Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back again with some time to post. There's been some interesting news I'd like to cover.

First, Apple introduced new products at MacWorld. The most controversial product was the MacBook Air, the thinnest notebook shipping today (maybe, the thinnest ever). I found the Air made too many compromises to be anything but an executive toy. I know something about sub-notebooks having owned a Fujitsu P2040 with the Transmeta Crusoe processor and an having recently purchased an ASUS Eee PC. Both of those laptops made compromises, but Apple chose the style, keyboard, and larger display over flexibility, connectivity, and expandability. While I will wait until I see one in person before casting my final opinion, I can't imagine that the one USB port on the Air is in any way sufficient for external mic/headset, wired Ethernet, external storage, etc. Beside, the Air turns out to be Apple's slowest notebook and is using Intel's older 65nm processor, not the latest 45nm Penryn processor.

The other big news (as far as I'm concerned) is the announcement of VIA's "Isaiah" processor (also known as the CN processor). This is a major leap forward for VIA's Centaur design team. The processor had been announced at the 2004 Fall Microprocessor Forum, back when I was still at Microprocessor Report. Glenn Henry announced the design at the 2004 Fall MPF and gives a detailed description at

In looking over the wafer pictures, I figure the die is about 65mm2 in size, larger
than I thought it would be in 2004, but then I didn't expect VIA to put a 1MB L2 cache on die. I also expected VIA would put an on-die memory controller in the design, but they did not. I guess VIA prefers a clean division of labor - processors in Texas and chipsets in Taiwan.

Overall the processor looks interesting, splitting the difference between the Core 2 processors (Penryn is 107mm2) and the upcoming UMPC/MID processor Silverthorne (at 25mm2). Performance should be right in the middle of those two Intel processor families. The question is: is there enough room for VIA to operate or is it too tight a squeeze.

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