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VIA Nano CPU Benchmarked, Beats Intel Atom

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the hoping-for-even-cheaper-subnotebooks dept.

Portables 279

Vigile writes "Back in May, when the Isaiah architecture was first disclosed, VIA declared a performance victory over Intel's upcoming Silverthorne technology. Since then, Isaiah has become the VIA Nano processor, and Silverthorne changed to the Intel Atom — and now we can finally see tests comparing the two technologies. The Nano's out-of-order super-scalar design is definitely an architectural leap over the Atom's in-order single-issue design, but with Intel including HyperThreading technology in their CPU the competition is closer than expected. The Nano does win the performance tests by a considerable margin, but what might be more impressive is seeing the Atom use only 4 watts of power under full load!" As reader Mierdaan points out, that's 4 watts more than at idle, for about 60 watts total.

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Misleading title? (5, Insightful)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390605)

Seems to me that the title is getting across the wrong message. These processors are meant to be placed in ultraportables, where battery life is a MAJOR factor. In that sense, the atom easily beat out the nano here, seeing as they used 4 watts and 18 watts respectively on a full load.
With that amount of difference in power required, it's pretty obvious the nano would beat the atom, but that's like saying a smart car with a V8 is going to beat one with a V4 when it comes to speed (except they should have been testing efficiency, where the V4 blows the other out of the water)

Re:Misleading title? (5, Informative)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390801)

Well yes and no. Did you read the part where they measured total power expended to accomplish various tasks? Burning more power is OK if you can finish the job faster and get back into a low power state. When that is factored in the contest is a bit closer. Of course if the Nano does run for long it is going to bake your lap more than the Atom and drain the battery a lot faster.

Looking at the photos makes it plain where the problem now lies, the northbridge. If Intel can get theirs under control they will totally dominate the low power business. But since the Nano draws so much more power a low power northbridge won't help them as much, which bodes ill for the future. Intel has a lot more room for improvement while Via would have to pull a major rabbit out of their hat to cut much off their current power consumption numbers.

And for small computers that aren't running on batteries but do need to be fairly cool (i.e. quiet) the Nano will be the hands down winner just because Intel is playing marketing games.

Re:Misleading title? (3, Interesting)

Steve Max (1235710) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391533)

Remember that the boards are using an ultra-fast and ultra-power-hungry HD.

Imagine that the HD uses 20W during the test. If the Atom takes 120s to complete it, that's 240 joules of the total that come from the HD; if the Nano takes 60s, that's 120 joules from the HD. My point is that, if you use a low power device, both lines would go down by the same amount, so the integral for the Atom would go down by more than the one for the Nano. This effect could be big enough to make the Atom more attractive.

Unfortunately, they decided to use a power hog to test the energy use of low power systems, making their test very flawed and, therefore, unreliable. I'll wait for a better test before making any conclusion.

Re:Misleading title? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391855)

Correlating these into duty cycles, it's dependent on the design of the device and its usage profile with the duty cycles as to how much the overall design consumes power.

If you extract the base design, the numbers for Nano are very good and should be lauded. Now it's time to reduce the transaction cycles of peripheral devices and complete the chain of efficient design.

Re:Misleading title? (5, Insightful)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390865)

I4. There are very few V4 engines, probably because it wouldn't be any more balanced than an inline 4 configuration, but would require much greater complexity. You could make a V4 shorter than an I4, which is why it's used extensively in motorcycle, but it'll cost much more to design and build.

You're bang on though. An Intel Extreme quad-core will eat a Via Nano for breakfast. You could probably emulate the Via Nano faster on the Intel Extreme quad-core than the Via will even go. The thing is, the Nano will last for an hour on the energy the Intel Extreme quad-core will use in a minute.

Re:Misleading title? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391395)

Any 90 degree V configuration of two cylinders is going to have better reciprocating mass balance than any inline configuration of two cylinders.

So a V4 (assuming 90 degree V) is going to exhibit better mass balance than an inline 4. It is purely the complexity issue where an inline 4 wins.

A V configuration averages mass acceleration rates between the two cylinders. While one piston is at the point of minimum velocity (standing still) and entering an acceleration phase, the other piston is at a point of maximum velocity and entering a deceleration phase. The energy transfers between the pistons, leaving the combustion process purely to drive torque to the crank. If you draw this out schematically, you will find this velocity/acceleration relationship throughout the rotation of the crank.

This is good for two things. 1) smoothness and 2) responsiveness to throttle input at high RPM. At high RPM the acceleration rates are much higher because of the higher peak piston speeds, and the torque reaction to the acceleration cycle begins to compete with the torque generated by the combustion process, reducing the responsiveness of the engine to throttle changes. It becomes a signal to noise problem.

This is probably less of an issue for your "daily beater" but can make a difference in competition driving.

Yamaha did some excellent investigation work on this where they fitted an inline 4 engine with an offset crank so that the mass velocity cycle mimicked that of a V4. The were other issues that they had to do to make it work in inline 4 format, but the results were very good.

Re:Misleading title? (4, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390875)

Well, for something like that, you want several benchmarks - actual performance per actual watt, effective performance per usable watt, and mean wattage consumed under stress. In other words, what performance will you get per watt of power actually consumed, what performance do you get per watt consumed over idle, and if you really push the processor to do the absolute maximum it is physically capable of (in terms of MIPS, FLOPS and as many other metrics as you care to use) what wattage can you actually get it to consume on average? (Peak usage isn't necessarily useful if it's not sustainable.)

Re:Misleading title? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391259)

4 Watts? Wait.. doesn't a ARM Cortex-A8 only use 300 mW?

Re:Misleading title? (2, Informative)

wren337 (182018) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391385)

I hate to actually read the article and then post, but the article makes it clear that the VIA Nano uses less power to perform the benchmark tests than the Intel chip, by taking slightly more power and finishing much faster. Running with 10% less wattage and taking 30% longer to complete is no savings.

[QUOTE]
For our MP3 encoding test, the VIA Nano processor used a total of 37,323 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy while the Intel Atom processor used 38,290 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy.
[/QUOTE]

Re:Misleading title? (2, Interesting)

frieko (855745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391489)

I'm a little confused here. My full-sized Centrino laptop draws 22 watts at idle and 38 watts at full load. That includes the LCD. How are either of these an improvement?

Almost had me going there... (5, Informative)

Rayeth (1335201) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390633)

The atom doesn't use 4 watts under full load. It just used 4 extra watts. I knew that was too good to be true.

Re:Almost had me going there... (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390855)

The atom doesn't use 4 watts under full load. It just used 4 extra watts. I knew that was too good to be true.

Even so, I'm kinda hoping the processor doesn't pull more than a Watt while idle. Otherwise it'd be extremely wasteful compared to other processors.

Re:Almost had me going there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391279)

A watt while idle? As in a single watt?
Try 60.

Re:Almost had me going there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391341)

Next time, try understanding the difference between a processor and a computer.

Re:Almost had me going there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391599)

The specs for Atom N230 say that it is indeed 4W http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Atom_microprocessors

Re:Almost had me going there... (2, Informative)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391305)

They don't break out the CPU power usage - those figures are for the **entire computer**.

Idle Nano=59.2 Atom=56.4

Load Nano=77.5 Atom=60.1

If we assume that the bulk of the load vs idle power difference is due to CPU power usage, then we have the Atom using approx. 4W more under load, and the Nano using 18W more.

Whatever it's total power draw, the Atom is evidently much more miserly.

Re:Almost had me going there... (1)

ameyer17 (935373) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391679)

60 watts? That's not that impressive. The CeleronM-based EEEPCs (70x, 900, and either the 904 or the 905, I'm too lazy to check) pull about 25 watts while charging[1].

[1]Shamelessly stolen from http://forum.eeeuser.com/viewtopic.php?id=22855 [eeeuser.com]

Re:Almost had me going there... (4, Insightful)

idealego (32141) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391321)

That's the difference in power consumption between idle and load of the ENTIRE SYSTEM, as is clearly stated at the top of the chart.

The TDP on the most power hungry atom is only 4 watts.

Intel needs to pair the atom with an efficient chipset. Unfortunately any of the chipsets Intel currently has available to pair with the atom look like power hogs next to the atom.

Re:Almost had me going there... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391813)

Intel has a low power chipset: Poulsbo http://softwarewiki.intel.com/mid/Poulsbo. This is marketed together with Atom Z5nn series as Menlow platform for handheld devices (MID - Mobile Internet Device).

TDP for Atom Z5nn is even lower: 0.65 - 2.5W http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Atom_microprocessors#MID_processors_.28UMPC.29

Not a fair power comparison (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391515)

The board that Intel is currently selling is paired with a 945G *desktop* chipset. Probably to get it out of the door and reduce stock. That chipset uses 22 watts while the cpu uses 4 watts. When Intel finishes their Atom chipset, there should be a considerable difference between the two as far as power consumption goes.

The chart shows 60 watts (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390643)

How do you get 4 out of that? It's that danged new math, I tell ya!

Re:The chart shows 60 watts (5, Informative)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390815)

The 60 watts is what the entire system is using. That includes the hard drive, the RAM, psu, mobo, etc etc.
They get the 4 watts from observing that when idle the system is at 56 watts, but when at a full load it meanders over to the 60.1 watt range.

60-56 = 4

The problem (4, Insightful)

John Meacham (1112) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391011)

The problem is that they don't know how much of that idle load is due to the CPU. You don't know whether that 4 watt difference is due to an efficient high power mode, or a really inefficient low power mode.

for instance, the nano might be 1 watt unloaded and 19 watts fully loaded, while the atom might be 20 watts unloaded and 24 watts loaded. This is clearly not the case, but would be consistent with the results.

Re:The problem (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391117)

> while the atom might be 20 watts unloaded and 24 watts loaded
Just about right, the i945 Northbridge has a TDP of 22W, which kills the Atom's power efficiency.

Uhmmm... measurements? (2, Informative)

autocracy (192714) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390651)

It seems they may be measuring the whole system load in comparing the efficiency of the processors, which is more than a little unfair. What sticks out more, though are numbers like "63,434 watts". Uhmm... no? Besides being a clearly invalid measurement, it should probably be expressed at watt-hours. No way either machine drew 63 kilowatt hours either.

TFA is broken.

Re:Uhmmm... measurements? (5, Insightful)

eddy (18759) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390777)

>It seems they may be measuring the whole system load in comparing the efficiency of the processors

I think that's more fair as it's what's relevant to me as a customer of the end product; the computer.

Problem with the Atom side is that the chipsets used are crappy and use more than twice the energy of the CPU itself. So while the CPU might look great on paper, the actual products that use it does not have the fantastic battery times that you'd like (10h+)

These CPUs should be compared together with a viable chipset and memory subsystem combination. Add that up and there's the number you're interested in.

Re:Uhmmm... measurements? (1)

Lord Pillage (815466) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391025)

It's probably Europe based. A lot of European countries use "," in place of "." and "." in place of ",". Thus, 63,434 watts = 63.434 watts which makes a little more sense.

Re:Uhmmm... measurements? (1)

muszek (882567) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391619)

Don't know about others from the "a lot" group, but in Poland we use "," instead of ".", as in "Pi is approximately equal to 3,14159". Sometimes it can be a major PITA, when you get some data in one format and have to manually convert it to the other, so that it's recognized as a number.

We don't use anything instead of your use of ",", though. American "I have 1,000,000 pencils" would be "I have 1000000 pencils" or "I have 1 000 000 pencils".

Re:Uhmmm... measurements? (1)

LehiNephi (695428) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391755)

[H]ard|OCP is actually based in Dallas, so the comma is indeed a thousands separator. However, the unit is watt-seconds (Joules), not watts, so it's still correct.

Re:Uhmmm... measurements? (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391243)

What sticks out more, though are numbers like "63,434 watts". Uhmm... no? Besides being a clearly invalid measurement, it should probably be expressed at watt-hours.

Well, no; a watt-hour is a measurement of energy, being one watt (a joule per second) applied over one hour. It's precisely equivalent to 3600 joules. If you want to measure power, that is, the rate of energy consumption, then watts are the right unit.

(Although I wish people would just use joules and joules per second instead; it would save all this confusion. At least it's better than the motor industry, who have decided that watts are insufficiently confusing and have opted for horsepower instead, each of which are equivalent to approx. 746 joules per second. Sigh.)

(And besides, the article actually said 63434 watt-seconds --- i.e., one joule per second applied for one second, i.e. one joule. So why they didn't say so in the first place I don't know.)

Re:Uhmmm... measurements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391313)

You don't think they mean 63.434 watts? The comma is used instead of a point in French for example.

Re:Uhmmm... measurements? (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391783)

no, I thought about that too, but common laptops use in the 60+ watt range, so if you are talking ultra-portable it would be much lower. A single core macbook pro for instance uses 19-55 watts, so david.given's explanation makes sense. If you take the 63434 watt-seconds / 3600 (watt hour) = ~17.6, which would be more in line with expecting a peak of 4 watts higher or ~21.6. I recall that the preview announcements claimed these systems would draw about 22 watts, and that is almost dead on, even with rounding error. That means if this processor were used instead of a core solo it would almost double the battery life (screen size, wireless, etc. aside).

Wait for the next generation (4, Interesting)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390693)

If you're not in a rush to get one of the Atom/Nano based computers, wait for the next generation. Although both CPU:s are excellent in performance, the next iterations will bring two cores and far better efficiency.

The first generation of any product line is usually fairly rushed and experimental. That does not mean the product itself is bad, but we should expect a big jump from the next generation.

Re:Wait for the next generation (2, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390789)

The current generation of any product line is usually fairly rushed and experimental. That does not mean the product itself is bad, but we should expect a big jump from the next generation.

fixed it for ya

Re:Wait for the next generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391297)

In other words, never ever buy a computer.

Re:Wait for the next generation (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391731)

If you're not in a rush to get one of the Atom/Nano based computers, wait for the next generation

Although the Nano represents a new chip series for Via, they have dominated the "ultra low power x86 PC-class" market for almost a decade now. I wouldn't, therefore, call it a fair comparison to call them both a first gen-chip. The Atom, yes. The Nano... To put it in terms more familiar to an Intel-dominated market, the Nano as a "first gen" more closely resembles the P3 vs the P2... Same basic core with a few modest improvements and running at a higher clock.

The FP post provides a simple example of my point:


that's 4 watts more than at idle, for about 60 watts total.

...While I currently run two VIA-based systems at home that consume notable less than that combined when running flat-out.

A truly low-power (yet entirely usable) system depends on more than just an efficient CPU. If your chipset and GPU and RAM each suck down more than the CP under load, you may as well splurge a bit on the Watts and go for a beefier CPU, because you'll never really see the difference in terms of battery life (or the AC equivalent, UPS runtime).

conspiracy (4, Funny)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390705)

And how does it stand up agains a 2.6Ghz Intel Quad Core? Seriously does anyone else see this conspiracy? They couldn't make any faster CPUs so they decided the best business decision was to start over at like 400 MHz and then pretend be making amazing speed increases all over again when really all they're improving is power efficiency a little. Maybe Microsoft should do the same thing and toss 7 out the window and make a Windows 3.1 clone and then go to a 95 clone and soon they'll be back at an incredible re-release of XP!

Re:conspiracy (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390895)

Whatever they have to do to get back to XP is fine with me. In fact I was happy with 98SE for a LONG time there.

Re:conspiracy (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391499)

In fact I was happy with 98SE for a LONG time there.

Seconded. 98 + Firewall (even just an incoming hardware firewall) was fine. If I'd had firefox all along instead of IE then I probably never would have had a virus in Windows at all (I only started using Windows around 1998). I only upgraded to XP because I wanted to play Lego Star Wars and it refused to install on 98SE (while stuff like Half-Life 2 was perfectly fine).

Re:conspiracy (3, Funny)

x2A (858210) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391119)

yeah, a 2.6Ghz Intel Quad Core would do great driving my smart phone... those 5 minute battery times and second degree burns to the hand just make talking to people or connecting to my ssh server from my phone a pure delight!

Erm... different job, different tools???

Re:conspiracy (2, Funny)

Wiseblood1 (1135095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391201)

Yes but at least you wouldnt get you hopes up like people did with vista

Re:conspiracy (0, Troll)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391229)

s/Insightful/Off-topic

When you don't know anything about the topic under discussion, it's better to just not say anything at all. Clearly I need to start doing meta-moderation again.

Re:conspiracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391241)

Not really. They're using new technology to re-invent low-end cpus. I'll bet the Atom and Nano processors are leaps ahead in power efficiency than a comparable clocked processor from a previous era.

To me it makes sense. Those fancy small transistors and design techniques are not just useful for your screaming 3GHz 130W processors.

Look at something like the ARM series. They haven't changed much [longer pipelines, few more instructions] over the years, but they have stepped down from 250nm to 90nm and below. All the while getting smaller and more power efficient. Nobody is arguing that.

So why is a 250nm to 45nm reduction in the Atom class of processors considered a money grab?

Interesting. (2, Interesting)

Blice (1208832) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390745)

Not long ago I only knew VIA as a chipset maker and a maker of chips for some other devices/things that weren't really "brand name" items.

But lately I see them getting more and more into the CPU business. They start pushing out their own motherboards, with their own processors, graphics chips, everything. Not only that, but their processors are beating Intels and their integrated graphics are on par with Intels!

I think it won't be long until we see some real desktop processors for other motherboards coming out- I mean VIA CPUs for ASUS, Foxconn, Supermicro, MSI, etc., competing at the same level with AMD and Intel... I think it's about time, too. We have this underdog who we buy because they're our favorites and not because they're better, still on 65nm processors while Intel has released 45nm and is getting ready to push out 35nm and 25nm- It's time we get some real choice. Maybe we can have a favorite company who also makes the better products. Choice is good.

Re:Interesting. (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390917)

Not long ago I only knew VIA as a chipset maker and a maker of chips for some other devices/things that weren't really "brand name" items. But lately I see them getting more and more into the CPU business.

Would you feel more comfortable with it if they went back to calling their CPU Cyrix?

Re:Interesting. (3, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390993)

Engadget (or was it Gizmodo?) made an interesting observation that it's "pin-compatible" with existing C7-M devices, so a whole lot of currently-dodgy VIA-based mini-notebooks, like the HP Mini-Note (which desperately needs to run cooler and longer) can make the transition very smoothly. Well played!

Re:Interesting. (5, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391039)

Via's been churning out processor's for years now - it's just that they don't target the average american desktop user. They make slower, cheaper, low power chips that were traditionally intended for very low cost computers sold in Asia (where in some of the poorer economies performance isn't so important as getting the cost down as low as possible), and now in mobile devices where the power consumption is a big issue.

I don't think you'll see Via competing with Intel and AMD in the mainstream desktop business anytime soon - that's a real but increasingly less important venue. People are replacing their computers less often these days (desktop processors have been "fast enough" for a good while now), and there is a big focus on mobile devices these days.

It certainly would be nice to bring back choice in desktop processors though. I remember way back when the Pentiums were on the scene, a customer generally had a choice between Intel, AMD, IDT, Rise, or Cyrix (sometimes marked IBM) processors. Further back in the 486 days you didn't have Rise or IDT but TI made x86 processors back then. The upside too was that back then, everything used the same motherboards/sockets, so going from one chip maker to another was trivial.

Re:Interesting. (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391811)

They make slower, cheaper, low power chips

Cheaper? Have you seen the price of EPIA boards lately? Atom boards seem to be a lot cheaper.

That was always the deal breaker with Via for me. The extra cost far exceeded any potential savings in electricity until you hit the five year on-time mark, compared to say an underclocked/undervolted Sempron or A64. It gets far worse if you want one of those expensive little EPIA cases and PSUs to go with it.

Re:Interesting. (1)

PIBM (588930) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391061)

Well, in '99 VIA bought Cyrix, which used to make reverse engineered 80386/80486 in the old time, so I guess it was to get out of via by now :)

Re:Interesting. (2, Insightful)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391275)

Not long ago I only knew VIA as a chipset maker and a maker of chips for some other devices/things that weren't really "brand name" items.

Methinks you are a young man, sir. VIA used to be much more relevant than they have been in the last few years. However, it is very pleasing to see them picking up again and standing against the competition.

VIA has become a real threat to Intel (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390851)

There's a clear future in little laptop machines that don't cost much and don't use much power, yet are powerful enough to do most of the things most users do with laptops. The low end x86 CPUs are finally good enough to power such machines.

The laptop manufacturers had a Detroit mentality of "more computer per computer". This kept laptop prices up and margins high. But, as it turns out, cramming enough CPU power into a laptop to run wind tunnel simulations isn't what users really need. Especially when the network connection is the bottleneck anyway. The actual uses for a 4-CPU laptop [youtube.com] are somewhat limited.

The flood of low-cost laptops has just started. The EE PC set off a race for the bottom. In a year or two, laptops will come in blister packs at the drugstore, in the section with the calculators, electronic dictionaries, and other office supplies. From here on, it's all about lowering margins. Intel and Microsoft will be squeezed hard on price.

Re:VIA has become a real threat to Intel (1)

SaDan (81097) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391135)

In a year or two, laptops will come in blister packs at the drugstore, in the section with the calculators, electronic dictionaries, and other office supplies.

This is pretty much already happening now that Target is selling EEEPC systems.

Target's Linux laptops (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391245)

Target is getting serious about Linux laptops. Looking under "Laptops", the first screen of "Featured items" has 3 colors of the EE PC, Linux version, and some HP laptop. The XP version of the EE PC costs $100 more.

It's a tie (2, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390869)

The 1.8GHz Nano setup gets about 25% more performance than the 1.6GHz Atom setup. However the Nano setup uses about 75W under load, while the Atom box uses about 60W. That's about 25% more power consumption/heat output. I imagine an Atom and a Nano setup of equal performance would use equal amounts of juice, or in other words this is a tie in terms of work-per-joule, which is what we're after in mobile processors.

What really bothers me is that the Atom setup seems to use as much power idle as under load. What's going on there? Did the benchmarkers forget to switch on power management or what?

Re:It's a tie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391073)

Chipset sucks it all up.

So... does any of these reviews benchmark the Via against the Atom in AES-256 performance with a padlock enabled openssl? :-)

Re:It's a tie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391295)

The current Atom chipset is an old one. There is supposed to be a new chipset, specifically designed for Atom, coming soon.

Re:It's a tie (4, Informative)

TopSpin (753) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391299)

I'd say it's rather far from a tie when you consider more than simply power consuption.

As the story points out Intel is restraining board designers from using desirable technology on the Atom platform. No PCI Express, no DVI, no second memory slot. Theory is "Intel appears to fear Atom will cannibalize its Celeron sales". Perhaps. I'll bet VIA is more than willing to cannibalize those sales if Intel is going to let them.

The reference board in this review is nice. There are two ethernet phys, one of which must be gigabit [via.com.tw] . Compact Flash, mini-PCI and PCI Express. Damn. I like that board. That is the perfect board for the small, quiet home server.

Re:It's a tie (2, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391469)

The 1.8GHz Nano setup gets about 25% more performance than the 1.6GHz Atom setup. However the Nano setup uses about 75W under load, while the Atom box uses about 60W. That's about 25% more power consumption/heat output. I imagine an Atom and a Nano setup of equal performance would use equal amounts of juice, or in other words this is a tie in terms of work-per-joule, which is what we're after in mobile processors.

The Intel board could be a lot better if they used mobile chipsets. I have an old Shuttle desktop system based on Intel mobile hardware (915GM chipset.) With a 2.13 GHz Pentium M, the system idled around 35w and peaked just over 51w.

Re:It's a tie (1)

naasking (94116) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391865)

I've read that the power guzzling northbridge+southbridge on the Nano's reference motherboard is the cause of the majority of the power consumption. I think they need a better reference board to truly showcase the Nano's abilities.

heh 32,000 watts of power?? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24390885)

someone seriously failed out of engineering school.

from TFA:

"For our MP3 encoding test, the VIA Nano processor used a total of 37,323 watts of power "

that's priceless.

morons.

Re:heh 32,000 watts of power?? (1)

Vigile (99919) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391019)

Yeah, sorry, that's been changed.

"For our MP3 encoding test, the VIA Nano processor used a total of 37,323 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy"

Better?

Re:heh 32,000 watts of power?? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391653)

I think he was more bothered about the comma. As others pointed out above, it's a cultural thing. Some places in Europe apparently use comma instead of period. Only some though, here in the UK we use period. How confusing.

Re:heh 32,000 watts of power?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391113)

It's called a frackin Joule Science get.

More benchmarks and analysis here - HotHardware (4, Informative)

MojoKid (1002251) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390905)

Re:More benchmarks and analysis here - HotHardware (2, Informative)

eddy (18759) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391221)

The Vantage AES test doesn't seem to use the AES instructions on the Nano.

That's like having a 3D Graphics test not use a 3D Graphics API. Pretty worthless. If you're a geek and you buy a CPU with padlock, you are going to use padlock-aware encryption an hashing libraries/applications. I know I do.

It's soooo frustrating seeing review after review missing this.

Another review at arstechnica.com... (4, Informative)

IYagami (136831) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390953)

...with the same findings.

http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/atom-nano-review.ars [arstechnica.com]

Re:Another review at arstechnica.com... (2, Informative)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391361)

Actually, the Ars findings were quite different. The Atom seems to be paired with a very power-hungry chipset, which dwarfs the processor's power draw. So, at the board-level, the Nano won on both performance AND power consumption!

Biggers news: PCMark 2005 skews memory tests (4, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391721)

Reading through that article, I found this [arstechnica.com] :

My my. Swap CentaurHauls for AuthenticAMD, and Nano's performance magically jumps about 10 percent. Swap for GenuineIntel, and memory performance goes up no less than 47.4 percent. This is not a test error or random occurance; I benchmarked each CPUID multiple times across multiple reboots on completely clean Windows XP installations. The gains themselves are not confined to a small group of tests within the memory subsystem evaluation, but stretch across the entire series of read/write tests. Only the memory latency results remain unchanged between the two CPUIDs.

Whoops! I wonder what they'll have to say about that...

x86-64? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390961)

Besides having more cache and higher FSB freqency, the Nano is also x86-64 [pcper.com] !
It's a nice thing indeed, but it'd be like comparing apples and pears.

Re:x86-64? (1)

Svenne (117693) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391021)

And the Atom has EM64T.

What?

Re:x86-64? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391067)

Like comparing apples and pears or, at your will, a Motorola 68000 and an Intel 80386. They are different, running different machine codes.

Re:x86-64? (3, Informative)

The Warlock (701535) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391149)

x86-64 and EM64T are the same instruction set.

Performance for full day battery life (2, Informative)

anss123 (985305) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390991)

The Atom is a bit on the slow side. Like using ARM chips for desktop computing; so why not simply use an ARM chip?

Still, if the Atom's paired with a super low powered chipset we might just finally have computers with more than 8 hours of battery life (while still being affordable/portable/small). Imagine taking your computer to work, and then leaving it on all day. A small detail, but makes a big difference.

The Nano is faster, but it also use about 8 watts more power (according to HardOCP [hardocp.com] ). Those 8 watts is a big deal when it comes to battery life, but OTOH Atom is quite a bit faster than even the fastest Atom. The difference being big enough that HardOCP stated that Vista on Nano was notably more resposive - notable enough to be picked up on in blind tests.

So perhaps Atom trades off too much performace...

Re:Performance for full day battery life (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391251)

The Atom is a bit on the slow side. Like using ARM chips for desktop computing; so why not simply use an ARM chip?

x86 compatibility reasons?

Re:Performance for full day battery life (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24391477)

x86 compatibility reasons?

Now why is this important today? I don't want or need x86 compatibility. Maybe it used to be the only game in town when Microsoft dictated CPU architecture but that isn't the case anymore.

What I want and need is power-sipping CPUs like MIPS or ARM in a laptop. Does anybody know what the hold-up is on this front?

Re:Performance for full day battery life (1)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391301)

I dunno... running CentOS on an Atom isn't terribly slow or disappointing. I could get by with it quite well if it meant 8-hour battery life.

The 4 watts comment (3, Informative)

Vigile (99919) | more than 6 years ago | (#24390999)

For those of you interested, the Atom CPU really DOES use just about 4 watts at load. The 60 watts number is for the entire system including power supply, motherboard, DVD-ROM, hard drive, etc. Idle power on both of these parts is measured in milli-watts so you can see how much power each uses under load by looking at the power consumption graphs on page 8:

http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=597&type=expert&pid=8 [pcper.com]

The gap between rest (on the far left) and load (middle) is much greater for the VIA Nano processor than the Intel Atom - in fact you can barely tell the Atom processor has changed wattage at all.

Re:The 4 watts comment (4, Informative)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391355)

Eliminating the hard drive and optical drive, the Atom board still draws 40-50 watts. On my board, I observe a 55-65 watt draw from the wall with just the board, which taking PSU losses into account, is about right.

The part that it entirely irking is that that board alone draws more than my entire laptop, which includes a Core Duo, hard drive and a *display*, for crying out loud. Not such a great way to show off a low-power CPU.

With only 4 more watts... (3, Funny)

kungfugleek (1314949) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391015)

I could have had a first post, too. :(

Wrong Benchmarks?? (3, Insightful)

weaver4 (1142985) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391045)

The real performance for this market should be: Processing Power per Watt and Processing Power per Dollar. Not which one has the most raw Processing Power.

explaination of energy efficiency (5, Informative)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391185)

The article writers don't seem to be very technical guys.

If we look at the energy efficiency, Atom hands Via it's bilblical arse.

Let's talk about Joules, the things a battery stores. Batteries are important. Especially for the target marget of these two CPUs. In fact, battery life is most likely THE most important factor in anything below a notebook.

Keep in mind a battery only has so many joules between charges, that's obvious, I know.

Now, an efficient architecture would only use as many joules as needed to get the job done in a timely manner. Joules per seconds are Watts, btw.

So lets look at how these two stack up in terms of Joule consumption and Performance based on this data...

The VIA requires about 17W of power to chug through MP3 encode, for about 460 seconds. That means the power supply had to deliver 17 * 460 = 7,820 joules.

Now the Atom crawled along 30% slower, about 600 seconds to complete. But it only needed a delivery rate of 4 J/s, so it ate 2,400 joules.

So for a 30% improvement in performance, VIA had to gobble down MORE THAN THREE TIMES the energy!

That means you could encode 3x as many MP3s on an atom, but it will take 30% longer. Imagine if this was an iPod. Who would trade 3x less battery life for such a tiny bump? That isn't something to brag about when you are targeting a market starving for battery life.

I'll be really surprised if Via goes anywhere other than a few cheap Asian design wins.

Re:explaination of energy efficiency (4, Informative)

CannedTurkey (920516) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391461)

And yet, in the PCper review that did the exact same comparison for mp3 encoding and cinebench encoding, the Via used 2.5 - 3 % less energy...

Re:explaination of energy efficiency (5, Insightful)

PetiePooo (606423) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391585)

The VIA requires about 17W of power to chug through MP3 encode, for about 460 seconds. That means the power supply had to deliver 17 * 460 = 7,820 joules.

Now the Atom crawled along 30% slower, about 600 seconds to complete. But it only needed a delivery rate of 4 J/s, so it ate 2,400 joules.

And now for the elephant in the room: Why are you encoding MP3s while you're running on batteries?

The normal workload for an ultra-portable running on batteries is not producing MP3s. Its outputting static screens to a beamer during a presentation, or surfing the "series of tubes" [washingtonpost.com] via the local WiFi spot between classes (or waiting for the plane). If you've got numbers or MP3s to crunch, save it for when you've got the thing plugged in, silly!

Assuming the average CPU loading is going to be a paltry 2-3% (essentially idle), you're looking at a very capable system using an average of somewhere around 61W vs. a less capable system using only 56W. The difference in battery time between those two is barely significant, which makes the increased potential performance of the Nano a big win in my book. When plugged in, the Nano is a passable desktop replacement. The Atom, not so much.

Re:explaination of energy efficiency (1, Informative)

smussman (1160103) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391609)

I know this is /. and we're not supposed to RTFA, but to quote:

For our MP3 encoding test, the VIA Nano processor used a total of 37,323 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy while the Intel Atom processor used 38,290 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy. That is a difference of just 2.5% indicating that even though the Atom processor is slower, it's not that much less efficient than VIA's Nano.

And later on the same page:

Using the same method to gauge the results of our CineBench 10 test, we find that the VIA Nano used 63,434 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy to render the scene while the Intel Atom used 65,893 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy - an advantage of 3.8% to the VIA CPU.

Re:explaination of energy efficiency (2, Informative)

cookie23 (555274) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391707)

I'm not sure where your getting this data but according to the article (http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=597&type=expert&pid=8) they do actually do as you suggest and measure the Joules:

For our MP3 encoding test, the VIA Nano processor used a total of 37,323 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy while the Intel Atom processor used 38,290 watt-seconds (Joules) of energy. That is a difference of just 2.5% indicating that even though the Atom processor is slower, it's not that much less efficient than VIA's Nano.

Via's Nano may use more power under load, but it finished fast enough to actually save energy over the Atom.

Re:explaination of energy efficiency (2, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391713)

Your measurements are correct if you look at the CPU and nothing else.

However, computers aren't made of just CPUs (at least not yet), so you must factor in the entire load of the computers, including the CPU, to get an accurate measure of power usage.

When you do that, guess which one wins? That's right, the VIA does, with about 3k fewer joules on an MP3 encode. AND it did it 30% faster.

Which would you choose? A slower machine that uses insignificantly more battery power? Or a faster machine that uses insignificantly less?

The time when the Atom will be a clear winner is when system power usage at idle drops to 25w or so. At that point the Atom, with its 4 extra watts, will only be using roughly 20% more power under full load, while the VIA, with its 17 extra watts, will be using around 80% more power. The tradeoff of 30% less power for 60-70% more battery life would be much easier to make than the current 30% less power for +-1% battery life.

So, while it's a step in the right direction, if it requires a power-hungry chipset then the advantage of the Atom completely disappears.

That Which We Call a Rose...? (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391247)

Back in May, when the Isaiah architecture was first disclosed, VIA declared a performance victory over Intel's upcoming Silverthorne technology. Since then, Isaiah has become the VIA Nano processor, and Silverthorne changed to the Intel Atom...

OK, let me see if I've got this straight. The VIA Isaiah beat out the Intel Silverthorne. Then the VIA Isaiah was renamed the Via Nano, and the Intel Silverthorne was renamed the Intel Atom. Now the VIA is still beating the Intel? So what you're telling me is that a name change has no effect on chip performance? Well, color me shocked!

Re:That Which We Call a Rose...? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391303)

OK, let me see if I've got this straight. The VIA Isaiah beat out the Intel Silverthorne. Then the VIA Isaiah was renamed the Via Nano, and the Intel Silverthorne was renamed the Intel Atom. Now the VIA is still beating the Intel? So what you're telling me is that a name change has no effect on chip performance?

Uh, no. I think you missed something:

Back in May, when the Isaiah architecture was first disclosed, VIA declared a performance victory over Intel's upcoming Silverthorne technology.

IOW, before they were concrete products that had been benchmarked, VIA made claims. Now there is a test substantiating those claims. The news is not the fact that the code names now have product names and nothing else has changed, its that there is now some evidence to point to in support of the claims.

Re:That Which We Call a Rose...? (2, Funny)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391511)

Well, color me shocked!

It's easy to say that in hindsight. But we know that having an "X" in one's name makes a thing faster (e.g. Xatom, Nanox) so the experiment had to be tried with changes less radical than doing that.

Isaiah sounds all biblical and stuff, and computer in biblical times were very, very slow (even slower than World War 2 computers), so it was thought that upgrading to a techie-sounding word might improve things, and "nano" is a very techie word (for a word without an "X" at least).

On the other hand, Silverthorne sounds like an internal code name, not nearly dumbed down enough for the mass market. Renaming it to "atom" not only sounds lamer, but implies it's from the "atomic age" (i.e. the 1950s).

By changing each name in an opposite direction, it was hypothesized that it might cause a performance delta on the order of adding an "X". So the experiment was run. Sure, now we know. But did you?

...Would Smell... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391939)

But we know that having an "X" in one's name makes a thing faster

One of my former clients, who was a paint manufacturer, told me that they used to sell off-white paint. One day one of their marketing people decided to call it "Antique Satin". Same paint, different name. It started flying off the shelves to the point where they were having problems keeping up with demand.

The biggest problem with the Atom... (2, Informative)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391283)

... is the chipset it's paired with. I recently bought an Intel motherboard with an Atom on it. Whilst the CPU is only 4-ish watts, the board draws around 40-50 watts. That's the board, not optical or hard drives.

That northbridge, with the non-power-optimized video card and memory controller, sucks up the juice. The heatsink on the northbridge is 4x larger than the one on the CPU. Furthermore, the heatsink on the northbridge has a fan, where the HS on the CPU has none.

In-order hyperthreading? (3, Interesting)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391337)

I took my graduate level architecture class from Dean Tullsen at UCSD, who invented 'hyperthreading' although it was called Symmetrical MultiThreading (SMT) back then. As I recall the entire greatness of the architecture was recognizing that all the fancy hardware introduced to allow out-of-order speculative execution could actually be leveraged to allow the processor to drive multiple independent threads at the same time, without much additional overhead. So if intel's atom (haven't been following it) uses an in-order core and hyperthreading that just don't make much sense. Anyone care to provide an explanation?

Re:In-order hyperthreading? (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391977)

So if intel's atom (haven't been following it) uses an in-order core and hyperthreading that just don't make much sense

I think single issue is an even more relevant problem. I can see how HT could help with an in-order dispatch dual issue core (the primary thread could execute the next two instructions if they were completely independent while the secondary thread could execute an instruction whenever the next two instructions in the primary thread weren't independent), but in terms of single issue... dunno.

I remember there was a processor in the early 80s (I can't remember whether it was a Cray or CDC processor, but it was one of those) that had two threads and dispatched instructions alternating between the threads so that it could have a deeper pipeline without waiting for dependencies. Perhaps that's what's going on?

Transmeta? (1)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391387)

I'm confused. Aside from it being over five years later, from a company that is not going out of business, how are either of these better than the Transmeta processors?

Viva VIA-gra! (1)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391407)

Call your doctor ...If you experience power surges greater than 4 watts.

-All generalizations are false, including this one.

'Only' 4 watts? (2, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391485)

Am I supposed to be impressed?

The new Cortex-A8 ARM processor [arm.com] consumes 300mW; less than a tenth that of the Atom. The Atom is marginly faster, but not much so --- the figures I've found show that a Cortex develops about 2.0 Dhrystone MIPS per MHz, vs about 2.4 for the Atom. Plus, the Cortex is a CPU core, not a discrete chip; most actual products couple it with an on-chip OMAP DSP engine, which is ideal for doing things like video encoding or decoding or OpenGL. With Atom you end up having to couple it with a dedicated GPU...

Re:'Only' 4 watts? (2, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391923)

Ok, now find me a mini-itx board with this ARM chip you speak of for about $70. Otherwise, there's no point in bringing this up.

Wake me up when Tegra joins the race (2, Interesting)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391689)

I think all of this will be moot when the nVidia Tegra devices come out. That will be when I break down and buy either a mini-laptop or a hand-held device.

Re:Wake me up when Tegra joins the race (1)

BrentH (1154987) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391949)

Uhmm, Tegra is an ARM. The whole point of these low power x86 chips is to bring, well, x86 compatibility to low power devices. Which, wether you like x86 from an architectural standpoint or not, has some obvious advantages.

Platform choice (4, Interesting)

Outland Traveller (12138) | more than 6 years ago | (#24391715)

I was liking both processors up until I found this gem in the article:

If there is egg to be thrown in anyone's face from this article, it is on Intel for its locking down of the Atom platform. Since Computex this year I have been hearing complaints from board vendors on the amount of restrictions Intel is putting on them for Atom products. Vendors are not allowed to build Atom motherboards with PCI Express, digital video outputs or more than one memory slot. VIA on the other hand is openly courting board manufacturers to put as much technology on a mini-ITX design as they can - as long as they DO build one!

Here we see Intel, up to its obnoxious "You'll use our technology only as we prescribe" games. This is the same philosophy that leisurely milked the market for 33Mhz CPU bumps every 6 months, while they sat on years worth of better technology, until AMD lit a fire under their ass.

Don't be fooled again.

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