce PC chipsets and Via's existing processors. However, the company decided to work with IBM to produce its next generation of processors, codenamed Esther, because of IBM's industry-leading expertise with SOI technology.

"We think SOI will be a big help for producing future low-power processors," Chen said.

Via said IBM's 90-nanometer process technology can boost chip performance by up to 30% by facilitating the faster movement of electronic signals through the chip.

The use of IBM's SOI technology, which uses an insulator such as silicon oxide to a silicon wafer in order to insulate the circuit against power leakage, reduces electronic leakage within the chip, resulting in an additional performance increase of between 25% to 30% while reducing power consumption.

Via is seeing strong demand for its processors, which are typically found in low-end computers and embedded applications, such as home media centres, Lee said. Demand for some of the company's processors, such as the 1GHz chip, are expected to see growth of more than 100% this year.

This rapid growth in demand will "absolutely" drive Via's processor business into the black this year for the first time, Lee said.

Sumner Lemon writes for IDG News Service

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