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VIA EPIA M1000 Mini-ITX - Tiny yet Mighty

By: Cameron Johnson | Editorials in Motherboards | Posted: Nov 3, 2003 5:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 8%Manufacturer: VIA Technology

Features of the EPIA M1000


- Package and Contents



First off we take a look at the package and what VIA ships with it. The first thing you will notice is the size. The box measures only 230x220mm, this is just bigger than the tiny motherboard itself. While you might think you could miss this on the department store shelves, this is where you would be wrong.


VIA has done a fantastic job on the artwork on the retail box to make it more eye-catching. To make this product as cheap as possible, VIA has packed only the vital accessories. What you get is your motherboard, user manual, Driver CD that supports Windows only (Linux drivers are available from VIA Arena), IDE and FDD cables. No USB or Firewire brackets are included as these are meant for ITX cases that are supposed to have front panel I/O with USB and Firewire ports already onboard. If you are going to do a case mod, as most do with these motherboards, you will need to get an extra USB and Firewire bracket, which are available at Radio Shack (in the USA) or Dick Smiths (in Australia).



- Layout


The motherboard itself is definitely in a class of its own. The 20 pin connector for power input is located beside the heatsink and fan assembly for the CPU. While we have criticized this many times in the past, the VIA C3/Eden architecture does not generate anywhere near as much heat or require the same amount of case cooling that your average system does. With the added bonus of the integrated CPU, you will have little or no need to access the CPU or heatsink and fan assembly.


The IDE connectors are located behind the DIMM socket. This keeps them out of the way of the rest of the system components but also allows for shorter IDE cables in ITX cases. The floppy disk connector is located between the I/O panel and the chipset cooling assembly.


The backplane I/O panel is also not that of a standard ATX system. First off you have your PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse. Next you have a standard 15pin VGA monitor port for connection to a CRT or analogue LCD monitor. Besides this is a 4 pin S-Video and RCA output. The S-Video port allows you to hook your EPIA based PC to a TV with an S-Video port or a RCA port. The RCA port has a dual purpose mode. You can either have it as a TV out port or a SPDIF audio out port. If you chose the latter you can use an S-Video to RCA connector to run your EPIA on a TV system. Next is a standard serial port for connecting legacy mice or external modem. Above these is the Printer port, obviously this is self explanatory. Lastly we have three Stereo audio ports, one for Line out to a two speaker set or for the front two speakers in a 5.1 set. Next is the Line in or the Surround Speakers in a 5.1 set and lastly the Mic in or Center/Sub in a 5.1 speaker set. If you have the system in 5.1 speaker mode your mic and Line in functions are disabled.



- Chipset


The task of interconnecting the entire system is the new CLE266 Northbridge and the VT8235 Southbridge. While we are familiar with the Southbridge, this is the first time we have seen the CLE266 Northbridge.


This new Northbridge was specially designed for the C3/Eden series. The CLE266 supports a 66/100/133MHz FSB to support all current and future VIA C3 and VIA Eden processors. Coupled with a new generation S3 Unichrome video controller with integrated MEPG-2 DVD decoder to lighten the burden of DVD decoding on the already strained C3 CPU makes a great improvement. This chipset also integrates a DDR-266 memory controller into the Northbridge; this gives a maximum of 2.1GB/s of memory bandwidth. While the VIA C3 or Eden won't use anywhere near this amount of memory bandwidth the extra is routed to the integrated video controller that uses up to 64MB of the system memory for its frame buffer.



Now we come to the heat of the beast. The M1000 EPIA system series uses an E-BGA VIA C3 CPU running at 1GHz. This CPU uses a 133MHz FSB, the fastest current CPU from the VIA/Centura team. This CPU runs slightly hotter than the Eden CPU which requires an active cooling solution, but to our amazement the cooling system is what we would have expected on a Northbridge. This active solution is held on with push pins like a typical Northbridge cooler - and in fact, it is an actual Northbridge cooler.



The VIA VT1211 is VIA's all-in-one Super I/O chip. This takes care of the legacy ports on the back of the system as well as the LVD port on some of the models.



Lastly we look at the VT1622M. This chip is in charge of the TV output functions of the EPIA motherboard. While you may think this is nothing special, it does have one feature we find quite interesting. While you are able to remove macrovision from DVD's with special software, it isn't always guaranteed to work. S3 has licensing agreements which allow S3 and VIA to produce video controllers with the ability to disable macrovision within actual drivers, legally.


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