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Via demos Nano processor, Pico-ITXe

Oct 28, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 11 views

Via Technologies has begun sampling a mini-ITX board based on its 64-bit Via Nano processor, and has unveiled its new “pico-ITXe” form-factor. The Via VB8001 Mini-ITX Board combines a 1.6GHz Nano with a CN896 graphics chipset, 16-lane PCI Express slot, and multiple I/O, says Via.

(Click for larger view of the Via VB8001 Mini-ITX Board)

Via is demonstrating the VB8001 at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Boston this week, where it will also demonstrate its new pico-ITXe format. Pico-ITX is said to comply with the I/O-centric Stackable Unified Module Interconnect Technology (SUMIT) standard. (See below for more info.)

The VB8001, with and without heat-sink.
The CN896 chipset dwarfs the tiny Nano CPU

(Click either view to enlarge)

The Nano is the first Via processor to use its new “64-bit, superscalar, speculative out-of-order” Isaiah micro-architecture. The Nano L2100 offers a clock speed of 1.8GHz, 800MHz frontside bus, and a rated TDP max of 25.5 Watts, says the company.

The Linux-compatible processor compares favorably to Intel's Atom in performance, according to one early report. Built on 65nm technology, and with the added overhead of out-of-order execution, it also uses considerably more power than the 45nm, in-order Atom. In fact, Nano is really more similar to Intel's Core architecture than to Atom.

On the Via VB8001 board, the Nano is backed up with up to 4GB of DDR2, and is paired with the Via CN896 digital media IGP chipset. The CN896 offers an integrated Chrome9 graphics accelerator for DirectX 9.0 3D graphics, and supports the Via Vinyl 5.1 Audio technology, says Via. The chipset also supports “popular add-in graphics cards” through the board's integrated 16-lane PCI Express slot. The Nano primarily targets nettops.

Specifications for the Via VB8001 board are said to include:

  • Processor — 1.6GHz Via Nano
  • Chipset — Via CN896 northbridge; VT8237S southbridge
  • Memory — 2 x DDR2 533/667 DIMM sockets for up to 4GB
  • Display — VGA support integrated with CN896's Via Chrome9 HC graphics and video acceleration
  • Audio — Via VT1708A high definition audio codec
  • Expansion — 1 x 16-Lane PCIe slot; 1 x 32-bit MiniPCI slot
  • Storage — 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 onboard IDE connector; 2 x SATA (3Gbps) connectors
  • Networking — Via VT6103L 10/100Mbps Ethernet PHY
  • USB — 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • Other onboard I/O connectors:
    • 2 x fan pin connectors (CPU/Sys FAN)
    • 3 x USB pin connectors for 6 additional USB 2.0 ports (one supports Via WLAN module)
    • 1 x Serial port pin connector for COM2 (5V/12V selectable)
    • 1 x LPC header
    • 1 x CIR pin connector (switchable for KB/MS)
    • 1 x FIR pin connector (IRDA 1.0)
    • 1 x SMBus connector
    • 1 x buzzer
    • 1 x S/PDIF out pin connector
    • 1 x Front-panel pin connector
    • 1 x Front-panel audio pin connector (Mic and Line-out)
    • 1 x ATX power connector
  • Other back-panel I/O:
    • 1 x PS2 mouse port
    • 1 x PS2 keyboard port
    • 1 x Serial port
    • 1 x VGA port
    • 1 x RJ-45 LAN port
    • 3 x Audio jacks (Line-out, Line-in and Mic-in)
  • System monitoring — voltage monitoring; watchdog timer; wake-on LAN, keyboard and timer power-on; AC power failure recovery
  • Operating temperature — 32 to 122 degrees F (0 to 50 degrees C)
  • Dimensions — 6.7 x 6.7-inch (17 x 17cm); mini-ITX (6-layer)
  • Operating systems — Linux, Windows XP, Win CE, XPe

PCI-ITXe embraces SUMIT

The new Pico-ITXe form-factor that Via is demonstrating tomorrow at ESC Boston is a new version of pico-ITX that supports the SUMIT stackable board interface. Via's tiny 3.9 x 2.8-inch (10 x 7.2cm) pico-ITX format was announced in January 2007. The form-factor has approximately half the surface area of Via's 4.7 x 4.7-inch (12 x 12cm) nano-ITX standard, and is considerably smaller than the original 6.7-inch square (17 x 17cm) mini-ITX standard.

The SUMIT physical interface
(Source: Samtec)

Earlier this year, Via transferred ownership of the pico-ITX spec to the Small Form Factor SIG (special interest group), which defined and now maintains the open, vendor-neutral SUMIT standard. SUMIT offers a stackable expansion interface aimed at unifying I/O cards across many single-board computer (SBC) form factors, says the group.

Around the same time that SUMIT was announced, the PC/Consortium, which has long maintained a series of stackable board standards, announced that it has officially adopted a competing stackable board standard called PCI/104 Express. This PCI/104 offshoot moves up to three connectors and 156 pins, in order to support full x16 PCIe, while SUMIT sticks with 104 pins, and tops out at x4 PCIe signals. Both rival interface standards are claimed to support next-generation PCI Express 2.0 signaling.


The Via VB8001 is sampling now, says Via, which is demonstrating the board at ESC Boston this week at booth #914. More information on the VB8001 may be found here.

At presstime, Via did not appear to have additional information on its pico-ITXe standard. Other products to be demo'd at the show include the Via ViPro “all-in-one touch panel system,” and “Via's new segment specific NAS and NAB boards,” says the company.

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