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 Post subject: VIA EPIA-M10000 Mini-ITX board Review
PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2003 9:46 pm 
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SPCR's review of a pre-production 1 GHz VIA EPIA-M10000 Mini-ITX board with the new Nehemiah C3 core.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 4:50 am 
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the cpu heatsink uses pushpin mounts doesnt it?
why dont u try stickin a zalman 80a on there... :)

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 7:30 am 
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Because the zalman 80A is a GPU cooler? :P
In case you meant the NB32J then I wouldn't try it if I were you .. The C3 does produce considerably more heat than what that heatsink can handle. A modded Volcano 7+ however in case with decent airflow does the trick just fine (on my C3 800mhz anyway).

Nice review btw. Looks like VIA was exaggerating about the performance increase!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 7:33 am 
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Quote:
Looks like VIA was exaggerating about the performance increase!

Not really. The benchmarks came out even better than theirs; just that my real world app tests probably didn't push the envelope enough.


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 Post subject: some thoughts regarding this review...
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 8:57 am 
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After reading through the review I'm kind of disappointed. Especially the marginal improvement of 4% in the FPU benchmarks is disappointing, as the Nehemia core is supposed to run the FPU with full speed (as compared to the Ezra core where the FPU runs at half of the clock speed). This brings up the question whether the board was really based on the Nehemia core... Do you have any explanation for this odd behaviour? You mention that you used an "pre-production sample", why is that? The M10000 has been available for some time and it's been found out that it doesn't use the Nehemia core.
Additionally I'm supprised that an Epia with the new Nehemia core would not use the new, larger heatsink combining north and southbridge (as it is the case with the new Epia CL). It is mentioned that the board was an "pre-production sample", I definitly hope that the final version of the Nehemia based Epia will use the "bridged" heatsink.
I think that ATM you only received a standard M10000 with the new core. I doubt that Via will release this combination because then they'd create competition for the new Epia-M2 product that's coming up. I hope that Via decides to soon offer an M2 with Nehemia core!!!
I also think that you failed to demonstrate that the new core will have any impact on everyday performance. Why would anybody want to buy a new board (with up to 300% performance increase in one benchmark!!!) if they can't notice any "real" improvements? But you admit that maybe the methods weren't demanding enough to really test the new CPU...

To sum up: I really don't know what to make out of this review!
Regards,
TheEagleCD

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 9:33 am 
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Good questions, Mr. EagleCD.

There was definitely some question of the genealogy of the sample. I received it many weeks ago, at least a week before the M10000 was announced by VIA. They wanted verification of the fan noise ASAP, which I obtained for them in the anechoic chamber. As VIA have been a staunch supporter of SPCR, it was a favor I was happy to do for them.

Turns out that in their rush to get the board with the new core out to me, they took an existing board designated as a M9000 and populated it with the new 1G Nehemiah. Yes, it IS a Nehemiah, there is no way it could get those MM benchmarks without being one. Anyway, obviously they did not reset the multiplier before sending it out. THat, I think, is the only real difference between this board and production Nehemiah M10000 boards. It's possible that someother switch to control FPU speed also needed to be reset on the board; I can't comment on that. The "bridged" HS covers NS/SB, but the CPU HSF is the same as on the sample. The old finger-touch test showed no serious heating on the SB in my experiments, perhaps longer-term in a small case, the bridged HS helps.

As to why no improvements were perceived in my real apps, those multimedia benchmarks may have little to do with video playback and more to do with 3D performance -- like CAD and games, neither of which I tried. Note that although the benchmark scores did improve, they're still substantially below that of similarly clocked AMD/Intel offerings. I can't see the point of gaming with a machine like this; VIA specifically says it is not a gaming machine.

WHy buy this instead of the Ezra-T core M9000? Well, AFAIK, the price difference is absolutely marginal, and there are probably apps that benefit more from the improvements. Also, as clock speed ramps up, the benefits will become more apparent. I need to check with VIA to find out which apps they have identified (as benefitting from the core change). There's only so much time in the day to explore with software...

The new board remains true to mini-ITX's original premise: the basis for a small, cool, quiet, low cost, general purpose PC that can go everywhere. The M series multimedia functions are much improved over the original series, and both sound and video (on monitor) in movie playback is quite decent. It's certainly nowhere as powerful as the Intel/AMD based SFF from Shuttle and similar, but EPIA is much cheaper and much quieter. Call the Nehemiah a step in mini-ITX evolution. At this point, the CLE266 chipset looks like it was a bigger step.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 9:55 am 
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Thanks for answering. But there are still some unresolved issues (at least for me):
Are you suggesting that the first boards with Nehemias are going to be exact copies of the current M9000? What would be the point of doing that? As mentioned earlier it would only confuse costumer and create competition amongst the Epias. I don't see any point in having an M9000, an M10000 (Ezra), an M10000 (Nehemia) and an M2!!! All of them (especially the last three) would perform roughly equally (compared to the other Epias), the only difference would be the M2 with its new port-layout and the added features (card-readers).
As far as the MM performance is concerned: The Epias are neither supposed to be used in CAD environments nor for gaming purposes. Therefore the only MM purpose I see is media playback (including, but not limited to: DVD, MP3, DivX, XVID, S-VCD, VCD) and if there's no noticable difference, what's the use of the higher benchmark results?
One last comment: I think that even though you clearly state that you tested a pre-production sample, I'd consider it to be important that you further emphasize the points you mentioned in your posting concerning the many uncertainties that come along with this board....
Thanks for your time,
TheEagleCD

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 10:28 am 
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Quote:
But there are still some unresolved issues

Most of your comments refer to the marketing and relative positioning of the various VIA mini-ITX boards -- the review covers the sample board, not VIA's marketing. I agree it looks a bit messy. AFAIK, they currently have 7 EPIA boards in production, and more appear to be coming, according to reports from CeBit.

With regard to movie playback performance, I didn't really see it, but that doesn't mean there are no improvements. Those benchmark gains must have some kind of real world benefit. Perhaps I have to buy a few demanding DVDs this weekend & try things again. :?:

It would be interesting to see what mini-itx.com has to say about the nehemiah vs ezra-t.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 10:35 am 
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The only thing I'm worried about is salesmen tricking people into buying an Erza-T while claiming it's a Nehemiah ..
It seems to perform about as well as I had thought and hoped and I'll definitely be getting one. I'm thinking of getting a Nehemiah based 10000 to use as a new server (and then we'll see how it performs under load ;) ) and one of those new ones with 7.1 audio as a divx/dvd player :).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 10:39 am 
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Quote:
The only thing I'm worried about is salesmen tricking people into buying an Erza-T while claiming it's a Nehemiah ..

The core type actually appears in the CPU identifier so such salesmen would quickly be inundated with returns. In Windows XP, the General tab under System Properties comes up with "Nehemiah" or "Samuel"... under the "Computer:" info.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 11:53 am 
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Mike, do you have any idea when the first Nehemia based boards are going to be available?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 11:57 am 
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TheEagleCD wrote:
Mike, do you have any idea when the first Nehemia based boards are going to be available?

'Fraid not. I was surprised when I read on mini-itx.com that the 1st M10000s were ezra-t's. I had thought they were all going to be Nehemiahs right from the start.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 12:25 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
TheEagleCD wrote:
Mike, do you have any idea when the first Nehemia based boards are going to be available?

'Fraid not. I was surprised when I read on mini-itx.com that the 1st M10000s were ezra-t's. I had thought they were all going to be Nehemiahs right from the start.


Via created a lot of confusion. I wrote to Via's tech support and Germany and got the answer that the M10000 was based on the Nehemia core. There's an article on the whole thing here: http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=7888
Via appears to have some problems lately, and one visitor of CeBIT mentioned that Via seems to "scared" because other competitors are moving into the low-power SFF market...
Another question: to you use Epias yourself or do you just review them?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 12:38 pm 
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Quote:
Another question: to you use Epias yourself or do you just review them?

Who has time to... no, wait, let me re-phrase that.

I was using my original Breadbox PC for a while. Then it found a new home on the desk of the pre-teen daughter of a good friend. Since then I have not had a case for any mini-ITX boards, so there has been little opportunity to use them. I probably will again now that there are 2 cases in-house for review. :wink:

I find them perfectly good for web (including site maintenance, posting articles, image work for the site), general office work (ubiquitous MS Office), email, and watching video on the monitor (the M series). Sound on the 1st gen was poor, and video a bit iffy, but the M series is much better with both. Not that I really do much of that with any PC -- they're generally workhorses for me. I'd rather stretch back on the sofa in the TV room & not be anywhere near a work machine when watching a movie!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 12:44 pm 
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I can understand that you'd try to keep a distance from computers during your free time...
And now I'll stop bothering you (at least for today :wink:) and wish all of you a Good Night!
TheEagleCD

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 Post subject: POSTSCRIPT added re: CLOCK speed
PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2003 1:53 am 
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March 21/03 -- A POSTSCRIPT was added to the review about the odd speed of the sample board after reader questions and a conversation with VIA.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2003 8:30 pm 
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Hey Mike,

Its interesting to note that (I think) the new nemaiah core uses a 1.25vcore, compared to the Erza-T's 1.35vcore. Correct me as I'm not very familiar with VIA cpu's, but I think this and not the efficiency of the cpu taking load away from the cpu, is what caused the lower power consumption. Also, the power consumption numbers are useful in proving the new nemaiah core has a lower power draw, but useless in seeing how the power consumption is on a proper shipping model of the M10000 product (as the motherboard and chipset powerdraw may change). I'm also curious how much power the fan on the cpu heatsink draws? Either way, I was quite pleased to see the improved performance of VIA cpu's because if they keep at it, it may become a VIAble (hehe) alternative for one of my future PC's. I outta measure the power consumption of my setup again one of these days, I'd bet it is really low when I have my thoroughbred B running at 1166mhz at 1.1vcore. Thanks for the great review mike, very interesting read:).

-Ken


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2003 11:43 pm 
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Quote:
Its interesting to note that (I think) the new nemaiah core uses a 1.25vcore, compared to the Erza-T's 1.35vcore... I think this and not the efficiency of the cpu... is what caused the lower power consumption. Also, the power consumption numbers are useful in proving the new nemaiah core has a lower power draw, but useless in seeing how the power consumption is on a proper shipping model of the M10000 product (as the motherboard and chipset powerdraw may change).

Hey Ken, long time no hear!

Vcore -- regardless of how the reduction in power dissipation is achieved, it was done while INCReasing performance substantially (at least in all the benchmarks), which is no small feat. It is a new core, and like barton over t-bred, shows gains over the old.

I don't believe either mobo or chipsets will be any different for production samples. It did not chance from the 6000 to the 9000; as far as I can tell, except for CPU/HSF details, the 3 sample boards in the lab are (and look) identical.


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 Post subject: Re: POSTSCRIPT added re: CLOCK speed
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 4:49 am 
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MikeC wrote:
March 21/03 -- A POSTSCRIPT was added to the review about the odd speed of the sample board after reader questions and a conversation with VIA.

Thank you for adding the postscript, it makes things clearer for readers, who don't check this forum thread.
Most of my questions are now answered. The only thing that remains unresolved is the question about the FPU speed and the resulting benchmark result. What did VIA say about that?
Regards,
TheEagleCD

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 5:18 am 
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Now if only I could find a store that sold 10000's with Nehemiah cores.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 5:33 am 
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Gandalf wrote:
Now if only I could find a store that sold 10000's with Nehemiah cores.


Yeah, that's a good point!
There's one thing that really surprises me: MikeC says that he received the board several weeks ago. That means that the Nehemia has been ready and working for several weeks! But why haven't we seen any boards yet? The only explanation I have: low yields! What do you guys think???

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 7:33 am 
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Could be yeah. Kinda a shame really. Or maybe they have a huge stock of Erza's left and want to make some money on those first? ;)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 8:45 am 
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Gandalf wrote:
Could be yeah. Kinda a shame really. Or maybe they have a huge stock of Erza's left and want to make some money on those first? ;)


That may be a possibility, but if they'd want to sell their Ezras first, then why promote the Nehemiah so heavily?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 4:16 pm 
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Hi Mike & co

re [quote]
The same generalization can be made using a TV for video: Not much difference between the two boards. Neither were very good, not any better than a VCR. But this is what I have also found with non-integrated video cards on AMD XP and Intel P4 systems. Playback over TV of DVD or Divx is not very good through the S-video link

This is critical information for me, as I was thinking of building a media player out of one of these things. Does this mean that in your opinion the video out on these boards is low quality? Even with DVD source? Compared to what? Is this the case using all outputs, or do you just think the S-Video is sub-standard? Should this actually read "all integrated video cards" instead of "non-integrated"?

Please expand!


Mark


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 4:59 pm 
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markino wrote:
Hi Mike & co

Quote:
The same generalization can be made using a TV for video: Not much difference between the two boards. Neither were very good, not any better than a VCR. But this is what I have also found with non-integrated video cards on AMD XP and Intel P4 systems. Playback over TV of DVD or Divx is not very good through the S-video link


This is critical information for me, as I was thinking of building a media player out of one of these things. Does this mean that in your opinion the video out on these boards is low quality? Even with DVD source? Compared to what? Is this the case using all outputs, or do you just think the S-Video is sub-standard? Should this actually read "all integrated video cards" instead of "non-integrated"?

Please expand!

Mark

It should really read ALL video cards: I have yet to see good PC-to-TV video playback. Period. Compared to a standalong DVD player playing through the TV. Lots of really good playback of movies from PCs in all sorts of formats on computer monitors, but not on TVs. That's about it. My experience is limited though. I wonder if something like the ATI all-in-wonder cards would do better. You might check on sites that specialize in this. I am sure people here will provide links.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 6:53 pm 
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Thanks Mike

But no, I don't just want a computer with a good TV-out. I've already got one of those.

I want to purpose-build a digital video recorder/media-player box with output to TV, and the only solution I've heard of so far that sounds viable (from all perspectives - cost, power consumption, noise levels etc) was one based around the Epia-M. The combination of a tiny, cheap board which has an Mpeg2 decoder built in is just right for this.

But it's supposed to have a very high quality TV-out chip! I don't suppose it might not have been configured properly (in BIOS etc)? I've read other reviews praising the output quality (and comparing it favourably with output from dedicated a DVD player). Maybe it's better at PAL than NTSC? You are on NTSC aren't you?

If this solution is a no-go, I don't think what I want to do is viable at all - the last thing I want in my living room is a chunky P4 monstrosity. Besides which I've already got one of those (or near enough) with a Matrox G400 which gives me more or less perfect TV-out. What I want is a small, quiet, cheap machine which is just powerful enough to do the media stuff and no more.

Maybe back to the drawing board...


regards

Mark


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 3:19 am 
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Say Mike, do you know whether the Epia M (nehemiah) would be able to *encode* mpeg stuff? (aka be a vcr) at real time speed?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 9:14 am 
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So as far as S-Video output qualities are concerned you can't recommend using an Epia-M?
What about the sound, is it worse than with other onboard-sound systems? I'm currently using the onboard sound of my P4PE but my next upgrade will be a sound card (probably an Audigy Player) because I listen to a lot of music and I'm not really satisfied with what I'm hearing...

I'm also planning a media station (only playback though, no PVR) and after hearing (from several sources) that the Epia M's S-Video qualitiy isn't really good, I guess I'll use an ATI 7500 PCI (~80 EUros) to address my video needs. This will also free some RAM, which the onboard GPU would normally use...
Regards,
TheEagleCD

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