Sony's TP1 Media Center PC packs a Core 2 Duo, TV Tuner card, HDMI output, WiFi and all the usual computer gubbins into one convenient giant white hockey puck shaped unit. An optional and similarly cylindrical DT1 digital tuner can be stacked underneath to record and stream telly at 1080i around your home network. The whole unit measures 270mm in diameter and sadly almost certainly doesn't contain a circular motherboard. We rather like the look of the TP1 here at Mini-ITX, but then of course we would.
VIA have released more teaser pictures of their EPIA PX Pico-ITX board prototype, this time showing the board in all its glory without an enclosure.
VIA are no strangers to tiny motherboards. Many current 90 x 96mm PC/104+ and 146 x 101mm EBX 3.5in embedded boards already use VIA chipsets, and VIA already have their 120 x 120mm Nano-ITX boards. The EPIA PX measures 100 x 72mm. As with the EPIA NL Nano-ITX boards, all the connectors apart from Ethernet and VGA connect using pin headers due to physical limitations at this size.
The slightly unfinished looking heat spreader covering most of the top of the board in the final picture is interesting. This appears to be one half of a larger finned cooling arrangement - the top half mounting through 3 threaded hollow standoffs or screwing directly into the heat spreader. Or perhaps the standoffs are to allow stacking, PC/104 style. VIA rarely release photos of their boards with the full heatsink attached.
From the front
With heat spreader
No further specifications are clearer at this stage. This is what we currently know.
Torquil Harkness disappeared into his shed armed with a bundle of components, an angle grinder and mig welder and emerged several days later with his very own fully upgradable 2.0GHz Mini-ITX powered aluminium laptop. When he told the store what he was going to do we didn't quite believe him. We do now Torquil.
VIA demonstrated a new size of EPIA motherboard at CES this year measuring just 100 x 72mm - the Pico-ITX. The prototype EPIA PX was powered by a 1GHz C7 CPU and an unnamed chipset with Unichrome Pro II functionality, making it both smaller and potentially slightly faster than current 120 x 120mm Nano-ITX boards.
It's unclear when the Pico-ITX will make an appearance but when it does VIA hopes it will be incorporated inside places such as vehicles, wireless or even skype devices.
Due to the small size most I/O will require cables attached to pin headers. Provisional specifications are: 1x DDR2 SODIMM socket; IDE; SATA; VT6106S 10x100 LAN with RJ45 socket; VGA socket; VT1708A Audio; 4x USB 2.0; COM; PS2; LVDS/DVI; TV output headers.
AMD have announced a new DTX platform and with it, Mini-DTX. Both platforms will be open standards, and not limited to AMD chipsets and processors. Of particular interest to us is the Mini-DTX platform which has a board size of 200 x 170mm, which may give room for an additional expansion slot compared to the single slot limitation of the 170 x 170mm Mini-ITX platform.
The rest of AMD's press release is standard stuff: low TDP (Thermal Design Power) processors; backwards mounting point compatibility with ATX enclosures; reduced noise, energy costs, size and heat will all sound very familiar (and worthwhile) to regular readers of this site.
Intel's BTX, Micro-BTX and Pico-BTX standards have been met with tepid enthusiasm in the marketplace since they were introduced a couple of years ago. Rigid specifications for component placement and cooling were impractical for AMD solutions, and consumers and manufacturers alike failed to see any real benefits. Whether the world is ready for another small form factor standard remains to be seen - the majority of small form factor PCs are built around proprietary board sizes, and a lot can be crammed onto a Mini-ITX board.
Note: we couldn't find a picture of a Mini-DTX. So we used a picture of AMD's David Schwarzbach holding a PCB panel containing four DTX boards.
VIA Technologies are moving closer to releasing their EPIA EX Mini-ITX motherboard. The EPIA EX was first spotted in June 2006 and hinted at during CeBIT 3 months previously. Starter kits were up for grabs to registered developers back in November and an official announcement was made at the end of December.
Two versions will be available, the EPIA EX15000G powered by a 1.5GHz C7 processor and a fanless version powered by a 1.0GHz C7 Eden processor. If you can buy enough of them, VIA will stick a Gigabit LAN in place of the standard 10/100.
The usual suspect board back panel outputs are bolstered by DVI, optical audio and component video connections (though no HDMI) - VIA are targetting the EX at the x86 consumer electronics market and hope to see it in lots of devices from small to medium sized manufacturers looking to reduce their development costs and time to market.
The CX700M2 chipset is of most interest - the UniChrome Pro II 2D/3D graphics core promises hardware decoding acceleration of MPEG-2/-4 and WMV9 video, HDTV output up to 1080i and multi-channel HD audio. The CX700M2 chipset follows on from where the CN700 left off and at first glance appears to be broadly similar to Intel's recent mobile chipsets in capabilities. Let's hope VIA can offer software developers enough support to get these features utilised.