VIA Eden 800 Motherboard/CPU

MultiMedia PC How-To – Simon Jennings

I had studied forums and the web for a fair while before deciding on the Eden 800. Many guys are using it for an integrated DiVX/DVD box and I wanted something that would do the same. In a lot of instances, it seemed that people were having trouble getting smooth and consistent content playback even with quality settings reduced to their lowest.

These people were always using Windows XP. It occurred to me that such an underpowered system was bogging down with the relatively underpowered C3 800 MHz processor. I would remedy this by installing a nice easy fast OS, Windows 98SE.

I received the VIA Eden 800 from my supplier and friend Andrew Webber over at www.pcpieces.co.nz, having spent many hours thinking about the way in which I could best utilise
it.

Upon arrival, I was stunned at the motherboards miniscule size. Talk about tiny, it makes Micro-ATX boards look obese by comparison! This is one small board.

Not only is it small, but it crams all the items you require onto the one board. It has the CPU solidly mounted (non-removable), plus Integrated Video and Tvout, 10/100 LAN, AC97 Audio, USB, PS/2, Parallel port and a serial port. It is a very complete little unit.

The key components of the VIA Eden™ Embedded System Platform include the following:

Lowest power and highest performance embedded sixth generation x86 processor core featuring:

  • Lowest voltage
  • World’s smallest x86 processor die
  • Native x86 execution
  • Integrated 192KB internal L1/L2 cache
  • MMX™& 3DNow! support
  • Leading edge 0.13 and 0.15 micron processes
  • Market-leading x86 North Bridge technology featuring:
    • Advanced memory controller with high-speed PC133 SDRAM support
    • Integrated low power AGP2X/4X graphics with high performance 3D acceleration, and full 2D/video acceleration including motion compensation and up to 32 MB Frame Buffer
    • CRT/TFT/DSTN Flat Panel/DVI Panel Monitor Support
  • Proven x86 South Bridge technology with highly integrated multimedia, communications, and connectivity features, including:
    • AC 97 audio
    • USB 1.1
    • Super I/O
    • ATA-33/66/100 support
    • 10/100 Mbps Ethernet
    • MC 97 Fax/Modem
  • Flexible communications, connectivity, and multimedia Companion technology options, including:
    • Ethernet MAC & PHY
    • TV-Out
    • 1394
    • USB 2.0
    • Audio CODEC
    • Storage (Flash)
    • DOC Flash memory (8 MB ~ 32 MB) on board

PRESENTATION/BUNDLE

What you receive:

  • 1x Eden Motherboard
  • 1x ATA-66/100 Cable
  • 1x Eden EPIA Manual
  • 1x Driver CD
  • 1x Custom backplate to suit Eden, standard size.

LAYOUT/FEATURES

The board is laid out reasonably well:

It is super compact and when you get to this sort of size it becomes incredibly difficult to place things for ease of use.

  • External Connectors:
    • 1x PS2 Keyboard
      connection, 1x PS2 Mouse connection

    • 1x 15 pin CRT VGA Monitor output
    • 1x 25 pin Parallel port (EPP/ECP Compatible)
    • 1x S-Video Output
    • 1x RCA Video Output/S/P-DIF Output
    • 2x USB 1.1 compliant ports
    • 1x RJ-45 10×100 Ethernet connector
    • 3x Audio ports (Line out, Line in, Mike in)
    • 1x 16C550 9 pin Serial port

  • CPU Specifications:

    • Embedded VIA C3-E 800MHz Processor
    • Enhanced Ball Grid Array (EBGA) packaging
    • Internal 128 kb Level 1 cache
    • Internal 64 kb Level 2 cache

  • Chipset:

    • VIA 8601A Northbridge
    • VIA VT8231 Southbridge

  • Audio: On Board VIA VT1612A AC’97 codec

  • LAN: VIA VT6103 Ethernet controller, supporting 10/100 MB Ethernet speeds

  • TV-Out: VIA VT1621 TV-Output controller, supporting S-VHS or RCA video outputs, at resolutions of 640×480, 800×600, in PAL or NTSC

  • Graphics: Integrated Trident Blade 3D Graphics Core, 8 MB

  • Memory: 2x 168pin DIMM slots, supporting SD-RAM modules from
    32 MB to 512 MB, for a maximum memory total of 1 GB. Supports PC100/133 speeds

  • USB: 1x USB pin header for up to 2 additional USB Ports

  • Power: Standard 20 pin ATX power connector

  • Front Panel Connectors: Supports Power/Reset switches, and Power/HDD LED’s

  • Video-In/PCI 2 Card Connector: For connecting a PCI Riser card, and a Video In port.

  • FSB jumpers: Supports configurations of 66 MHz, 100 MHz, and 133 MHz speeds

  • 1x PCI Slot

As you can see, it comes with a multitude of connectors. The 800 MHz C3 comes with a Heatsink and Fan, but is just about silent in operation. Plugging in IDE cables is easily done as the sockets are in an easily accessible area of the board. It’s amazing just how much stuff is squeezed onto this tiny motherboard.
{mospagebreak}

Simon Jennings

BIOS

BIOS is from Award – it has the usual adjustments of RAM timings, etc. A full screen boot logo can be enabled too. You can make your own and patch them into a new BIOS, so you get a fancy logo at startup. You need a little program called CBRom to do this. I’d recommend it only to people who are experienced in this area to try it, as you could easily damage your motherboard with a faulty BIOS flash.

SYSTEM SETUP & NOTES

  • VIA Eden 800 Motherboard/CPU
  • Jetram PC133 128 MB SDRAM (cheap)
  • Creative DXR-2 DVD Drive
  • 4.3GB Seagate ATA33 Drive (old)
  • 105w ATX Powersupply (thanks Andy)
  • 29" Toshiba TV (for output)
  • Pioneer home theatre system (for audio)

I took it upon myself to build a custom case, as Mini-ITX form factor cases are hard to come by; plus, I was trying to keep my expense to a minimum. I designed the overall size in AutoCAD first, to make sure everything would fit.

Once finished, I started to cut the design from 12mm MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). I find MDF easy to work with and the finish can be superb, given ample preparation. I wanted the case to be smooth and without fixings, so I designed it so that everything could slide in from the rear.

Results can be seen below:

(1) All parts cut out of 12mm MDF, Routed slots for motherboard tray DVD Drive. Front panel shown before cutting out, then (2) Quick fitment test, prior to filling/sanding:

(3) Filled/sanded, front panel cutout, then (4) Filled/sanded, rear panel partly cutout. Ready for primer.

Next, (1) Test fit of all components, prior to filling/sanding, then

(2) Back panel still to be made.

Applying lacquer (1) 6 of 8 Coats of Silver Automotive. Flatted between coats, then (2) 8 coats applied. Ready for clear coats.

Interior sprayed black (3), perspex added; 5 coats of clear coat on silver. Interior sprayed black (4), perspex added. Power/LEDs added.

The finished case in all its glory (1) buffed to gloss. Motherboard clearly visible (2) – yet to include cold cathode lighting.

Back panel (3), black painted. Tiny 105w Power supply just visible. Finished case (4). PCI slot not really usable….wasn’t planning to anyway.

Finished box in action:

Audio routed through Pioneer Dolby laserdisc system. Movie is a DiVX of Ronin with De Niro – excellent car chases.
{mospagebreak}

Simon Jennings

INSTALLATION

Having plugged all items in/together, it was time to install the OS. Upon booting, you have trouble believing just how quiet this motherboard is, especially compared to my P4 monster that I am used to. You could just about sleep with it under your pillow and still get a good night’s sleep.

Windows 98SE installed without a hitch; all drivers were previously downloaded off the VIA website and were the most up to date available. VIA 4 in 1′s were also installed. PowerDVD XP with the additional patch and the latest copy of BSPlayer were installed, ready for the testing of the Tvout functionality.

Tvout options can be set from the BIOS and were set to PAL, Overscan. This was the best output for my television. Optionally to tweak the Overscan, you can create toolbars that are always on top at each side of your screen. This gives the benefit of increasing your viewable area and allows you to fine-tune the output to your taste.

Standard DVD players cut off a certain amount of image when output to a TV screen, so the secret is to replicate this as best you can. In my case, it was perfectly fine and didn’t require any tweaking.

Installation was a breeze, and it was up and running in around 30 minutes.

Overall, setup was about an hour, but this included tweaking and generally just playing around.

TWEAKING

It took a bit of tweaking to get DiVX output smooth, especially on all DiVX content. Some DiVX’s in my collection are created with a high bitrate – these require the quality to be turned down to avoid frame skip. To avoid this I used BSPlayer, which I found in my testing is a lot faster than other decoders on the C3 800MHz Processor.

I then adjusted the quality to a level that it would play all content without being compromised. DVD quality is fine, and CPU usage dropped markedly with hardware acceleration enabled in PowerDVD (once the patch was applied).

Once tweaked, it was time to do some serious testing; this involved watching DVD and DiVX content along with miscellaneous benchmarks. It performs about on a par with a Celeron 400 in terms of raw CPU power – this is plenty for the tasks I set for it. DVD/DiVX are quite power hungry but it coped admirably.

One problem that became evident is the limited colour palette in TVOut mode. Large areas of colour become banded and patchy looking – this is quite annoying during playback. Hopefully, VIA can sort it out with a BIOS/Driver upgrade; movies are still plenty watchable, though.

CONCLUSION

This motherboard is truly a wonder of engineering. It offers excellent stability and makes a perfect multimedia box. With the ever-expanding world of computing, this will be obsolete very shortly.

VIA has already announced a higher speed (1000 MHz) version with DDR memory support, which should make tweaking less of an issue, and has built in hardware decoding for Mpeg2 streams. It would be a perfect motherboard were it not for the Palette problem (noted above). I still recommend this board, both for its price, functionality and because it’s just damn small.

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