For the past several podcasts (thanks to those folks for listening) we have lamented the fact that we have seen so few VIA Nano based products on the market.  The CPU has been out for 9+ months now, and the promise and potential of these products was nearly unlimited considering how netbooks and low power/inexpensive PCs are some of the fastest growing markets in the PC industry.  While a few manufacturers have adopted the VIA Nano, it has been pretty unspectacular when considering uptake and media coverage.

While browsing through Newegg today, I did happen to spot a brand new item.  JetWay has released a VIA Nano based Mini-ITX motherboard using the VIA VX800 chipset.  While certainly this will not power through the latest 3D games, the performance of the combination supposedly can decode HD content.  The VIA Nano is running at 1.6 GHz and its performance is widely compared to a single core Core 2 product in terms of IPC (though it is overall slower per clock, its power consumption is lower).  The VX800 chipset is based on the S3 Chrome9 graphics, and it has the ability to offload and decode H.264 and VC-1 content.  While it is a DX9 compliant part, it is certified as Vista Basic, so I am guessing it just doesn’t have the horsepower to handle Vista Aero very well.

You too can Buy a Nano! - Processors 2

A couple of interesting observations… I thought the VX800 chipset was a two chip affair, but it appears to only have one actual chip.  There are two heatsinks, and looking at the back of the PCB I am seeing only two areas where two large chips are mounted.  These chips are obviously the VX800 and the Nano.  Again, I was unaware that the VX800 was a “all-in-one” type product.  The Parallel port seems somewhat odd, especially considering how much space is available on the Mini-ITX backplane.  One would have assumed that they would have put some kind of DVI or HDMI output instead of just VGA.  It does not appear as though the VX800 is HDCP compliant, which explains the lack of a DVI or HDMI port for protected content.  It also features a single DDR-2 667 DIMM slot, with a maximum allowed density of 2 GB.  So, hopping up to 4 GB or higher is not going to happen with this product.

Overall this looks like it would be a nice product as a basic home server for files and digital media.  It could also do very well as the basis for a simple productivity machine for email and office work.  I’m guessing the power consumption on this board is going to be very similar to what Ryan saw last year when he tested the Nano, so it is going to be quite low.  Considering how many uses imaginative users have found for the earlier VIA CPUs and chipsets in the Mini-ITX form facto, this could be a very popular product for modders everywhere.  The additional performance that the Nano brings to the table will also be quite welcome in many of these imaginative applications.

It is very good to see Nano products available to end users, and hopefully this means we will start to see more Nano based products hitting the scene.  The Intel Atom needs some competition, and now that AMD has also announced their single core Athlon 64 derivative for the lower power market, we should see some nice products coming out from a variety of sources.  Another good aspect about this is hopefully it will put more pressure on Intel to open up their Atom infrastructure more than what they have now.  We all were hoping that NVIDIA would partner with VIA for an Ion-like product based around the Nano, and hopefully that will still come to fruition.  Unfortunately, my gut feeling is that NVIDIA will stick primarily with Atom.  Which is obviously disappointing.  The Nano does not pull all that much more power than the Atom, and it certainly performs better in the vast majority of applications and benchmarks.  As per usual, only time will tell.