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VIA C3 1GHz Processor Review

With names like Intel and AMD, is there a chance that a young VIA processor can make the cut? Come join Cameron "Sov" Johnson as he takes a look at the new VIA C3 1GHz Processor. Since VIA bought out the old Cyrix company, they have been trying to get into the budget processor race. Now that they have hit the magic 1GHz speed, it's time to take another look and see if they have managed to be successful.
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Published Mon, Jun 17 2002 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Rating: 80%Manufacturer: VIA Technologies Taiwan

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Introduction and History - Part 1

Introduction and History - Part 1The processor company formally known as Cyrix is well known to many computer users due to their past line of poor processors. Cyrix first started out in March 1992 when Cyrix released the Cyrix Cx486SLC line of processors. The Cx486SLC was one of the first Intel i386 alternative processors on the market. This CPU was available in clock speeds ranging from 20MHz up to 66MHz using an FSB of 16MHz all the way up to 33MHz. The processor itself contained 600,000 transistors and had 1KB of L1 cache and 128KB of L2 cache provided on the motherboard. This processor was used on motherboards that used 386 processors and had no FPU.The next CPU from Cyrix was the Cx486SX. This CPU was released in May 1993. The processor itself used the same 600,000 transistors as the SLC processor line, however, this CPU increased the L1 cache form 1KB to 2KB and allowed for up to 512KB L2 cache on the motherboard. Clock speeds had changed ranging from 33MHz up to 50MHz using the 33MHz to 50MHz range FSB. This CPU was designed as an alternative to the Intel 486 and AMD 468 CPU but still contained no FPU.The next jump up was to the Cx486DX range of CPUs in September 1993. The new DX line of processor used a 1.1 million transistor layout, ranged in speeds from 33MHz up to 100MHz and increased the size of the L1 cache from 2KB to 8KB. Again, this CPU was an alternative to AMD and Intel 486 DX line of CPUs.For the next 2 years, Cyrix didn't release any new CPUs until October 1995 when they released the Cyrix 5x86 processor. This processor had a total transistor count of 2 million on a 0.65-micron die. The clock range of these processors were from 100MHz up to 120MHz. With the 5x86 CPU being a disaster in the first month of sales in the retail market, Cyrix went back to the drawing board and came out with the Cyrix 6x86 Processor. The 6x86 processor featured a 3 million-transistor count on a 0.35-micron die. The speed range of this CPU was from 80MHz up to 150MHz (PR90 to PR200) with an FSB range from 40MHz to 75MHz. During its initial stages, the 6x86 processor was a huge hit as its raw performance in business applications was better than any Intel or AMD processor. However, when the 3D gaming craze evolved, the Cyrix 6x86 processor suffered very badly because of its very weak FPU performance; even the PR200 CPU would run slower in Quake I than a Pentium 90. The Cyrix 6x86 CPU supported 16KB L1 cache and up to 2MB on L2 cache.February 1997 saw Cyrix enter the mobile PC market with the introduction of a new processor called the Cyrix Media Gxi processor. The Gxi processor included 2.4million transistors on a 0.30 micron die and clock speeds ranged from 120MHz to 180MHz. The reason this chip was so good for notebooks was that not only was the Gxi a CPU, it also contained a graphics engine and an audio engine making this the first integrated CPU. The video engine was Cyrix's own designed based on the S3 Virge video technology with support for up to 2MB of memory provided on the motherboard. The audio engine was based on Eagles ESS688 Audio processor.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Introduction and History - Part 2

Introduction and History - Part 2Around the same time as the Media Gxi was released, Cyrix needed to introduce a new processor into the market to counteract Intel's new Pentium with MMX technology which had come out and taken the crown away from Cyrix for having the fastest CPU. Cyrix took their existing Cyrix 6x86 CPU and increased the L1 cache from 16KB to 64KB, giving it the largest L1 cache of any CPU on the market. Along with the extra L1 cache, Cyrix added MMX technology to the CPU to increase the CPUs potential and renamed it as the 6x86MX. The 6x86MX came in speeds of 133MHz up to 233MHz (PR166 to PR266). The PR266 CPU was the first CPU to utilize the 83MHz FSB, which created more problems for Cyrix due to PCI and AGP compatibility problems with the two busses running well out of spec. Even with these new specifications, the 6x86MX could not compete with the Intel Pentium MMX and Pentium 2 CPUs from Intel, nor could it outperform AMD's K6 and K6-2 line of CPU.In April 1998, Cyrix took its 6x86MX CPU and changed its FSB options over to 66MHz and 100MHz, which reduced the compatibility problems with most PCI and AGP expansion cards. The die size also shrunk form 0.35 micron to 0.25 micron but this was to be the last CPU the Cyrix company would actually produce as one company.Later in 1998, rumors were spreading that through a cross-licensing agreement with National Semiconductor, Cyrix would be releasing a new CPU based on the P6 bus in the Slot 1 format. These rumors appeared to be true until late in 1998 when the Taiwanese chipset manufacturer known as VIA purchased the Cyrix company from National Semiconductor. The plans for the Slot 1 processor fell through and VIA staff took over as head of the Cyrix name.It took a while for VIA to actually get the production of CPUs out, but it finally did happen with the first of a new line of processor known as the VIA Cyrix 3. The first of the VIA Cyrix 3 family was code-named Joshua and the same engineers who worked on the original Cyrix CPUs built this new chip. The Joshua CPU was the first processor from VIA and Cyrix to be based on the Socket 370 PPGA format. When released to hardware review sites to test, the Joshua core performed very poorly and even failed some tests. VIA took the Joshua core and totally scrapped it.In 1999, VIA acquired Centaur, the makers of the Winchip CPU line. When the Centaur designers began, they took the Winchip 3 processor and changed it around to work on the Socket 370 platform and reduced the die size to 0.18 micron; this new core was code-named Samuel. The Samuel, like the Joshua, didn't include any L2 cache, which again hampered the performance of the CPU. After the Samuel core performed well below any standards that would be accepted, even for value processor, VIA took the Samuel core and added 64KB L2 cache, this greatly increased the performance of the CPU and shrank the die again to 0.15 micron making it the worlds first 0.15 micron CPU. This gave birth to the VIA C3 based on the Samuel2 core.VIA's recent improvements into the 0.13 micron die led to the release of the Ezra core. This was used for 866MHz, 900MHz, 966MHz core CPUs. Now with higher speeds and Tualatin motherboard support, VIA has released a new addition to the C3 family; the Ezra T. This new processor debuts at 1GHz. Let's see how well it fares.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Overview

The VIA C3 CPU is designed for the value PC. It supports all major x86 decode instructions which we see in current Intel and AMD processors. This new CPU is aimed for Internet, office and very light gaming. Featuring a highly efficient Dynamic Power Caching Architecture, the VIA C3 processor provides the optimum balance of performance and low power consumption for Information PCs, notebooks and Information Appliances while retaining the flexibility and upgradability afforded by full plug-in compatibility with the Socket 370 interface. Running at speeds of 500MHz to 1.0GHz, the VIA C3 processor is primed to optimize your Internet computing experience with enhanced features such as a 128KB full-speed Level 1 cache, 64KB full speed Level 2 cache and a 100/133MHz Front Side Bus. Multimedia performance is further boosted by the processor's support for 3DNow! and MMX technology.The VIA C3 processor was designed by VIA's Centaur Technology Team located in Austin, Texas and is built using a state-of-the-art 0.15 micron fabrication process which maximizes processor core speeds while minimizing power consumption. The VIA C3 processor uses a core voltage of 1.5v which allows the VIA C3 CPU to run virtually cold. Now with the Ezra T core we see VIA reduce the CPU core to 0.13 micron and a low power profile of 1.35v making this CPU run even cooler at higher clock speeds than its previous C3 brothers. The VIA C3 CPUs can be run in a system without the need for a fan on the processor which means you can have your computer running in virtual silence. Because of this, the VIA C3 has become a viable mobile solution due to its low power consumption and excellent heat dissipation.Ezra T core processors have started at 1.0GHz and will continue to grow until further developments in fabrication become available. Below is a table with the current VIA C3 lineups compared to the AMD Duron CPU so you can get a perspective of their designs.
Now we take a look at the Ezra and Ezra T CPU side by side.
You can see by this that VIA has made some changes to the Ezra T. Resistors have been placed on the outer surface of the CPU. Most likely this is what controls the VIA C3 multipliers.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Up Close

VIA C3 Up Close and Personal
First off, we get a look at the entire CPU and the top readings. We see the name and speed of the CPU along with some unused resistor spots.The Underside
This shot shows us the underside of the VIA C3. We see the batch number, wafer number, stepping codes and the 1.35v CPU core voltage setting, making this CPU the lowest voltage CPU on the market.The Test Platform board, MSI's MS-6368 PLE133T board
Now we get a look at the board and layout that VIA supplied for the reference testing. This board is manufactured by MSI and is a standard Micro ATX motherboard with 0/3/1/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser/ISA) Layout. One of the most interesting things concerning this board is the use of the ISA slot; indeed, supporting any legacy ISA devices.The chipset
Powered by the VIA Apollo PLE133T Northbridge and VT82C686B Southbridge, this board comes with integrated Trident 3D Blade Video onboard that uses system memory for video texture storage. This Shared Memory Architecture design has proven to be a huge letdown in the past. Using a board with external video or a better video core would help the VIA C3's changes, but we are left with what we are given. Using the 686B Southbridge you get ATA-100 IDE support and 4 USB ports, so there is no shortage here. Along with this you also get AC'97 audio; perfect for a PC on a budget.Onboard LAN
The MSI sample board also comes with onboard LAN, another excellent for budget PC's. Not only can you have a normal modem, but you can hook this system up to a LAN or Broadband modem too.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Benchmarks - Test System and Sandra

BenchmarksTest SystemProcessor: VIA C3 1.0GHzMemory: 1x 256MB PC166 KingmaxVideo Card: Onboard Trident Blade (8MB shared Memory)Hard Disk: Seagate Barracuda ATA-3 UDMA 100 7200RPMSoftware Used: SiSoft Sandra 2002, 3DMark2000, 3DMark2001, PCMark 2002 Pro, Quake III Arena, Aquanox, SysMark 2002, Max Payne, Star Trek Voyager Elite Force, Jedi Knight II, Winstone 2001.Synthetic System BenchmarksSiSoft Sandra 2002SiSoft Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) 2002 is a synthetic windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems. Our three major tests that we use from the Sandra line are CPU Raw Performance Mark, Multimedia Benchmark and Memory Bandwidth tests. While these tests are Synthetic, they do give an idea of the starting expectations of the system.
Here we see that the VIA C3 is no performance king. VIA has based the C3 around very light business applications, so in these tests you see very slow 3D performance testing, which we will put to the test later on.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Benchmarks - System Productivity

Real-World System Productivity BenchmarksSysMark 2002SysMark2002 incorporates the following Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity applications:Office Productivity: Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Microsoft Access 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred v.5, WinZip 8.0, and McAfee Virus Scan 5.13.Internet Content Creation: Adobe Photoshop 6.01, Adobe Premiere 6.0, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 7.1, Macromedia Dreamweaver 4, and Macromedia Flash 5.
VIA's C3 performs reasonably well under business applications, but when 3D multimedia instructions and FPU intense applications are run, such as the Internet Content Creation, C3 does tend to get left a bit behind.Business Winstone 2001Business Winstone tests your computer's word processing, spreadsheet and presentation application ability using Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Both Content Creation and Business Winstone 2001 give you great examples of real-world performance
Again, business applications show the VIA C3 to perform quite well compared to the Intel Celeron at equal clock speeds.Winstone Content CreationContent Creation tests your computer's ability to create and manipulate images, webpages etc using real-world programs such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver, then gives you an overall score.
FPU intense applications used in Winstone 2001 show the C3 to perform lower than the Intel Celeron. For Business Applications you are wise for the C3, Content Creation systems, forget it.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Benchmarks - MadOnion

Synthetic 3D and PC Benchmarks3DMark20003DMark2000 is a synthetic Direct3D benchmark that is compatible with DirectX 7. It takes full advantage of the Geforce2, ATI Radeon and DirectX 7 enhancements. 3DMark2000 has become one of the world's most used benchmark utilities
We weren't expecting much from the C3 CPU and not much was what we got. As mentioned, the VIA C3 is in no way suitable for gaming purposes, even VIA have stated this.3DMark2001 SE Build 3303DMark2001 SE is the latest installment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 8.1 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce4), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.
Again, very little on the 3D front from VIA.PCMark2002 ProPCMark2002 is a completely new, multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark2002 consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark2002 also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks
PCMark does a more intense system test with many aspects added into a single benchmark suite and gives a score of the total power of the CPU and memory.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Benchmarks - OpenGL

Real-World OpenGL BenchmarksQuake III ArenaQuake III Arena is a real-world OpenGL benchmark that we have been using here at TweakTown for quite a while now because it has proven itself to be one of the best gaming benchmarks around to compare a range of different products.
As stated before, VIA C3 is not designed for gaming, and placing it on a PLE133 chipset for this purpose is totally useless. Even the more powerful Celeron CPU can't get very good results.Star Trek VoyagerStar Trek Voyager is a real-world OpenGL benchmark. Based on the Quake III Arena engine, this game is a OpenGL master utilizing DirectX 8. We also apply the new Opt3D patch to allow for the use of Hardware T&L's use as well as new optimizations for AMD Athlon XP and Pentium 4 SSE2
Same story here. Since Star Trek Voyager is almost identical to the Q3A in engine execution, we see the same trend here again; Celeron taking it out hands down.Jedi Knight IIJedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is a newly released OpenGL game that many have been waiting for. It has much improved graphics over its predecessor. It fully supports advanced shaders as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use. In order to enable the benchmarking mode, you have to make a shortcut to the jk2mp.exe program located in the GameData folder of Jedi Knight 2. You have to put the switch "+set sv_cheats1" (no quotes) at the end of the line in the Target Area so that it looks like this: "C:\Star Wars JK II Jedi Outcast\GameData\jk2mp.exe" +set sv_cheats 1. The demo file used is jk2ffa.
And in the last of the OpenGL benchmarks we see no change to the trend.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Benchmarks - D3D

Real-World D3D BenchmarksMax PayneMax Payne is a new generation DirectX 7/8 game which is based on Hardware T&L advancements as well as many other features of the Intel Pentium 4 and Athlon XP.
This is definitely the C3's weak point. Not only the C3, but the chipset itself. Intense 3D gaming on the C3 is a definite must not, as the frame rate at even 640x480 is well below playable levels. Even with the Celeron, the PLE133 doesn't really generate the best playing experience, though it is possible.AquanoxWe couldn't include Aquanox because for some reason the system would not run Aquanox on the PLE133 chipset. Every time we tried to load the program, the system would plain freeze.DroneZmarkDroneZmark is based on the popular DroneZ game. DroneZmark includes the DroneZ engine and a looping demo to test those 3D subsystems
What can we say... Not playable.

VIA C3 1.0GHz - Conclusion

Conclusion - Business = YES, Multimedia = NOThe VIA C3 at 1.0GHz is definitely a step towards VIA's goals for a CPU; cheap, reliable and quiet. The VIA C3 is ultimately the quietest PC system available. Requiring no fan but just a passive heatsink and very little power, you can have a single or no fan system. During out testing, we took a 250w Aopen PSU and removed the fan from the unit. We then placed the CPU, HDD and DVD into the system along with the memory. This system stayed stable the throughout the entire test with very little heat being generated at all from the PSU or the internal system.The VIA C3 also has built-in thermal management should you overclock the CPU, and overclockable it is. While the board we had gave us no voltage controls, we were still able to get 1.23GHz out of the CPU; fully stable with a 200RPM fan placed on the CPU cooler and 1.1GHz with passive cooling. To make things even better, at default speeds and voltages you can even run the system without a heatsink for several hours, even when playing games. As VIA demonstrated in a rather unique video, we are happy to confirm this test as a full success.On the end of this long note, VIA has come quite a way in achievement but still has a long way to go. With Intel releasing the Celeron on P4 cores and AMD pushing the Duron to 1.4GHz, VIA is definitely fighting an uphill battle.- ProsStableFanless operationRuns even without heatsinkCheapOverclocks quite well- ConsRather slow, even for value CPUNot suitable for gamesRating - 8/10

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