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Mini-ITX board has dual graphics processors, HDMI ports

Sep 24, 2009 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

Via has announced a Mini-ITX motherboard that sports both integrated and discrete graphics circuitry, supporting up to four monitors. The Via VB8003 includes a Nano processor, dual HDMI outputs, VGA and DVI ports, two gigabit Ethernet ports, and a Type II CompactFlash slot, the company says.

While many manufacturers tout their motherboards for digital signage applications, Via's new VB8003 seems more comprehensively suited to that role than any product to date. Dangerous as it is to claim a "first" in this business, the company is likely accurate when it describes the device as "the first-ever Mini-ITX board to feature a dedicated on-board graphics processor and dual HDMI ports."


Via's VB8003

Powered by Via's 64-bit Nano CPU, the VB8003 also employs the company's VX800 northbridge/southbridge. The VX800 already includes Via's Chrome9 2D/3D integrated graphics processor, which is compatible with DirectX 9 and can access up to 256MB of system memory. To this, however, Via has added the S3 Chrome 435 ULP (right), claimed to be "the lowest-power DirectX 10 graphics processing unit on the market today."

Equipped with 256MB of dedicated DDR3 memory, the S3 Chrome 435 ULP is said to provide hardware acceleration for video standards including Blu-ray, H.264, VC-1, WMV-9, MPEG-2/4, and AVS. The graphics processor offers resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600 pixels, and is also capable of simultaneous playback of two 1080p video streams, for either picture-in-picture or multiple-monitor applications, according to S3.


Ports on the edge of Via's VB8003

On the VB8003, the S3 graphics processor drives one of the two HDMI ports shown above, and it's also connected to the DVI-I output, according to Via. The integrated VX800 graphics, meanwhile, drives both the second HDMI port and a VGA port, allowing for a total of four monitors, Via adds. (As you'll see in the video at the end of this story, Via has actually shown off the VB8003 driving five screens, but didn't explain how the fifth monitor was connected.)

In addition to the video outputs already mentioned, "real world" ports cited by Via for the VB8003 include two PS/2 connectors, a serial port, two gigabit Ethernet ports with RJ45 connectors, and four USB 2.0 ports. Instead of the usual 3.5mm jack for stereo audio output, the board offers two separate mono RCA jacks, akin to what you'd find on a piece of home audio equipment.

Onboard headers, meanwhile, provide two additional USB ports, a second serial port, another PS/2 connector, mic-in and mic-out, and S/PDIF digital audio output, says Via. Interestingly, there's also a header for LVDS video output. However, since the LVDS output is provided by the VX800 and can't be accessed when that chip's HDMI output is being employed, according to Via, it isn't the answer to the "fifth monitor mystery" alluded to earlier.


A block diagram of Via's VB8003
(Click to enlarge)

Via says the VB8003 has a Type II CompactFlash slot, plus a "VCP" slot that may be used to add a video capture card or two additional serial ports. In addition to this, the board has a connector for Via's MFX (multi-function eXtension) modules, which may be used to add additional serial ports, more USB ports, wireless networking, and other functionality, as pictured below.


Available MFX expansion modules for the VB8003
(Click to enlarge)

Naturally, the VB8003 also has a 40-pin IDE connector, plus two SATA ports, according to Via. The board accepts up to 4GB of memory via two SODIMM sockets, the company adds.

Features and specifications listed by Via for the VB8003 include the following:

  • Processor — Via Nano clocked at 1.6GHz
  • Chipset — VX800 plus S3 Chrome 435 ULP discrete graphics processor
  • Memory — Up to 4GB of RAM via two SODIMM sockets
  • Networking — 2 x gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • Graphics:
      • 1 x HDMI (S3)
      • 1 x HDMI (VX800)
      • 1 x DVI-I (S3)
      • 1 x VGA (VX800)
      • 1 x LVDS (VX800)
    • 6 x USB (4 ports, 2 via headers)
    • 2 x SATA
    • IDE
    • 3 x PS/2 (2 ports, 1 via header)
    • 2 x serial (1 port, 1 header)
    • 4 x GPIOs (headers)
    • 1 x IrDA (header)
    • Audio:
      • 2 x mono RCA jacks for stereo line output
      • Mic-in and line-out (headers for front panel connections)
      • S/PDIF digital audio output (headers)
  • Expansion:
    • Type II CompactFlash slot
    • VCP slot
    • MFX connector
    • LPC header
    • SMbus connector
  • Operating temperature — 32 to 140 deg. F (0 to 60 deg. C)
  • Dimensions — 6.7 x 6.7 inches (17 x 17cm)


Via's VB8003

Source: Via Corporation (click to play)


Availability

According to Via, the VB8003 supports Linux, Windows XP Embedded, or Windows XP. Pricing and availability were not cited, but the board will cost approximately $340, according to a report by the SlashGear website, here.

More information on the VB8003 may be found on the company's website, here.


This article was originally published on LinuxDevices.com and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.



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