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VIA EPIA SP 1300 All-In-One - HTPC Dream and Car PC Paradise - The Motherboard Continued

Today we're taking a look at VIA's latest small form factor All-In-One EPIA motherboard, the SP 1300 based on the latest processors and chipsets to come from the VIA labs. This low power consumption platform with hardware MPEG-2 decoding and hardware MPEG-4 acceleration might just what you're looking for in a silent HTPC or car computer. Read on as we take a close look at the humble yet impressive EPIA SP 1300 All-In-One motherboard from VIA Technologies.

By: | Editorials in Motherboards | Posted: May 23, 2005 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9%Manufacturer: VIA Technology

- The Motherboard Continued



While VIA EPIA motherboards have claimed support for this in the past, this is the first time we've seen any of their motherboards with the LVDS connector onboard. LVDS or Low Voltage Display System is a method of connecting up LCD panels to the system though an additional LVDS module. There are different modules with different bit rates, depending on what LCD panel you have will determine what bit rate module you will need. Not only can you connect the LVDS flat panels to this port, a LVDS to DVI module is also available from VPSD that can give you a DVI port for your Mini-ITX case, a very handy addition - points for style and functionality here VIA.



Soldered directly onto the PCB, the VIA C3 1.3GHz processor is the latest and fastest C3 chip available on the Market. The VIA C3 1.3GHz CPU uses the current 0.13um Nehemiah core which incorporated a 133MHz AGLT P6 bus (that's right, the P6 bus used for the Pentium Pro, Pentium 2 and Pentium 3 CPU's) as well as a hardware encryption and decryption engine, allowing for a faster access to encrypted and encrypting files.


The VIA Nehemiah core is the fourth generation of CPU from the VIA labs. The VIA C3 has evolved from its very humble and somewhat "avoid like the plague" beginnings to the status of the most widely used low power processor for HTPC and PC on the go applications, which does very well for the VIA bottom line. Originally started as the VIA Cyrix III CPU, it started at 600MHz using a 100MHz FSB with the codename Samuel. This processor was very crude, in fact it was simply bringing the Cyrix processors of old onto the Pentium 3 bus. This CPU included no L2 cache, so like the original slot 1 Celeron it had a huge performance penalty when L2 cache was needed, added to that fact the CPU was as slow as a turtle crossing the desert to begin with, this CPU faded into the backgrounds of the VIA labs. Enter the Samuel core. Samuel 2 was basically the same as the Samuel 1, only a 64Kbyte L2 cache was added. This speeded up the loading of Windows 98 and Windows 2000, which was the original Samuel's worst nightmare.


The third generation core was the Ezra-T core and this was the first core to do some upgrades. Ezra upgraded the front side bus from 100MHz to 133MHz, added a new hardware prefetcher called step ahead in order to allow the CPU to make up for some of the penalty the CPU faces with the half speed FPU.


The Nehemiah core is the latest in the VIA setup. Nehemiah uses the same 133MHz FSB as the Ezra core, but adds two major changes. First of all is the VIA Padlock security system that incorporates a hardware encryption and decryption engine directly onto the CPU and next VIA added support for Intel's SSE technology, allowing the CPU to be lightly more modern in its multimedia instruction setups.


Now the cooling on the VIA C3 is extremely impressive. With the cut down FPU, out of order processing removed and various other tweaks, the CPU runs at a very low thermal package of just 20 watts. This means that a smaller and quieter cooling option can be used. The heatsink used is identical to heatsinks that cover Northbridge chips. With a small 40mm fan running at 6000RPM you can't even hear the fan when it's installed into a case. If you want to you can remove the stock heatsink and replace it with a rather large Northbridge heatsink from Zalman that runs passive. We did this and found the C3 to run perfectly with a maximum CPU temp of just 38 degree.


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