VIA recently launched its next generation of mainboards equipped with the C7 processor and newer chipsets: CN700 & CX700. While we still await some of VIA’s more exciting additions—the EPIA SN (with Vista support) the EPIA LT & the EPIA NR—perhaps I can note some of the more subtle differences between the now available EPIA LN, VB, and EPIA NX and their predecessors.
VIA makes gradual adjustments to its embedded product line. However, it guarantees efficiency paired with performance, as well as promising a long-term presence with its mainboards in the applied computing market. You can sleep soundly at night knowing that those VIA boards you just designed a major project around will still be relevant and useful in years to come, and even more, when you need extras, the sales team will know what you’re talking about.
I have only been with the company for a little under a year, but I have already seen a Mini-ITX mainboard take on the life span of a mosquito. Well, a female mosquito can last roughly 100 days, if she is lucky, so I shouldn’t be so quick to make poor analogies. But, either way, there are some Mini-ITX boards I took pleasure in introducing, and now, I have to announce their demises. These are more of your consumery, multimedia boards that have no other choice but to maintain pace with the inordinate demand for faster, flashier, and fancier graphics capabilities despite the cost.
Okay, enough politics, now onto the mainboards…
The VIA EPIA LN-series mainboard is considered an economical successor to some of the previous EPIA boards, such as the SP-series. It has an almost identical back panel I/O to the SP mainboard, except if you opt for the LN10000EAG, you are sans TV-out. The onboard connectors also are similar in offerings. They both have CIR, FIR, LPT, and 3 USB 2.0 pin headers for 6 USB ports, among other similarities. But, the new LN is equipped with VIA’s C7 processor and CN700 chipset, which does provide some benefits like support for the faster DDR2 533 memory.
The VIA EPIA NX-series Nano-ITX mainboard is a huge step up from the earlier N- and NL-series boards. The NX still has a limited back panel I/O (keep in mind, though, the NL-series has no back panel direct output), but it does have a fair amount of onboard pin headers. It is also more affordable right from the start, and seems to be geared toward a market where it can well-serve a purpose—point-of-use and kiosk applications. Being equipped with the CX700 chipset, which can support 2 single-channel LVDS displays (or one dual channel), it is better suited for custom enclosures being used as free-standing terminals or cash registers that have two screens—one for the attendant and one for the customer to view. The NX has onboard LVDS, whereas its predecessors required an add-on card (for the second LVDS display support, an add-on card is required for the NX). The NR will natively support 2 single-channel LVDS displays without the required add-on card.
The VB7001G is sort of a special case. Its predecessor in the VB-series, the VB6002G, is very different. So, making a direct comparison here is frivolous. I am not sure what VIA’s logic was here… All VIA says on its Web site is that the VB-series offers “value solutions for system integrators.” So, perhaps V for value? Either way, the VB6002G is designed around a Pentium M or Celeron M, Socket 479, processor. Its I/O capabilities are quite different, and the new VB7001G is more closely matched to the new LN-series. So, I am at a loss of words.
However, the VB7001G does have some qualities worth noting. It utilizes the C7-D carbon neutral desktop processor. It runs a little hotter than VIA’s regular ol’ C7 processor, but it is really not going to be playing a big role in the Mini-ITX embedded stage, so that isn’t too much of a concern. What this translates to is that eco-friendly companies hoping to save a buck can turn to this processor and feel warm and fuzzy all over. The carbon produced by the processor over its life span is offset by VIA’s diligent efforts to plant trees, support alternative forms of energy, and raise environmental awareness. Hey, works for me. Everyone wants to get onboard the eco-train.
Just to offer a few highlights on these boards:
The VB7001G has the following back panel I/O: VGA, RS-232 COM port, 3 audio jacks, keyboard & mouse ports, S-Video and TV-out, 2 USB 2.0 ports, and 10/100 LAN.
The LN10000EG has the following back panel I/O: VGA, RS-232 COM port, 3 audio jacks, keyboard & mouse ports, S-Video and TV-out, 2 USB 2.0 ports, and 10/100 LAN.
The NX-series is limited to a 10/100 LAN port. However, the new NR-series will offer VGA, as well LAN.
Something to look forward to:
The EPIA SN features the C7 processor with a new chipset, the CN896, providing support for DirectX 9 applications. This will be the first VIA Mini-ITX board to fully support Windows Vista. The chipset also supports 4GB (roughly 3.25GB recognizable) of DDR2 667 RAM. The mainboard also is equipped with 4 SATA II onboard connectors, dual LAN (it looks like one LAN port will be Gb), PCI Express and Mini PCI. VIA has not released an expected release date as of yet.