Via's Isaiah Is Out Of Order...And That's Good

Via Technologies, and their subsidiary, Centaur, think their next generation 64-bit processor, the Isaiah, will outperform Intel's soon to be released Silverthorne chip. Glenn Henry of Centaur hedges his bet a little, as hard info about Silverthorne's capabilities is hard to come by. And he says Isaiah won't be able to match a Core 2 Duo. But in the niche of low power consumption/high performance/inexpensive processors, Isaiah's "out-of-order" processor architecture might make Via a winner.

An in-order processor is similar to a factory with a single assembly line. The chip can only work on one operation at a time, and other operations must wait for the assembly line to clear before they can be processed. An out-of-order processor, like Isaiah and Intel's Core 2 chips, is equivalent to a factory with multiple assembly lines where different operations can be processed simultaneously.

Other factors also come into play. Silverthorne likely has a substantially smaller cache than Isaiah processors -- which have 1M byte of level 2 cache -- and could use a slower front-side bus, giving Via's chip an additional edge, Henry said.

Silverthorne's performance will also be constrained by business considerations. "They've got to protect the high-end money makers in the Intel product line," Henry said.

This is why we need competition in the chip industry. If Intel isn't pushed by other manufacturers, they might configure their processors more towards maximizing profits on their whole line than putting out the best units they can. Of course, Silverthorne might come out later this year and have out-of-order processing. Competition works both ways, whether you're David or Goliath.
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