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Mini-ITX signage board upgrades to dual-core processor

Jul 21, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Via Technologies announced a Mini-ITX motherboard that includes a dual-core Nano X2 E-Series processor and, with an optional S3-based graphics module, can support four displays, The VB8004 offers up to 4GB of DDR3 memory, includes HDMI, LVDS, and DVI ports, and provides a special 90-pin I/O connector.

Announced in May, Via's Nano X2 E-Series is an embedded-oriented version (with seven-year availability) of the dual-core Nano X2 that was released in January. Pin-to-pin compatible with earlier Nanos, this CPU comes in 1.2GHz or 1.6GHz versions, according to the company.

Like the revised single-core Nanos that debuted in November 2009, the Nano X2 E-Series supports 64-bit instructions, Via's VT virtualization technology, and Intel's SSE4 instruction set extensions. (Prior Nanos supported only SSE3, just like Intel's own Atom.)

So far, Via has already released one Mini-ITX board using the Nano X2 E-Series, i.e. the Epia M900 announced on July 7. The "new" VB8004 is another such offering, distinguished by the fact that with an optional S3-based graphics module, it can drive as many as four displays.

We use the quotation marks above because the VB8004 was originally announced at the beginning of June, with the option of 1.6GHz or 1.2GHz Nano E-Series processors. All that appears to have changed is the added availability of the dual-core Nano X2 E-Series CPU, obviously an easy change thanks to the pin-to-pin compatibity we've already mentioned.

Via VB8004

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Up to 4GB of DDR3 memory is supported by the board's Via VX900 chipset, which offers DX10.1 graphics plus support for 1080p video and dual displays. In addition, the VB8004 provides an optional S3 5400E-based graphics module (the VB8004-A pictured below) for "top-of-the line" graphics and video, including DX10.1, Shader Model 4.1, OpenGL 3.1, and OpenCL 1.0 support.

VB8004 with VB8004A graphics daughtercard

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According to Via, the VB8004-A supports Blu-ray, H.264, VC-1, WMV-9, and MPEG-2/4, plus HD video playback at resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600 pixels. It also provides a Mini PCI slot, an HDMI port, and a DVI-I port, which supplement the VB8004A's standard equipment to allow four displays to be driven simultaneously, the company says. 

Rear panel detail (left), with second expansion daughtercard and wireless module shown at right
(Click to enlarge)

The VB8004 board itself offers additional real-world, rear-panel ports including a gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, a serial port, and a PS2 port. Meanwhile, dual SATA ports, and four more USB ports are available via headers, says Via. Other onboard I/O include serial, audio, and DIO connections.

VB8004 block diagram

The motherboard also offers PCI Express (PCIe) x1 and x4 expansion available via a single, proprietary 80-pin connector that also offers one of the four aforementioned USB connections. An optional 802.11b/g/n card can be plugged in here, as shown in the detail shot below.

VB8004, detailed view

(Click to enlarge)

Features and specifications listed for the Via VB8004 include:

  • Processor — Via Nano X2 E-Series processor clocked at 1.6GHz (Nano E-Series is also still offered, clocked at 1.2GHz or 1.6GHz)
  • Chipset — Via VX900
  • Memory — up to 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Expansion (via 80-pin connector):
    • PCI Express x4 (with USB)
    • PCI Express x1
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet (Via VT6130) via PCIe (rear panel)
  • Other I/O:
    • Rear panel:
      • DVI-I
      • serial
      • 2 x USB 2.0
      • PS2 keyboard/mouse
      • HDMI
    • Onboard headers:
      • 4 x USB 2.0
      • front audio I/O for Via VT1708S audio codec
      • LVDS (24-bit)
      • serial port
      • front panel pin header
      • 2 x SATA
      • DIO (4 in, 4 out)
      • sys and CPU fan connectors
  • Optional daughtercard I/O:
    • HDMI port
    • DVI-I port
    • mini-PCIe + USB
  • Power — DC-in 12V
  • Operating temperature — 32 to 140 deg. F (0 to 60 deg. C)
  • Dimensions — 6.7 x 6.7 inches (17 x 17cm); Mini-ITX
  • Operating system — Linux, Windows 7, Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows Embedded Compact 7, Windows XP

Further information

No information was provided on the pricing or availability of the Via VB8004. More product details may be found at the Via VB8004 page.

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