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VIA Nano Reference Board

We managed to test VIA Nano processor thanks to a reference board with it that our lab received for a few days. The board turned out none other but a well-known EPIA SN with a new VIA Nano processor instead of the traditional C7. It was totally possible because both these processors are pin-compatible. Nevertheless, I have to stress that there won’t be EPIA SN platform with a Nano processor in the mass market, because VIA is working on a new mainboard for this processor. However, this bundle will do just fine for our today’s preview purposes.

We checked out a platform with the fastest CPU available that worked at 1.8GHz. This processor uses 800MHz system bus, works at 1.2V Vcore and has typical TDP of 25W.

The diagnostic utility provided pretty detailed report, however didn’t recognize the model number - L2100:

 

The reference board is built on a VIA CN896 North Bridge and VIA VT8251 South Bridge. The North Bridge provides VIA V4 processor bus, single-channel DDR2 SDRAM and PCI Express bus. Moreover, the North Bridge features VIA Chrome6 HC IGP integrated graphics core. This core has two pixel pipelines and works at 250MHz frequency. It can use up to 256MB of memory dynamically assigned to it from the system memory.

Despite the claimed DirectX 9.0 support, the graphics core built into VIA CN896 is not compatible with Windows Vista Aero interface. The base modification of this board has only an analog monitor D-Sub out, however there is a connector for a daughter card with DVI interface on the mainboard PCB. Besides, EPIA SN also supports external graphics cards and has a PCI Express x16 slot for that.

VIA VT8251 South Bridge is responsible for all peripherals. EPIA SN supports up to 4 SATA 3Gbps hard drives (with RAID support), two PATA devices and has 6 USB 2.0 ports, four of which are on the rear panel. There are also two Fast Ethernet ports, a serial port, PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse and three analog audio-jacks implemented by VIA VT1708A HD codec.

The reference board is designed in Mini-ITX form-factor and measures 17x17mm:

I have to say that EPIA SN has much richer expansion functionality than Intel mainboards for Atom processors. Besides the PCI Express x16 slot, there are two DDR2 DIMMs. As a result, EPIA SN supports up to 4GB of memory.

Besides that, there are two more interfaces typical primarily of mobile systems on the reverse side of the PCB: Compact Flash and Mini PCI slots:

Another peculiarity of the EPIA SN platform is a single 20-pin ATX power supply connector. It uses only one power cable and doesn’t require additional 12V power lines.

The processor and chipset North Bridge are cooled with a single aluminum heatsink with a small fan in the center. The configuration of this cooler reminds us of the slot Pentium II and Pentium II processors. The South Bridge is cooled with a primitive aluminum heatsink.

 
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