VIA Technologies

VIA Technologies is a Taiwanese manufacturer of integrated circuits, mainly motherboard chipsets, CPUs, and memory, and is part of the Formosa Plastics Group. It is the world's largest independent manufacturer of motherboard chipsets. As a fabless semiconductor company, VIA conducts research and development of its chipsets in-house, then subcontracts the actual (silicon) manufacturing to third-party merchant foundries (such as TSMC.)



The company was founded in 1987 from the Symphony Company in Silicon Valley by Wen Chi Chen (陳文琦), among others. He was employed at Intel before joining Symphony, and is still CEO of the company. Chen transferred the employees of Symphony to Taiwan to start chip production.

In 1992 Headquarters was moved to Taipei, Taiwan.

In 1996 VIA played a major part in the PC Common Architecture standard group, pushing the switch from the ISA bus to the PCI bus.

In 1999 it acquired most of Cyrix (then a division of National Semiconductor) and also Centaur, marking its entry into the microprocessor market. VIA is the maker of the VIA C3 and VIA C7 processors and the EPIA platform.

In 2001 VIA established the S3 Graphics joint venture.

In February 2005, VIA celebrated the production of the 100 Millionth VIA AMD chipset.


While VIA lacks the name-recognition of other chipset providers (such as ATI, Intel, NVIDIA), one or more of VIA's many chipsets feature in a wide variety of PC products. VIA's business focuses on integrated chipsets for the PC market. Among PC users, VIA is best known for its motherboard (core-logic) chipsets. However, VIA's products include audio controllers, network/connectivity controllers, low-power CPUs, and even CD/DVD-writer chipsets. PC and peripheral vendors such as ASUS then buy the chipsets for inclusion into their own product brands.

In the late 1990s, VIA began diversifying its core-logic business, and the company has since made business acquisitions to form a CPU division, graphics division, and a sound division. As advances in silicon manufacturing continue to increase the level of integration and functionality in chipsets, VIA will need these divisions to remain competitive in the core-logic market.

Motherboard chipsets

The following list is incomplete. MATURE/OBSOLETE

  • VIA MVP3 - Popular super socket 7 chipset, with AGP interface 1.0, up to 512MB of PC-100 SDRAM, and up to 2MB L2 cache. Updated to MVP4 with integrated Trident graphics and improved ATA-66 disk interface.
  • Apollo Pro133 - The first VIA Intel chipset to support a 133 MHz FSB (Slot 1/Socket 370), and perhaps most importantly, supported 133 MHz SDRAM memory. The Apollo Pro133A featured AGP 4X support.
  • Apollo Pro133A, Apollo KX133/KT133/KT133A - The Apollo KX133 was a derivative chipset for the AMD Athlon, Slot A. Following that came the Apollo KT133 for AMD Athlon/Duron, Socket A. The chipset was revised to the KT133A spec, featuring memory controller tweaks, and improved features. The KT133A proved a popular chipset with stability and performance.
  • ProSavage PM133/KM133 - Based upon a graphics core from S3, derived from a combination of the 3D-component of Savage4 and 2D from Savage2000. They were VIA’s first in house integrated chipsets.
  • VIA KT266, VIA KT266A, VIA KT333, VIA KT400, VIA KT400A, VIA KT600 - A DDR memory refresh for the Athlon processor. The A spec part was notable for delivering an unexpected speed improvement. Subsequent versions updated to more recent memory speed grades, relfected in the chipset titles. Finally, KT880 matched the dual channel memory of the nForce2 chipset.


  • VIA K8T800, VIA K8T800 PRO - Athlon 64 chipsets. Established an early market lead, with richer features, and a full speed HyperTransport implementation
  • VIA PT880, K8T890 - Via's first PCIe chipsets (Pentium 4, Athlon 64)

Market trends

While an established supplier of PC components, notably for the Super Socket 7 platform, VIA's present market position derives from the success of its Pentium III chipsets. Intel made the mistake of discontinuing development of its SDRAM chipsets, and stated as policy only RAMBUS memory would be supported going forward. Since RAMBUS was both more expensive at the time, and offered few if any obvious performance advantages, manufacturers found they could ship performance equivalent PCs at a lower cost by using VIA chipsets.

While historically VIA chipsets had suffered compatibility and performance issues, especially regarding AGP implementations, an internal program to raise standards had also begun to show results. VIA’s fast performing, stable, mature chipsets, suddenly found huge market appeal, and profits soared. Many companies that had previously maintained Intel only buying policies, for the first time placed volume orders with VIA, and were satisfied with the results. At the same time VIA benefited from AMD’s popular Athlon processor. As the sole supplier of performance chipsets, VIA also sold millions of chipsets for the Athlon.

However, VIA’s success was as much based upon the mistakes of others, as its own internal excellence. Intel eventually rescinded their SDRAM development halt, and produced the 815 chipset, with 133 MHZ SDRAM support and a 133 Mhz Front Side Bus CPU interface. NVIDIA came out with the nForce 2 chipset for the Athlon. VIA’s market share declined.

In response to increasing market competition, VIA made the astute decision to buy out the ailing S3 Graphics business. While the Savage chipset was not fast enough to survive as a discrete solution, with its low manufacturing cost it made an ideal integrated solution, as part of the VIA north bridge. This considerably enhanced the value proposition of VIA’s chipsets.

VIA also continued development of its VIA C3 processor, targeting small, light, low power applications. A market space in which they continue to obtain success. The VIA envy soundcard has set new standards for onborad PC audio with pure 24 bit sound. And under the guidance of VIA, the S3 brand has generally held onto a respectable 10% share of the PC graphics market, behind Intel, ATI, and nVidia.

VIA continues to recognise the importance of its core business, and seeks to develop high quality chipsets. While its Pentium 4 designs have stuggled to win market share in the face of legal threats from Intel, the K8T800 chipset for the Athlon 64 has proved another success story, offering stability, performance, and features at launch that few expected. To this extent VIA has shown they have the ability to continue to surprise, and continue in the tradition of providing good enough products, at trademark OEM friendly low price points.

See also

External links

ja:VIA pl:VIA Technologies


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