Review: VIA's Small & Quiet Eden Platform

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VIA EPIA MAINBOARD SPECIFICATIONS
Standardized Embedded Solutions for Total Mainboard Connectivity

Form Factor - Mini-ITX
- 170mm x 170mm
- Micro ATX Chassis Compliant
Processor - VIA Eden? ESP 5000 processor
- 100/133MHz Front Side Bus
- low power consumption
- Optional Fanless
- VIA C3? E-Series processor (EBGA package)
- 100/133MHz Front Side Bus
- 128K L1 and 64K L2 cache
Chipset - VIA Apollo PLE133
- VT8601A North Bridge
- Featuring integrated AGP 2X graphics
- VIA VT8231 South Bridge
TV-Out - Integrated Macro Vision 7.01
- High quality scaling and filtering
- S-Video or Composite video output
- Supports NTSC/PAL TV formats
Main Memory - Two 168-pin DIMM memory sockets
- PC100/133 SDRAM support
LAN - VIA 10/100 Ethernet LAN onboard
Graphics - Integrated AGP2X with 2D/3D Graphics Acceleration
- Motion Compensation for DVD playback
- VIP port for video overlay function
Audio - VIA VT1612A AC'97 onboard
- 3 Audio Jacks - Line-Out, Line-In and Microphone-In
- Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro Compatible
- Digital I/O compatible with consumer mode S/PDIF
Expansion Slots - ATA/100/66/33 Support
- 1 PCI slots
Onboard IDE - ATA/100/66 (supports up to 4 devices)
I/O Ports - 3 Audio Jacks - Line-out, Mic-in and Line-in
- Four USB ports (two USB ports located at rear side)
- 1 EPP/ECP parallel port
- 1 16C550 compatible serial port
- 2 External PS/2 Compatible Keyboard /Mouse ports
- 2 TV output ports (S-Video or optional RCA TV out)
- 1 S/PDIF out (optional and multiplex with RCA TV out)
- 1 RJ-45 LAN port
- 1 PCI slot (Note: support for two PCI devices)
Power Supply - ATX Power Supply Compliant

EPIA Architecture

INTENDED APPLICATIONS?

VIA answers the question in its Mini-ITX Mainboard Specification White Paper:

The new VIA Eden Embedded System Platform is spurring the further development of the emerging new generation of quiet running, low profile small factor designs that are being adopted for a myriad of connected information and entertainment systems ? ranging from home entertainment devices such as Set Top Boxes, Game Consoles, Personal Video Recorders and Broadband Gateways to commercial applications such as Thin Clients, LCD Web Based Terminals, POS Terminals, and Network Attached Servers.

These new designs not only leverage the fundamental strengths of the x86 platform ? namely, its software resources, its Internet compatibility, its rapid product innovation cycles, its massive economies of scale and its open architecture. They also extend the capabilities of the PC and the Internet by allowing people to connect to information and entertainment in an easier, more convenient, and more affordable way.

Compact, stylish, reliable, fanless, and energy efficient, these new devices are already beginning appearing in homes, workplaces, and public places such as airports and coffee shops, and are set to further proliferate as more compelling digital multimedia applications and services are developed and delivered over the Internet, home and corporate networks through fixed and wired broadband technologies such as cable modems, ADSL, 802.11a, and satellite.

In terms of physical compatibility, the new motherboard can be installed in FlexATX, MicroATX or new Mini-ITX case as shown here (a Morex). A back panel customized for the Mini-ITX motherboard is included for use with FlexATX and MicroATX cases. Some Mini-ITX cases appear to borrow from mobile notebook design: the main noise and heat producing part of the power supply is contained in a small external transformer box that eliminates the ubiquitous noisy power supply fan. Unfortunately, at time of writing in mid-May, none of the Mini-ITX case manufacturers recommended by VIA had any production samples for Silent PC Review to examine.

Rather than install the EPIA-5000 in one of the mid-tower ATX cases in the test lab, it was hooked up open on the test bench with a 256 meg stick of PC133 SDRAM, a Zalman 300W PSU (complete overkill), a Seagate Barracuda IV 20G hard drive, and a CD-ROM drive. A 19" monitor, standard keyboard and mouse completed the system. I noticed there was no floppy drive socket.

Windows XP Pro installation went smoothly. When all was done, a basic installation of Microsoft Office 2000, Motherboard Monitor 5 and SiSoft Sandra 2002 was performed. Unfortunately, temperature monitoring is not supported on either MBM5 or SiSoft Sandra 2002. The BIOS PC Health Status area also does not show temperatures.

My faithful Veriteq Spectrum 1000 data logger was brought into service again for simple CPU heatsink temperature monitoring. Some SiSoft Sandra 2002 benchmarks were also recorded, and the system was used for general web work and some MS Office tasks. A modified AC cable was used to measure the current draw of the system.

Naturally, the motherboard and CPU contributed no noise at all to the system. The same could not be said about the Zalman PSU, the hard drive or the CD drive.



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