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Review: VIA EPIA CN13000

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 8 September 2006, 08:23

Tags: VIA Technologies (TPE:2388)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qagpb

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VIA EPIA CN13000 Specification
Item Specification
Processor VIA C7 1.3GHz, 13 x 100, 128KiB L1, 128KiB L2
nanoBGA2 package, RoHS compliant
Northbridge VIA CN700
Southbridge VIA VT8237R
Memory Support 1 DIMM, DDR2, 400/500MHz, 1GiB max
Graphics VIA UniChrome Pro w/ MPEG-2 Decoder
VIA VT1625M HDTV Encoder
PCI Express none
PCI Conventional 1 slot, PCI2.2
ATA 2 controllers and ports on VT8237R
SATA 2 ports on VT8237R
LAN 1 x 10/100Mib, VIA VT6103
Audio AC'97, 8-channel, VIA VT1618

VIA, VIA Everywhere

When we say that VIA provide all peripheral and function ICs on EPIA products, we ain't jokin', no sir. From the CPU and main ASIC bridges to everything functional that connects to either, VIA do the lot. No less than seven main ICs make up an EPIA, VIA doing it all in-house. That in itself is quite the achievement.

That the thing confirms to the mini-ITX spec is the next marvel, everything jamming itself onto a PCB that's 17cm square. Think a bit bigger than a CD case and you're just about there. So when you think about a normal mainboard where you've got 10cm² just for the CPU socket area, never mind anything else, you can see where the mini bit of mini-ITX comes from. Serious integration that's just one step away from going complete system-on-chip.

The CN700 northbridge houses the integrated graphics core, memory controller and CPU interface. Bigger than the CPU package (!), CN700 lets the C7 processor suck on a bit more memory bandwidth, and when you realise that the C7 shares the Intel Pentium-M's bus interface (and is available in µPGA479 versions for sliding into Pentium-M mainboards), you can see why giving the processor more bandwidth than the old C3 is a decent idea these days.

The southbridge is VIA's acclaimed VT8237R, which as an IO processor doesn't put many feet wrong. It's got very able ATA and SATA disk controllers, a fine PCI Conventional (PCIc) implementation, audio interface and support for 8 USB2.0 ports, using the VIA V-Link spec to connect back to the CN700. That means the EPIA gets a pair of SATA ports and two ATA ports as well, giving you decent scope for connecting storage hardware to any EPIA CN13000 system. Hell, there's even RAID 0/1 support.

In homage to the users that use the EPIA platform to create media center PCs, the CN13000 supplies a VIA VT1625M HDTV encoder for display output from the MPEG-2-decoding UniChrome Pro. The UniChrome core connects to the rest of the CN700 blocks internally via an AGP8X interface, which is perfectly serviceable interface for the capabilities of the core. Speaking of which, it's only a DX7-class part with entirely underwhelming performance (it was announced in 2004!), but it's the MPEG-2 decoder that most will use it for, if they don't add a discrete board via the PCI slot. More on performance in a while.

Want to take a peek at the board itself? Thought you'd never ask.