Review: VIA's Small & Quiet Eden Platform

CPUs|Motherboards
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TEST RESULTS

With web browsing, e-mail, MS Word, creating web content with Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 and Photoshop, and a few other typical applications, the EPIA-5000 system was perfectly up to the task. I noticed no great slowdown or hesitation compared with my reference Intel P4-2 GHz or AMD XP1700+ systems, except when dealing with large image files in Photoshop. Big number-crunching tasks, electronic publishing for print or 3-D games would be better handled by a system with better raw computing power. No attempt was made to run long burn-in type programs or play any games.

Power Consumption

The total power drawn by the system was derived by obtaining the current draw of the Zalman power supply, then multiplying the current by the AC voltage (120 VAC) to obtain the wattage. The same was done with the Zalman powering two other systems, one a VIA C3-933 on a Chaintech 6VJD2 motherboard, the other an AMD XP+1700 on an ABIT KT7A-R motherboard. Both of these systems were equipped with a 256 meg stick of PC133 SDRAM, a GeForce2 MX AGP video, sound card and network card, along with CD drive and a Seagate Barracuda IV 20G hard drive.

Load
VIA EPIA-5000
C3-933 / Chaintech
XP1700+ / ABIT
Minimum Idle
31W
41W
82W
Maximum Steady
39W
52W
98W
Maximum Peak
41W
55W
110W

The results speak for themselves.

Temperature

As mentioned above, there appeared to be no support for any internal CPU tempererature diode. There is also virtually no gap between bottom of the heatsink and the CPU casing. So... I wedged a Veriteq temperature sensor in the fins of the CPU heatsink and set the logger to record every 10 seconds while I surfed the web then ran some benchmarks. The room temperature was 24° C. After about 2 hours, the graph showed these maximum and minimum temperatures:

Load
EPIA-5000 Heatsink
Idle / low load
36° C
Maximum
42° C

The actual casing temperature would probably be somewhat higher than these numbers — my guess is ~10° C higher, which gives us an approximate maximum of ~50° C. VIA specifies 70° C as the maximum casing temperature for the C3, so it appears perfectly safe. There was never any instability in the system.

Ambient temperature inside a small case is bound to be much higher than on my test bench. Perhaps as high as 40° C? That would put the maximum CPU casing temperature close to the recommended limit of 70° C, but until I actually install the EPIA-5000 in a Mini-ITX case, this is all conjecture. Hopefully, there will soon be an postscript to this review detailing performance in a Mini-ITX case.

SiSoft Screenshots

The math CPU and memory performance benchmarks are patently unfair for the EPIA 5000. As you can see in the screenshot above, the CPU is a 533 MHz VIA Samuel 2 with an estimated PR of 640. Still, I include them for the sake of completeness.

It is not sizzling performance by today's standards, but the system still responds many times faster than I can possibly type.

With the Mini-ITX platform in rapid development at VIA, it's difficult to say exactly what is available when, but it appears that a C3-800MHz on a faster PN133T chipset (especially for video) Eden platform may be available in the near future. Please check the VIA website for the latest details. NOTE: VIA says Jetway and Biostar are also committed to producing Mini-ITX motherboards, although I was unable to find any reference to this on their respective web sites.

CONCLUSIONS

The EPIA-5000 integrated motherboard is a bold new product well suited for its role as an inexpensive, quiet, small computing appliance. The potential applications for this little machine are limited only by the imagination. In a Mini-ITX box with external power supply, it has the capacity to fit almost anywhere, going quietly where no desktop PC has gone before. It is the only real challenge to Transmeta's Crusoe processor, which appears to be available only to OEMs. In our view, the fact that VIA's offering is almost a complete system on a single board makes the EPIA-5000 and the EDEN platform undeniably attractive for system integrators, OEMs and - with their availability on the retail market - just about anyone wishing to build a small, quiet PC.

* * * * *

Much thanks and appreciation to VIA for providing us the review sample and for their assistance with relevant information.

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