Over the past year or so, a bunch of mini PC boards have combined ARM-based SoCs with basic I/O ports. These barebones computers tend to be very inexpensive, but they're also quite limited and have thus far been compatible with only Android and Linux. Via's latest mini PC board is quite a bit more powerful, and it should have no problem running Windows. Say hello to the EPIA-P910, a Pico-ITX motherboard featuring a Via QuadCore E-Series processor.
As its name implies, the QuadCore CPU features four cores. The cores are split between two dies that share the same package, and they're proper, x86-compatible units. Unlike Intel's Atom CPUs, these "Isaiah" cores support out-of-order execution. They're also 64-bit compatible, allowing the EPIA-P910's single SO-DIMM slot to support up to 8GB of memory.
The QuadCore CPU is just that—a CPU. The processor is paired with Via's VX11H chipset, which supplies DirectX 11-class Chromotion 5.0 integrated graphics and a bunch of system I/O. Amusingly, the VX11H consumes more board real estate than the processor. While the integrated GPU surely won't be speedy enough for gaming, it supports stereoscopic 3D displays and promises decode acceleration for various video formats, including H.264. The Chromotion GPU feeds a trio of video outputs: one VGA, LVDS, and Mini HDMI. Also on the menu: Gigabit Ethernet, dual Serial ATA connectors, and two USB 3.0 ports.
Via squeezes everything onto a circuit board measuring just 3.9" x 2.8", making the EPIA only slightly larger than the much less powerful Raspberry Pi. Of course, the Pi can be had for just $35. There's no mention of the EPIA-P910's price in Via's press release, but the board is likely to cost quite a bit more than basic ARM-based solutions. That only seems fair given the hardware involved.
Call it morbid curiosity, but given the performance optimizations built into Windows 8, I can't help but wonder how fast a system based on the P910 would feel for everyday tasks. Too bad the stock cooler isn't a passive design.
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