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EPIA MII 12000 Review
Posted on May 18, 2004 Jump to:

EPIA Video Resolutions

All the CLE266 EPIAs in Windows support standard VGA video resolutions of 800x600, 1024x768, 1152x864, 1280x768, 1280x960, 1280x1024, 1400x1050 and 1600x1200 all in 16 or 32 bit colour. The boards support standard resolutions of 800x600 and 1024x768 on a TV. Refresh rates possible are 60, 75, 85 and 100Hz - though only with the slower refresh rates as the resolution increases.

Four other modes are available through roundabout means (Display Properties / Settings / Advanced / Adapter / List All Modes) - 720x576, 720x480 and almost WVGA widescreen 848x480, as well as good old 640x480 in up to 120 Hz. We'd have like to have seen true WVGA support (852x480), and support for HDTV resolutions (1024x720 and 1920x1080) - but it looks like VIA will save these for the next generation of EPIA.

VGA Picture quality on all EPIAs is generally very good - only the very highest resolutions show any kinds of blurriness. There seems to be no support (or drivers) for non-standard resolutions, which would benefit widescreen TVs.

Connecting an EPIA to a TV

The original EPIAs have a very simple system for switching between TV and monitor output. If a TV is connected, it will display on the TV at the next reboot. If a VGA monitor is connected, the VGA output will be used. If both are plugged in, the EPIA would display on the monitor.

The EPIA Ms and MIIs are not so simple. Without another PC or a monitor temporarily next to your TV, it is not possible to configure TV output under Windows. The display device is selected in the BIOS but then subsequently the Windows graphics driver has its own ideas, switching to its own settings after the VGA Windows loading screen. This Windows setting has to be configured too.

Here's how to set up TV output on your EPIA M or MII: Attach your TV and monitor together, select CRT+TV in your BIOS and boot normally. Both screens will boot, then the TV will go black. Open the display control panel, click the settings tab, then advanced, then S3Display. Select the TV so that a blue line goes around it and then tick the box next to it. Click 'Apply' and the TV will display again. Adjust your device settings appropriately.

Method 2: If you have another PC there is an easier option - install VNC as a service onto the EPIA M, connect them both to your LAN, switch on and adjust the control panel remotely from your other PC.

TV Output Quality

The classic EPIAs, EPIA Ms and MIIs both have a VGA monitor output, an S-Video socket, and socket switchable between RCA composite and S/PDIF functionality. We found little difference on our TV between RCA and S-Video, though in theory S-Video should be better. We chose the S-Video output as we could connect straight to the front of our TV, leaving the S/PDIF socket free for AC3 output to our digital amplifier.

TV Output Quality - showing display area without overscan

The EPIA Ms can manage 1024x768 and 800x600 resolution as standard on a TV. The output as default is an image slightly smaller than full screen size (as marked on the edges of this photograph). Both boards have overscan as an option, which stretches the desktop beyond the edges of the screen (a little too far for some purposes). Control is also possible of the absolute picture position in software, though not with the horizontal and vertical scaling found on some TV output cards.

Our picture shows just how difficult it is to photograph a CRT screen. Our picture was very clear and well colour balanced with no shimmer or flickers. There was some distortion around the edges of the picture - but this is not a problem if overscan is used. By contrast, the picture quality during bootup on a TV is awful. BIOS text is blurred and too bright - though still usable. The key to a good picture is a half-decent cable - and if your display allows it, always use in order of preference VGA, S-Video and finally the Composite outputs.

Tip: Unless you're lucky enough to own a Plasma with VGA input, TVs aren't designed for displaying the small text of a Windows or Linux desktop. We changed our DPI settings to "Large" in Display Properties/ Settings/ Advanced and improved the text legibility dramatically.

Benchmarks - Setup Details, Five 1Ghz+ CLE266 Boards -->


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