Via's Nano processor tops Intel's Atom in first reviews

Reviewers say Via's Nano processor outperforms Intel's Atom.

Performance comparisons of Via Technologies' Nano processor and Intel's Atom chip conducted by several hardware-enthusiast sites this week confirmed what many industry observers have long suspected: the Taiwanese processor company has produced a chip that outperforms Intel's offering for low-cost computers.

"Both the VIA Nano and Intel Atom processors and platforms have their own positives and drawbacks but it was really the Via Nano L2100 processor that impressed me the most," wrote Ryan Shrout, editor-in-chief of PC Perspective, in a review of the two processors.

"Coming from a very small CPU design team here in the US, the Isaiah architecture is able to outperform Intel's similarly priced and placed Atom processor while offering a much more open platform design," he wrote.

Shrout's verdict was echoed by reviewers at HardOCP and HotHardware, which also found Via's new processor had more processing muscle than Intel's Atom.

"I have to admit, I expected the Via Nano to come out on top given its superscalar out of order architecture, but I did not expect the Intel Atom to take such an overall beating," wrote Kyle Bennet, managing editor of HardOCP's motherboard and CPU site, in a summary of his findings. "The Nano looks like a power efficient version of the Pentium 4 while the Atom looks like a power efficient version of the VIA C7."

All of the reviewers used similar desktop systems to compare the processors. The Nano-based system was a prototype Mini-ITX motherboard with a 1.8GHz Nano L2100 processor, which was compared with an Intel D945GCLF Mini-ITX motherboard with a 1.6GHz Atom 230 processor.

While the Nano's slightly higher clock speed may give the chip an edge over the Atom, that alone wasn't enough to compensate for the performance gap between the processors.

"While the VIA Nano L2100 processor we tested had a 200MHz, or 12.5 percent, higher clock frequency than the 1.6GHz Atom 230, it typically outperformed the Atom by more than 15 percent to 20 percent in the applications we tested," wrote HotHardware's Marco Chiapetta in a review.

Via has been shipping Nano processors to hardware makers since May. Boards based on the chip are expected to arrive in August, with the first Nano-based systems planned to ship during the fourth quarter.

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