[X]   Directory of
Guides & Reviews

Beginners Guides
Motherboards by Brand
Weekly Newsletter
Archived Newsletters

+70 MORE Beginner GUIDES....
VIA C7-M Processor Preview
VIA C7-M Processor Preview - PCSTATS
VIA has designed the C7-M with low power requirements and software security as the biggest areas of emphasis.
Filed under: CPU / Processors Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: VIA Aug 09 2005   M. Dowler  
Home > Reviews > CPU / Processors > VIA C7-M

While VIA is known more as a chipset manufacturer than anything else, the company has had its own line of x86-based processors for a while now. You might remember the company briefly reviving the 'Cyrix' processor brand back in 2000, before moving on to its own 'C3' processors a year later. While the C3 did not do particularly well in the marketplace, VIA's processors were notable for one major reason; they were (and are) extremely cool running and economical on power. One of the selling points of the original C3 was that it could be easily run using passive cooling only, and so it found some following for embedded-type applications.

VIA recently announced plans for another in the 'C' line of processors, this time dedicated to mobile use. The VIA C7-M is the mobile version of the C7 processor which was released in May of 2005. The VIA C7-M is slated to become available in November 2005 in speeds of 1.5GHz or 1.8GHz. During a recent briefing by the company, PCSTATS was shown the CPU in its A2 stepping.

Possibly aiming to fill the market gap left by the apparent demise of Transmeta as a processor manufacturer, VIA has designed the C7-M with low power requirements and software security as the biggest areas of emphasis. The company is targeting the VIA C7-M at almost every segment of the laptop market, though it won't directly compete with the high-powered Intel Pentium M and AMD Turion processors in full-size laptops on the benchmark front at least, power efficiency is another story altogether. According to the company, the only laptops not suitable for VIA C7-M processors are the 'luggables', large and heavy desktop-replacement laptops. Since these usually use desktop-style processors anyhow, this is not much of a surprise. Realistically, when the VIA C7-M is released later in the fall, the design wins it gets will really indicate what it's best suited for; at the moment we'd speculate ultra portables, and perhaps even a tablet PC.

The VIA C7-M is produced by Centaur, VIA's manufacturing subsidiary. The processor is made with a 90nm IBM SOI (Silicon-On-Insulator) fabricating process. One of the most remarkable attributes of the VIA C7-M is its tiny size; the processor die is a 30mm square NanoBGA2 package, smaller than a postage stamp - making it an extremely affordable chip to manufacture. Because of this BGA packaging the VIA C7-M processor will is soldered directly to the motherboard, but since processor replacement has never been a feature of notebook design this is par for the course.

Integrated encryption and security: VIA's Padlock co-processor

The C7-M features VIA's Padlock security co-processor, which is dedicated to encryption and unencryption duties. This should give the C7-M a boost in these CPU-intensive activities as compared to other lightweight mobile processors. The Padlock security co-processor is entirely specialized towards encryption, acting as an 'encryption accelerator' rather like a 3D card accelerates 3D video by taking the strain of vertex and pixel computation off the CPU. Some of its abilities include:

AES encryption at up to 25GB/s. The padlock supports all AES modes through the Padlock ACE (Advanced Cryptography Engine). This ability allows the C7-M processor to offload AES encryption tasks to the Padlock co-processor and avoid getting bogged down by this traditionally processor-intensive activity. The Padlock ACE does not require special software support to aid in AES encryption tasks.

Accelerated RSA encryption. RSA or Public Key encryption also involves significant mathematical calculations that can slow down the processor. The Padlock processor cannot entirely take over the process of RSA encryption as it can with AES, but it does incorporate 'Montgomery Multipliers' which speed up the necessary calculations.

SHA-1/SHA-256 support. The Padlock can encrypt data with a secure hashing algorithm in real-time, placing a digital 'stamp' on everything processed. In theory, this should allow for tamper-proof document transmission to be carried out automatically, but software developers would have to build support for this into their applications first.

Dual hardware-based random number generators provide a foundation for the encryption processes that the Padlock co-processor carries out. The way these two generators work is kind of interesting. VIA's quantum Random Number Generators detect minute random variances in the frequency of the various system clocks and turn them into random numbers. Both RNGs are 'always on', generating random numbers constantly and providing them to the other components of the Padlock co-processor when needed.

Finally, the Padlock provides support for the 'NX' execution prevention technology included in Windows XP Service Pack 2. This feature is also found in the newest processors from Intel and AMD, and prevents worms, viruses or other hostile intruders from executing code in memory spaces reserved for legitimate programs by causing a buffer overrun.

The Padlock co-processor is to go hand-in-hand with VIA's Padlock software applications. These will likely ship with VIA C7-M equipped systems and provide a way for users to exploit the security and encryption features of the processor with appropriate third party software programs.

While VIA's processors have always had good thermal and power characteristics, we're interested in is performance. How is the VIA C7-M going to measure up against the best Intel and AMD mobile processors?

© 2023 PCSTATS.com Next Page >


Contents of Article: VIA C7-M
 Pg 1.  — VIA C7-M Processor Preview
 Pg 2.  VIA C7-M Power Saving Features
 Pg 3.  VIA's C7-M Processor Lineup

Hardware Sections 

PCSTATS Network Features Information About Us Contact
PCSTATS Newsletter
Tech Glossary
Technology WebSite Listings
News Archives
(Review RSS Feed)
Site Map
PCstats Wallpaper
About Us
Privacy Policy
Advertise on PCSTATS

How's Our Driving?
© Copyright 1999-2023 www.pcstats.com All rights reserved. Privacy policy and Terms of Use.