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   Review : VIA C3 Processor »  


 VIA C3 Processor - Preamble
 Date  : Mar 6th, 2002
 Category  : CPU
 Manufacturer   : VIA
 Author  : Jin-Wei Tioh
Not too long ago, an entry-level computer would be inevitably based on either the Intel Celeron, the AMD K6-2 or the K6-3 processor. Although the early Celerons weren't exactly stellar performers, the subsequent CPUs based on the Mendocino core (the Celeron 300A should ring some bells) essentially offered Pentium II level performance at budget prices. The AMD K6-2 and K6-3 filled in the gap as lower-end, but cheaper solutions, trailing the Celeron in integer and especially FPU performance.

Flash forward to the present day. The concept of a "value PC" has been blurred, at least in terms of raw CPU power, thanks largely to the AMD Duron. The Celeron is still around, with the CopperMine128 core in this iteration. However, 2 CPU manufacturers are noticeably missing from the landscape : Cyrix and IDT. Cyrix started out in 1988 producing math co-processors for Intel 286 and 386 systems. They went on to produce the well received Cyrix 6x86 and 6x86MX processors in collaboration with IBM. The 6x86 line caused quite a stir as a result of its low price and competent integer performance, which translated into good performance in business applications. National Semiconductor acquired Cyrix in 1997, churning out the Cyrix MediaGX and MII chips, both either short-lived or non-popular. You know what happens to a company when its main product line fails. VIA bought Cyrix in 1999 for US$167 million, including the rights to all future Cyrix products. In September of the same year, VIA also acquired Centaur from IDT, makers of the WinChip processor for a cool US$51 million. This includes the rights to the Centaur x86 microprocessor design.

So what did this buying spree produce? The first product to go out of VIA's doors was the Cyrix III, based on the Cyrix developed Joshua processor core around April in 2000. What with the reasonably priced Celerons on the market, the Cyrix III did not impress. Next came a new revision of the Cyrix III, based on the Centaur x86 core aka "Samuel". The infamous PR (Power Rating) system was scrapped in favor of the actual CPU MHz, but unfortunately, the Samuel core performed worse than the original Joshua core running at a lower clock speed. You can just guess how the market received it...

Now, VIA has retooled the Samuel core, producing the new Samuel2-based C3 processor. The Cyrix name has been dropped, just as well to avoid its stigma. What is new and how does it fare? Find out.

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