VIA Tech shows off water and dust proof PC and more
After we eventually made it to the large VIA booth in Hall 2, we found they had some interesting new products to show, especially in the area where they excel - small sized computers.
Probably the most interesting attraction at the VIA booth was their completely water and dust proof computer. VIA had a demonstration setup where one of their Visson systems was running while having plenty of water drip onto it. Initially we wondered what the point of this but Charlie Chang from VIA quickly pointed out the usage models of this type of system.
For one, it is designed to be the type of system you can use outdoors. Imagine if you are the owner of an expensive high-class restaurant and you want to setup a computer display a dynamic menu. Since its dust proof, many companies come to Visson (part of the VIA group) about the idea about creating a system which will work in dusty factories, such as saw mills, and not collect dust inside the system which would eventually lead to over-heating and eventual failure or less lifetime of the computer.
Next up we saw a bunch of new VIA EPIA ultra small form factor Mini-ITX motherboards. They had plenty on display but the one most interesting to us was the EPIA EX, which should be ready in two or three months.
The EPIA Mini-ITX EX series is designed solely for the home theater PC user. It comes with the VIA CX700 north and south bridge on one single chip and also has a VIA C7 processor on the motherboard as well. You also get single slot DDR-2 support and a single PCI slot for expansion possibilities, such as a TV Tuner card - although with PCI now dying and PCI Express taking over, it would have been nicer to see the newer slot included on the board.
On the I/O panel you are given a whole bunch of different connections, perfect for your HTPC. From top to bottom you have optical and digital coaxial audio out, DVI display output from the VIA UniChrome Pro graphics engine, s-video, network and two USB 2.0 ports, component video output for high-end display devices such as plasma screens and regular coaxial for video and stereo audio output. The only thing really missing is a HDMI port and with this included on the board, it could truly be one super hot contender in the consumer HTPC market. If there was a demand for this feature in the future, VIA would probably add it.
While this platform is not a powerhouse when it comes to performance, it doesn't need to be. It would be perfect for someone looking to build their own HTPC from ground up.
And finally from VIA we take a look at their upcoming PT900 chipset which includes support for not only the current range of Intel processors but also the upcoming Conroe series which is due out sometime in the next three months.
The motherboard VIA was showing was clearly an early reference sample although everything seemed to be working fine. We didn't see any PT900 based motherboards from other Taiwanese companies whilst walking around the show floor but then again we weren't looking too hard for them either.
It would be very nice to see VIA come back strong in the chipset market, as they used to be back in the days of the KT series of chipsets but we'll have to wait and see what VIA can do with it all.