Via tweaks tiny PCs

The Taiwanese hardware maker is refreshing its line of Mini-ITX entry-level motherboards as it pushes into non-PC devices

Via Technologies is refreshing its line of tiny Mini-ITX motherboards, with an eye on the industrial manufacturers who have adopted the form factor for everything from automated ticket kiosks to firewalls.

The company says it has seen significant demand for products in its EPIA range of Mini-ITX boards not just for PCs, but for embedded devices such as information displays on routers and airport shuttle buses. Via's proprietary Mini-ITX form factor measures 17cm by 17cm, significantly smaller than standard PC boards, and the new board comes with either a low-power Eden ESP processor or the more powerful C3 E-Series chip.

The Eden chip does not require a fan, and the C3 processor, while not as powerful as mainstream chips from AMD or Intel, requires only modest cooling. This is an advantage for kiosks that need to be running 24 hours a day as well as for "lifestyle" PCs, which might be placed in the front room rather than off in a study.

Via recently added the higher-end EPIA M-Series to its lineup, with multimedia features such as DVD hardware decoding, and on Monday announced an addition to its line of bare-bones boards, called the EPIA V-Series.

The V-Series is to ultimately replace mainboards such as the EPIA-800 and EPIA-5000, the company's first forays into Mini-ITX. It is priced about the same, but adds a few minor tweaks to the configuration, such as the addition of a floppy disk controller.

"These boards are good for when you want a basic PC-type functionality, such as a kiosk in a cinema or a theatre, where you can collect your pre-paid tickets," said Graham Jackson, Via's head of sales for western Europe. "It doesn't need a fan, and it can just sit there and go on forever, 24 hours a day, without producing much heat." He said that the entry-level EPIA boards were also being used for education PCs in some southern European countries.

Small form factor PCs have become popular with hobbyists in recent months, and are often bought by users who already have a PC but want another one in the living room. Jackson said that the EPIA-M has proved popular for this "lifestyle" niche.

Via did not give pricing details for companies buying the EPIA V-Series in bulk, but said the board will cost about the same as the EPIA-800 and EPIA-5000. Those typically sell for about £100.

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