VIA EPIA Mini-ITX
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Warning: The information on this page is out of date and does not apply to LinuxMCE-0710
General: Via make a lot of different "EPIA" boards a listing can be found on the via.tw http://www.via.com.tw/en/products/mainboards/ site. They come in a variety of sizes Mini-ITX has become a bit of a standard and will fit in on four of the holes for standard MicroATX boards. A Mini-ITX board is just 17cm x 17cm and usually has one DIMM slot and one PCI slot (which can accomodate a riser (risers normally allow for a flatter installation and upto 3 PCI cards). Nano and Pico ITX boards are even smaller but usually with less expandability. VIA boards are based around their own chipset and processor. The processors although lower frequency and power rating (both electrical power and nuber crunching) have in built MPEG2 (and some MPEG4) decoding acceleration so that they can complete the job of running MythTV / LinuxMCE.
SP13000 is a well known board and is in use by many people for MythTV / LinuxMCE but it is generally regarded as underpowered for a multi-room Core or Hybrid. SP13000's are good for Media Directors with PXE boot; just upgrade the bios to 1.07 or later for widescreen resolution support. VIA have opensourced their drivers so hardware support is pretty much out of the box now.
I would not suggest anything less than an M-10000 board for video playback duties.
Since VIA started off the Mini-ITX trend, boards are now available from a few other manufacturers with more powerful processors and specialist cases with heat pipes to cool such processors silently: Mainboards from: Commell, DFV and even Intel. Cases from companies such as Hush Technologies and Tranquil PC.
VIA Mini-ITX Pros and Cons:
- small factor
- low power consumption
- digital audio output
- some have PXE boot problems (usually resolved by unplugging the power for a couple of seconds before rebooting). Although this problem seems to have been fixed in recent LinuxMCE releases and should not cause a problem.
The following is obsolete in my experience with 710 at least.
- this is not an issue no efficient video support (fixed in newer kernels and X)
For now it can be great Media director, but without decent Video support ... but with updated Kernel/x drivers everything flys!
Unichrome drivers for the video are available but a bit of a hassle to get to work but once installed the video performance of the Mini-itx platform is totally transformed. Image quality and frame rates are excellent and the mini-itx motherboards become excellent media directors.