Via Epia M10000

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A small package for space-contrained applications – Joe

SUMMARY: One Via Epia M10000 to go, extra peripherals but hold the performance.

Epia

A VIA Pita

The good guys at VIA were nice enough to send a sample of their latest motherboard, the VIA Epia M. SFF (Small Form Factor) is becoming a dig deal and hot on its heels is VIA’s Epia Mini-ITX. This is a full-featured motherboard in a very small package – small enough so that users are finding ways to pack a PC into a cigar box (if you’re interested in what can fit where, check out VIA’s Mini-ITX Projects page – incredible!)

Epia

VIA’s Epia Mini-ITX includes the following notable features:

  • On-board Video
  • On-Board 6 channel sound
  • LAN port
  • Two USB Ports
  • Two IEEE 1394 Firewire Ports
  • TV-Out Port (RCA and S-Video ports)
  • Infra-Red Port
  • Three fan connectors

Panel

The panel for attaching peripherals

This little guy packs about as many features in a small (170 mm x 170 mm) footprint that you might want. Now, what it DOES NOT have is a lot of expandability – one PCI and DIMM slot – that’s it. It DOES NOT feature tweaking options – the only thing you can tweak are memory settings in BIOS – that’s it.

One caution in using this board is that the back is not as “clean” as you see with larger boards:

Back

There are a number of components on the back which should be handled with care:

Back Close

The cooling package includes a CPU heatsink and passive heatsink for the North and Southbridge chips:

Cool

In addition, the CPU is fixed – it’s a VIA C3 Nehemiah – 1000 MHz that can not be upgraded, nor can the heatsink – it’s epoxied on the CPU (interested readers can find LOTS of details on the CPU HERE.

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The CPU has some interesting features (per VIA):

  • World’s smallest x86 processor die size of 52mm²
  • Industry leading typical power consumption of a mere 11.25 watts.

A full loading is about 15 watts:

Power

Graph courtesy of VIA Technologies.

Accepting these figures, this comes out to a mere 0.22 – 0.29 watts/mm² – a FAR cry from what we see coming with AMD and P4 technologies exceeding 1 watt/mm² (for more on this, see CPU Die Size – The Cooling Challenge Ahead.) This modest heat loading enables cooling the Via Epia M10000 with a rather smallish heatsink sporting a 40 mm low-noise fan.

To test out the effectiveness of the cooling package, I bored a hole in the heatsink’s base

HS

and inserted a thermocouple into the center, over the CPU core. I then ran Prime95 first with the stock fan. I then replaced it with a beefier 40 mm (Delta # DFB0412H – 20mm) fan to see the impact of more aggressive cooling.

Test Results – Nehemiah CPU Cooling

Fan

HS Temp

Ambient Temp

Delta

C/W¹

Stock Fan, 5772 rpm

39.9

21.8

18.1

1.21

Delta 40mm, 7749 rpm

34.8

21.8

13.0

0.87

¹Assumes 15 watts at full power

Not the kind of cooling we’re used to seeing, but accepting that the required cooling is modest, seems OK for the job, ASSUMING there is adequate case ventilation.

The stock fan is very quiet – I could not get a reading with a Radio Shack sound meter 8″ from the fan intake (<50 dBA); the Delta 40 mm ran at 7749 rpm and read 58 dBA – not terrible but certainly noticeable. The difference was considerable – about 5 C.

I also noticed that the board does throw off heat – I mention this because if you are considering this board, I would pay close attention to ensuring adequate case ventilation.
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To give some idea of what to expect from a performance standpoint, I ran SiSandra benches for CPU, Multi-Media and Memory (with 256 MB SDRAM).

CPU benchmarks clearly show that this platform is NOT competitive with top-line systems – and not meant to be. In broad terms, I found performance in the PIII 500 class:

CPU

You see about the same with Multi-Media:

MM

And finally, Memory:

MEM

Working with this board is sort of a “retro” experience – reminds me of numbers we were seeing some two or three years ago. We have not seen apps that truly demand multi-GHz PCs (gaming aside), so this board could serve as the core of a modest PC for Mom.

CONCLUSIONS

It’s small, it’s quiet, it’s OK for “normal” PCing. A MUST for space constrained applications and a good solution for media PCs. Could be a dandy solution for an “on the go” PC – pack a hard drive, mouse, KB, mini power supply, then grab a screen locally (could be a TV) and you’re set.

Thanks again to VIA for sending this our way to test out – great fun!

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