Hardware

VIA Announces Pico-ITX Boards

Posted 19 Apr 2007 at 15:55 UTC by steve Share This

Once again, VIA is shrinking the PC motherboard. First they released the Mini-ITX form factor at 17cm x 17cm which is now commonly used on robots. Next came the Nano-ITX at 12cm x 12cm. The Nano-ITX, while sounding very promising for robotics use, was plagued with delays and when it finally became available was priced out of range for robot hobbyists. Today VIA announced the long rumored Pico-ITX, which is only 10cm x 7.2cm. VIA has managed to shrink everything you need on a PC motherboard down to two chips, a C7 or Eden CPU and a VX700 chip that combines all the I/O functionality. Speaking of I/O, the board has IDE and SATA connectors, 10/100 Ethernet, four USB 2 ports, audio and video ports, and one RS-232. Unlike the Mini-ITX, this board appears not to have an I2C port, so you'd need to add a microcontroller to get some additional I/O for robotics use. No pricing was announced, but with Atmel's recent release of a $69 Linux SBC, it will be interesting to see how competitive VIA can be. For more details see the Pico-ITX whitepaper (PDF format). Read on for the full text of today's press release from VIA.

VIA Technologies, Inc.

533 Chung Cheng Road 8F | Hsin Tien, Taipei | Taiwan
Tel: (8862) 2218-5452 | Fax: (8862) 2218-5453 | http://www.via.com.tw

For Immediate Release

VIA Defines Pico-ITX Form Factor, the World’s Smallest x86 Mainboard

Tiny 10cm x 7.2cm complete PC platform fits into palm of hand, more than 75% smaller than the Mini-ITX, embodies VIA’s “Small is Beautiful” strategy to inspire x86 system innovation

Taipei, Taiwan, 19 April 2007- VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator and developer of silicon chip technologies and PC platform solutions, today announcedthe VIA VT6047 Pico-ITX form factor reference design, the smallest full-featured x86mainboard in the industry designed for a new world of ultra compact embedded PC systems and appliances.

The Pico-ITX form factor is the latest advance in VIA’s proven record on platform miniaturization. The Mini-ITX mainboard, at 17cm x 17cm, which recently celebrated its 5th anniversary as an industry standard form factor with wide marketadoption, was followed by the Nano-ITX form factor at 12cm x 12cm, exactly 50% of the size of the Mini-ITX. Now, the Pico-ITX, at 10cm x 7.2cm and 50% of the size of the Nano-ITX form factor, truly embodies VIA’s “Small is Beautiful” technology design strategy of shrinking the form factor to drive the x86 platform into ever smaller systems and whole new devicecategories.

Leveraging VIA’s extensive expertise in miniaturization at the silicon level through major advances in power efficiency, thermal management and feature integration, the VIA VT6047 Pico-ITX mainboard was designed to be powered by one of VIA’s energy efficient processor platforms, such as the VIA C7 or fanless VIA Eden processor in the21mm x 21mm nanoBGA2 package, combined with feature-rich VIA system media processors to enable the boardto pack a performance punch in a tiny, low heat, low power package.

“The Pico-ITX represents VIA’scommitment to spearhead x86 innovation through our proven technology leadership in driving down the platform size,” said Richard Brown, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. “As with the Mini-ITX and Nano-ITX form factors before it, this new platform has raised theexcitement level among enthusiasts and customers alike, firing the imagination an almost unlimited range of what were previously impossibly small systems.”

More details about the Pico-ITX form factor and the VIA VT6047 Pico-ITX mainboard reference design may be found in the “VIA Pico-ITX Form Factor” white paper, available for download from the VIA website at: http://www.via.com.tw/en/initiatives/spearhead/pico-itx/.

The VIA VT6047 Pico-ITX reference design has been successfully demonstrated during international trade shows this year, including during CES, CeBIT Germany and Embedded System Conference West. The VIA Platform Solutions Division will announce the first commercial mainboard based on the Pico-ITX form factor shortly.

About VIA Technologies, Inc.

VIA Technologies, Inc. (TSE 2388) is the foremost fabless supplier of market-leading core logic chipsets, low power x86 processors, advanced connectivity, multimedia and networking silicon, and complete platform solutions that are driving system innovation in the PC and embedded markets. Headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, VIA’s global network links the high tech centers of the US, Europe and Asia, and its customer base includes the world’s top OEMs, motherboard vendors and system integrators. www.via.com.tw

VIA PR Contact

International: Richard Brown
Phone: (886)-2-2218-5452 #6201
Fax: (886)-2-2218-5453
Email: RIBrown@via.com.tw

Note to reporters, editors and writers: VIA is written in ALL CAPS.

All product or company names mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.


Robotics PCs, posted 19 Apr 2007 at 18:49 UTC by Nelson » (Journeyer)

This looks like it could be great for a small inexpensive PC, but not entirely ideal for robotics...

The CPU is probably fine, and the size/cost/power consumption could be quite good. However, as you mentioned, it is somewhat weak where it really counts... peripherals. I would think that rather than a hard disk, flash memory might be the way to go (as was the case with the CMU DARPA vehicles). For a small robot I think that I would rather have a wireless interface to a laptop rather than a video adaptor or ethernet connector. And of course, for real roboitcs we would want PWM/Encoder functionality for talking to motors. Removing all of this unneeded hardware could futher reduce the cost and power consumption.

The key would be to build something with real CPU "umph" (like the very preliminary information about the Intel Larabee processor) while avoiding the tower-PC-on-wheels mentality.

It would be interesting to draw up specifications for a true robotics motherboard. Of couse, the market for such a product would initially be rather small. I suspect that it will only become a reality after a significant commercial market opens up for inexpensive sophisticated mobile robots, at which point it would be developed out of necessity.

Mini-Sumo Anyone?, posted 19 Apr 2007 at 20:16 UTC by WhoPhlungPoo » (Journeyer)

Ethernet, USB or serial, take your pick and de-solder the rest of the connectors to conserve weight.

Flash disks and batteries, posted 20 Apr 2007 at 12:07 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

I can never decide which is better out of the hard disk or flash disk when used with batteries.

On one hand Flash disks take less power and weigh less, but from commercial experience access times are quicker with hard disks. The access time thing of course affects the overall speed of the computer since the OS is stored on that medium. Since the computer takes more power than anything, slowing it down dosent help battery life.

All that being said its a great looking computer!

Need for Speed, posted 20 Apr 2007 at 17:09 UTC by Nelson » (Journeyer)

"The fastest consumer hard drives are the Western Digital Raptor series, which max out at about 87 MB/s sequential read speed. The fastest compact flash cards run at a quarter of the sequential read speed (20 MB/s) of the Raptor, but 8 times the random access speed (1.0 ms). Whether or not flash memory is faster depends on what you’re doing. New drives will actually use a combination of flash and hard drive technologies, so you get the best of both worlds."

At the IDF Intel was announcing new PRAM (Phase Change RAM) technology which in the future may provide non-volatile storage at near DRAM speeds and Flash costs.

For a robot I would want a very lightweight real time OS that does not depend upon disk head movement.

See more of the latest robot news!

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