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Date: December 13th, 2002
Article by: Burt Carver (Hardware Reviewer & Newsposter)
Product was donated by: VIA Technologies
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Product Pictorials And Additional Information

The EPIA Motherboard arrived in a colourful box as shown below:

Included in the package was a wonderful assortment of goodies. From left to right around the board we have the combination firewire / USB 2.0 bracket, the standard case plug pattern, UDMA 133 and FDD cables, comprehensive manual, and the driver disk.

Here is an excellent comparison, size wise, with a ATX board. Do keep in mind that the board shown here, an MSI board would require several add-in cards in order to achieve the same functionality as the EPIA.

Here is another image I took to give a real hands on feel for the scale of this tiny board. Its pretty evident that this thing will fit where no other full functioned board will go. If any representatives from PaperMate are reading this review, the advertising is on us... this time.

Here is the back of the motherboard. The only thing missing as far as I can tell is a modem jack... and who uses one of those anyways?

As shown before in the overall shot, here is the bracket supplied with the motherboard. An enterprising person could probably disconnect the bracket from the plugs, and modify a small case to incorporate these plugs on the front panel.

Indepth Analysis

Audio

This board incorporates several features aimed specifically at the emerging set-top box / media computer market. The audio on the board can output 6 channels through the minijacks to a 5.1 computer speaker set up, or send a digital signal out to your home theater receiver through the RCA. This board is also extremely adaptable. The RCA can also double as a video out if your television does not have a S-Video connector. This is accomplished through an onboard jumper. Another feature of the audio is that VIA includes a function that successfully blends two channel input into surround output. The feature is called Magic 5.1 and is enabled through the 'advanced' tab in the rear speaker volume configuration. Obviously this is not the same as a true 5.1 audio source, but the output is acceptable and utilizes all channels.

Video

The EPIA Board is powered by VIA CastleRock AGP graphics. It includes an MPEG-2 decoder, 128-bit 2D and 64-bit 3D graphics engine with internal AGP 8X and Alpha Blending. This is not a 3D powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, but serves well in the media arena. With hardware decoding superior image quality is achieved, and less reliance on the CPU to crunch the video stream. This translates into an image that rivals consumer DVD players. On the next page of the review, we will run this little darling through a 3dmark2001se test just to see how she does. But remember, this motherboard is not intended for running Quake3 at 200fps.

Noise

This board is silent. The fan from about 3 feet away is difficult to hear. Slap this motherboard in any case with a quiet power supply and it wouldn't make a peep.

Connectivity

This product exceeds all the the most fully featured motherboards out there in terms of connections. VIA has even included a plug on the motherboard for connecting an LCD panel! The inclusion of onboard LAN, Firewire and TV out just add value to this already smoking deal.

Benchmarks coming up next...

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