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Via Launches New Line of Mini-ITX Boards 197

An anonymous reader writes "LinuxDevices has the skinny on Via's next-generation Epia EN mini-ITX boards, which feature its relatively new C7 processors based on the Esther C5J core. The boards will be able to run passively cooled at 1.2GHz, and will clock up to 2GHz, with 800MHz FSBs." From the article: "They target thin clients, car PCs, robotics, medical equipment, kiosks, and server appliances."
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Via Launches New Line of Mini-ITX Boards

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  • I've got a ME6000 board that isn't reliable unless there's some air flowing over the heatsink. This was supposedly passively cooled, but I had to add a little fan blowing right at the heatsink to get the temperatures down from 60C to about 38C.

    It even overheated when it wasn't in the box.
  • by luckytroll ( 68214 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:23PM (#14911354) Homepage
    This is a great platform, if you dont mind the slower speed of the C3/7 processors - but the thing that I have been a little miffed about is the unsupportability to run VMware - hopefully the C7 may fix this.

  • Cool but... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Life700MB ( 930032 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:28PM (#14911392)

    Looks like a very cool home server, but it lacks a second network card, like the MacMini.

    Superb hosting [] 20GB Storage, 1_TB_ bandwidth, ssh, $7.95
  • PVR (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordSnooty ( 853791 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:29PM (#14911398)
    And of course they target living-room PVR devices, but with the brouhaha over broadcast flags, maybe it's understandable that they want to keep it quiet. Do it the easy way with Knoppmyth []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:32PM (#14911429)
    The board looks like it has more horsepower than the computer I'm using right now. Have they re-defined what a thin client is?
  • by scsirob ( 246572 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:51PM (#14911588)
    VIA so far has ignored all begging owners of other MiniITX boards to release Windows drivers that can run 800x480 resolution. This is the native resolution of nearly all 7" wide-screen displays, very popular with Car PC builders.

    I sincerly hope VIA will listen this time and release a driver that fits the requests of all these CarPC project owners.

    Also, there's been a MiniITX board with 12V-only power input. Unfortunately the 12V must be within +/- 5%, making it again unsuitable for Car PC usage. Why can't they release a board with wide voltage input (7V - 28V), and if at all possible with a built-in shutdown controller??
  • by Not_Wiggins ( 686627 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:51PM (#14911596) Journal
    If these things are quiet AND efficient they might really have something there, although 2 GHz for a router seems excessive.

    Exactly correct: 2G is excessive for a router. However, if it can be passively cooled at 2G (well, the article states passively cooled at 1.2G), then it should be very cool when it is underclocked to run at a speed adequate to handle router-specific tasks. Just because the power is there doesn't mean you need to utilize it all; underclocking* is great in situations where cooling is an issue.

    * - When available. Depends on if there are frequency locks on the MB and/or processor.
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:53PM (#14911609)
    Via have been making small, cheap, low power cores for some time, whilse Intel and AMD moved to large, expensive high power one.

    Now there's a move to multi core designs and blade servers, and even the slowest x86 server is probably over powered for a server, you have to wonder if they could do an x86 version of Niagara []

    From here []

    "You can also see a quad-core C7, could be manufactured for the same cost as a single core P4 on 90 nm process."

    Now Niagara is 8 core and each core has four threads admittedly, but there's something to be said for a four way x86 chip for blades. The power consumption wouldn't be too bad either. But you can have four C7 cores per P4 core. If I were AMD for example, I'd be playing around with an x86 Niagara. 1390b277b98?hl=en& []

    Hmm, and I'd find (or invent) some new benchmarks too.
  • Personally (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:53PM (#14911612) Homepage Journal
    I'm much more interested in what happens when you hold the processing power constant and drop the price, as the price performance ratio drops.

    I understand that it's not attractive for a company to look at lower margin items, but imagine if you could retail something like the original mini ITX boards in the price range of, say, $50 (it's currently about $110). Every garage inventor in the country would be creating new embedded computing applications.
  • by Bradee-oh! ( 459922 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:59PM (#14911652)
    I run a PD as my firewall/router/server. I suffered frequent hang problems and replaced the cheap power supply I was using with a known-good, better quality supply and haven't had a problem. This is running passively cooled. I've also had a few other Epia boards in the past. My experience says they are very picky on their voltages, but overheating likely isn't the problem.
  • Re:PVR (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idonthack ( 883680 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @07:01PM (#14911670)
    My dad uses some mobos like this for our Myth setup, with 1GHz processors and hardware mpeg decoding. They've got fans but they run really quiet, especially without harddrives. He had another fanless 600MHz one, but it was too slow to use as a Myth client. These faster ones will be great for the same purpose.
  • by questionlp ( 58365 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @07:21PM (#14911828) Homepage
    It may not be a retail product, but you can always get a Soekris kit that has multiple Ethernet interfaces, 128 or 256MB of RAM and supports CF for additional storage for around $300 (net4801-50, 128MB version, with a total of 5 Ethernet interfaces). []

    It runs off of a 586-class processor and with all of the fixins, would only draw around 20-25W. Not bad for something that can run Linux or *BSD. I haven't messed with one yet, but they do look pretty good even for a small server that can provide: SSH, FTP, web, NTP, DNS, DHCP, etc. Heck, it may replace my Sun Blade 100 one of these days ;)
  • too slow to boot (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tota ( 139982 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @07:27PM (#14911881) Homepage
    I've toyed with these boards on more than one occasion for fun and profit, and the thing that really prevents you from using them in the embedded space is the amount of time it takes to boot the bloody thing.
    Around 30s at the best of times to get to a shell with init=/bin/bash and only a little less if you use the linux bios. Disappointing to say the least, no decent set-top box can take more than 5, maybe 10 seconds to start.
    Even using suspend to boot directly into a running system is not going to help since most of this time is going to be spent in the bios.

    Not to mention that some boards come with a compact flash, but you can't boot from it! What's the f... point?
  • by FIT_Entry1 ( 468985 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @07:28PM (#14911882)
    I have a similar set up with an EPIA M10000 running m0n0wall, i literally threw it together using known bad ram, an ancient 1 gig hard drive, an old 10Mb ethernet card and have had months of uptime with zero problems.
  • by daniel23 ( 605413 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @09:28PM (#14912562)
    Hm, my Lan server is an Epia C3-800, running SuSE 8.2 (still). It runs VMware-2.0.4 and in it another SuSE which handles the (mostly harmless, unless I link my pr0n collection) http, ftp, ssh I get here. Both host and guest OS had their uptime wrap around last summer, so I'd argue it is an not entirely unstable setup.

    Oh yes, and it doesnt overheat, either, in spite of me taking all the included fans out. It has a Morex Cubid 2677 case standing on its left side, thus having convection cooling.

  • Re:ah, more via pain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by proxima ( 165692 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @09:43PM (#14912658)
    VIA? I'd recommened everyone stay away.... I sure the heck do! Time isn't worth the $20 you save by walking away from an Intel or SiS chipset. Sure, these chipsets have issues, but Intel and SiS both seem a little more talkative with Linux developers.. and tend to produce a better product. VIA seems produce these flaws in almost _all_ of their chipsets.

    My experience, sure. You'll have to make up your own mind.

    Not that anecdotes are all that meaningful to others, but I've had relatively good luck with VIA chipsets. Since I've had AMD processors in my last three motherboards, Intel was not an option. I haven't heard good things about SiS in general, but that was a while ago. NVIDIA is the newcomer, but to get some mb features working you need proprietary drivers (annoying enough for things like video, but I'm not interested in it for good chipset functionality).

    Of four motherboards (an Epox and Abit built with KT133 chipset, and an Asus with a KT400 chipset, and a brand I don't remember with an old K6-2 450 Mhz cpu), two are still running (the Epox and the Asus). The other two experienced slow deaths (worked great for years, slowly became unstable), which I largely attribute to some improper venting of the towers causing heat damage.

    In my experience, as a Linux user, it's best to seek out a chipset that is reported to work well with Linux. Then find a motherboard brand you trust. At this point all I'll go with is Asus (my experience with motherboards goes beyond my personal computers, and while I used to think Abit and Asus were equal in quality, I don't think Abit is as good anymore). I had to RMA two motherboards (with KT133 chipsets), before getting the Epox. I can't blame the chipset, though (unless there are serious quality differences in the way the chips themselves are manufactured, but I doubt it), since I've used KT133 with great luck for years since then. So while my percentages might not look great, the lesson here I think is that the motherboard manufacturer plays a more important role.

    VIA, Intel, NVIDIA, SiS, whatever, you can probably find a particular chipset from each company that is reported to be stable with your operating system of choice. Once you've chosen that, don't skimp on the cost of the motherboard (and the cooling), and your experience should be a good one.

  • Yes I have (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <{atd7} {at} {}> on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:11PM (#14912798) Homepage
    Gentoo 2005.1 installed with no problems on the SATA-based Dell PowerEdge 850 (or was it 830???) I set up for him.

    Same with my SATA-based Athlon X2 server.

    Gentoo 2006.0 was flawless on my new Inspiron E1705.
  • by r00t ( 33219 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:05AM (#14913562) Journal
    Choose a heat sink with a thick base and widely spaced fins that all run the same direction. The fins should be about 1/4 inch apart. Do not orient the fins or CPU horizontally. Air should be able to rise (hot air rises) through the fins from bottom to top without being blocked by components above or below. As always, a massive copper heatsink is best.

    Guide the air. There should be a smooth tube running from the bottom of the PC to the top of the PC, with the heat sink embedded in the middle. The heat sink fills the tube, and is not open except to the tube. Continue the tube up and out of the top of the PC as a chimney, going up at least 1 foot. The bottom of the PC, where the lower end of the tube is open, needs to be lifted off your desk or floor. Air flow needs to be directed vertically but otherwise very free of restrictions.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351