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


EPIA MII 12000

The amount of connectors and headers on this board is staggering, considering the 170 x 170mm size. VIA have crammed in 15 seperate ports on the back panel, including a CardBus adapter, 3 kinds of video output, USB 2.0 and Firewire, and a Compact Flash reader. Though we were disappointed we couldn't boot using Compact Flash, several Mini-ITX cases come with IDE-based readers already, and a future BIOS update should make it possible for the two biggies - Linux and Windows Embedded. When we manage to cram Windows XP onto a Compact Flash card of any size, we'll start worrying about that too.

The most impressive results were the AES encryption tests. These didn't simply better our Pentium and Athlon results, they blew them out of the water - the MII 12000 was on average an order of magnitude faster performing standard encryption tasks. Padlock technology will certainly be popular with industrial and embedded manufacturers, but if it gains popularity amongst the open source community it will become a selling point for home users too. Secure encrypted Linux filesystem anyone?

All the results show that raw CPU power isn't always the measure of a motherboard, which is central to VIA's design philosophy. By providing task-specific functionality in the supporting chipset and on the CPU, the requirement for raw clockspeed is lessened. Only in the high performance world of 3D gaming does this board really lose its teeth - any improvements on that front will have to wait for the CN400 chipset.

VIA's low power consumption is almost a trademark, and the MII won't disappoint here. This translates to low cooling requirements, quieter boxes, and in power sensitive applications - longer run times.

As an inexpensive upgrade path for ageing x86 machines, EPIAs are ideal - schools, libraries and internet cafes can all benefit from low noise and low power consumption machines. Under Linux, even a humble EPIA 5000 can perform tasks such as file serving with ease, all at the cost of a SCSI card. Due to their small size, EPIAs have gained a following in the modding community (witness the many projects on this site). Although such mods probably represent a small proportion of sales, they show the versatility that this form factor has, and the enthusiasm of its owners. With the M and MII models, VIA have shown that the EPIAs can be powerful multimedia playback machines. An EPIA M in a low profile case looks great next to a TV, where a regular PC will look out of place, overpowered and overpriced for the task. Add a PVR card and you have a perfect HTPC.

By staying focused on the same design philosophy that went into the original EPIAs, the MII continues to significantly push up the performance levels of these low wattage, all-in-one motherboards. Case in point: the continuing evolution of the Nehemiah C3 processor. Clocking in at 1.2GHz, VIA have broken the symbolic 1GHz barrier, a development Intel and AMD advocates have to take notice of. With the MII, the EPIA M platform has matured - the next stage for VIA will be to replace the CLE266 chipset, and move to the next generation of CN400 EPIAs. For now though, the EPIA MII 12000 combines the best of EPIA platforms past, with some promising new features. We like it.


We made a wishlist for future EPIAs in our last lengthy review of the M10000, just in case the guy who designs the boards at VIA was reading. Here's our updated version:

Faster, fanless C3 CPUs. A DVI connector. With an adapter for VGA. Actually - 2 DVI connectors. 2 GigaBit Ethernet Ports as standard. A 3 Ethernet port EPIA. A 4 Serial port EPIA. Scrub that - how about a choice of removable I/O panels, that attach to headers on the board? RAID support. SATA. Video Input. Hardware assisted MPEG1-4 decoding *and* encoding. On-board graphics memory. Half-decent 3D graphics. A breakout cable for the audio connectors to save space. Dolby decoding (and a THX logo to impress the HTPC market). All running in silence at 20W and under $150. And on 2 AA batteries. Perhaps next year...

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