Via brings hi-fi to the low end

Its latest motherboard will allow low-cost PCs to offer high-quality audio and DVD playback, according to Via

Via Technologies has unveiled a new motherboard aimed at computer makers who want to offer hi-fi media capabilities in PCs costing less than about £250.

The C3M266 mainboard is based on Via's Apollo CLE266 North Bridge, a chipset that includes an embedded MPEG-2 decoder, used for DVD playback. Chipsets form the nervous system of a PC, connecting a processor with components such as memory and storage. Via is one of the biggest chipset makers, after Intel.

The chipset also integrates 2D and 3D graphics, DDR266 SDRAM memory support and a six-channel surround-sound implementation called Smart5.1, as well as connectivity features such as USB 2.0. Integration in the chipset means that computer makers and users do not have to add the features themselves, keeping prices down.

The MicroATX form-factor board is optimised for Via's C3 processor, which competes at the low end with more expensive mainstream processors from Intel and AMD. Via has carved out a niche for its processors in low-cost computer systems and small form factor PCs, which have become popular with enthusiasts. The board is available now, with pricing available on request.

The C3 is available running at frequencies around the 1GHz mark, but chips from Intel and AMD are closer to the 3GHz mark. However, Via's chip has won praise for its low power consumption and low heat emissions, which mean that a C3 system can be cooled without a fan -- something that is not generally possible with the far hotter Pentium and Athlon systems.

The board fills a niche in Via's product line, between its small form-factor Mini ITX motherboards and the high-end Pentium 4 products.

Via said that its low-cost PC strategy is beginning to pay off. "We are seeing a massive upsurge in global demand from consumers, businesses, and educational and governmental institutes alike for affordable, full-featured PCs that meet their true computing requirements," said Richard Brown, Via's director of marketing, in a statement.

Motherboards are a relatively new market for Via, which got into the business in order to boost sales of its chipsets.

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