Via QuadCore CPU rides in on new Mini-ITX boards

— 11:11 AM on February 23, 2012

Remember the QuadCore CPU Via introduced last spring? We've been waiting for the chip to pop up in actual products, and now it has. Via's new EPIA-M900 and EPIA-M910 Mini-ITX boards are available with the quad-core CPU. The chip runs at "1.2+ GHz", which is Via's way of saying it has a 1.2GHz base clock speed with a 1.46GHz turbo peak. Riding shotgun on both boards is Via's VX900 chipset, whose integrated GPU boasts a ChromotionHD 2.0 video engine primed to accelerate 1080p video playback.

The EPIA-M900 is the more conventional of the two offerings, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve. In addition to a PCI Express x16 slot (with only eight lanes of bandwidth), the M900 features an old-school PCI slot. It also sports a pair of DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, Gigabit Ethernet, and an HDMI output. The port cluster is pretty spartan otherwise; Via hasn't included USB 3.0 in the mix, and there are only four gen-two ports at the rear.

Next-gen USB connectivity is missing from the EPIA-M910, as well, but it's designed more for industrial applications. This model features full-sized DIMM slots in addition to PCI and PCIe expansion slots. The expansion slots are in-line with each other, but they're designed to be used with a riser card that puts the slots in a more traditional parallel arrangement. Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports are provided, and the board can be expanded to offer up to a dozen COM ports using add-in cards. Please, contain your excitement.

There was a time when EPIA boards were attractive options for diminutive home-theater PCs, but neither of these new releases looks like a good fit for the home. Via has resorted to active cooling on both models, which means there's a tiny little fan destined to develop an annoying whine over time. The QuadCore CPU's 27.5W thermal envelope probably makes passive cooling difficult.

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