EPIA MII 12000 Review
The Apollo CLE266 Chipset
Underneath the aluminium double heatsink lies the VT8235 South Bridge and CLE266 North Bridge (on the right). Both of these support chips are together referred to as the VIA Apollo CLE266 chipset.
CLE266 North Bridge
The North Bridge connects the CPU at high speed to the major internal interfaces on the computer, i.e. the memory, PCI bus and AGP port (if present). It also connects to the South Bridge. The CLE266 North Bridge also provides on-board video with an integrated "Unichrome" graphics core (aka CastleRock), from VIA's graphics subsidiary, S3. UniChrome is primarily a 128-bit 2D graphics engine optimised for multimedia playback, although it does have a 64-bit 3D graphics engine for rudimentary 3D tasks. Most importantly, Unichrome has an integrated MPEG-2 decoder with video scaling for high quality hardware-based DVD acceleration. The CLE266 supports CRT, LCD or TV dual display technology, dual video inputs (although the EPIA M has no video input) and supports DDR (Double Data Rate) SDRAM memory modules.
VT8235 South Bridge
The South Bridge connects many "slower" (in computing terms) external interfaces to the North Bridge and then to the CPU. The VT8235 South Bridge includes integrated support for up to 6 USB 2.0 ports, ATA-133, 10/100Mbps Ethernet, PCI, 6 Channel AC-97 Surround Sound, and connectivity to the North Bridge by the V-Link interface.
Many of the supporting chips on the EPIA Ms were upgraded from the classic EPIAs to add or improve on input and output functionality. Here are details of a few of them.
VT1616 Six-TRAC Audio Codec (EPIA M, MII)
The VT1616 audio codec on the EPIA M and MII links to the South Bridge and handles analogue to digital conversion of audio output streams, and digital to analogue conversion of audio input. It's VIA's answer to Realtek's ALC650 codec, included on many current motherboards. As memorising chip model numbers isn't the most exciting thing most people would like to do, VIA now call it the VIA Vinyl Six-TRAC. The Six-TRAC can support 6 output channels for 5.1 surround audio, and 12 input channels configured as 5 stereo pairs and 2 mono inputs. On the EPIA Ms, 4 input channels are utilised - the Line and Microphone level input jacks.
VIA recently licenced surround sound software technology from Sensaura, who have also worked with NVidia's nForce boards and on the Xbox. The new marketing name for this software and the Apollo CLE266 chipset is "Vinyl Audio". The EPIA Ms conveniently have this chipset. The latest audio driver was recently released, and is the first to include the DirectSound3D compatible Sensaura technology. The driver is of course called "Stylus"...
VT1612A 2-channel AC'97 codec (EPIA CL, TC)
The VT1612A is the 2 channel audio codec used on the EPIA CL and EPIA TC. Although only 2 channels, it is very capable, featuring 18-bit stereo conversion, simulated 3D stereo expansion and S/PDIF compressed digital audio output (on the EPIA TC)
VT1622M Digital TV Encoder (EPIA MII)
The EPIA MIIs use the VT1622A Digital TV Encoder, a slightly enhanced version of the VT1622M Digital TV Encoder used on the EPIA Ms, and a step up from the VT1621 used in classic EPIAs. The VT1622A/M supports composite, S-Video, component interlaced and progressive scan output, although the EPIA Ms and MIIs do not have the necessary RGB interface to output progressive scan video. There is an additional section in the EPIA MII BIOS, "TV Layout" - this seems to give further control over the type of TV or panel being used, and could be useful when optimising output.
VT6103 "Tahoe" Networking Controller - used on all the EPIAs. Provides support for the onboard 10/100 ethernet.
The EPIA CL additionally uses the VT6105LOM "Rhine III" Networking Controller to control the second 10/100 RJ-45 LAN port on the board.
VT1211 Super I/O Controller - provides a floppy disk controller, parallel interface support (in pin header form on the EPIA MII) , and adds hardware monitoring of fan speed and cpu temperature (the classic EPIAs don't have this available to the OS)
VT6307S Fire IIM 1394 Host Controller - a 2-port IEEE 1394 (Firewire) host controller. A Firewire port can be connected to the header on the EPIA MII motherboard (two on the M motherboard). The EPIA CL and EPIA TC do not have this chip, and therefore no Firewire ports or headers.
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