Via to showcase consumer electronics

Gathering momentum behind its push into consumer electronics, Via Technologies will this week unveil a computer motherboard designed for consumer electronics devices.

The new motherboard, the EPIA SP, would be on display alongside a range of other consumer electronics products at the Computex 2004 exhibition in Taipei from June 1-5, the company said.

The EPIA SP will be the first Mini-ITX (17cm x 17cm) motherboard from Via to incorporate the company's CN400 chipset, which includes an integrated S3 Graphics Unichrome Pro graphics core, hardware-based acceleration for MPEG2 and MPEG4 video, and support for high-definition television (HDTV).

The EPIA SP will ship early in the third quarter and support processors based on Via's upcoming Nehemiah core, which are expected to be available during the second half of this year. Produced using a 90-nanometer manufacturing process, Nehemiah-based processors will consume a miserly 3.5 watts of power at a clock speed of 1GHz, according to Via.

On display at Computex alongside the EPIA SP motherboard will be a range of products from Via, which has long pushed the development of low-power, small form-factor products designed for consumer-electronics applications.

"We feel it's really starting to come together now," Via's associate vice president of marketing, Richard Brown,said.

One of the products on display at Via's booth will be Ministry of Mobile Affairs's Eve mobile gaming console, which is based on Via's Grace reference design for mobile consoles.

Designed to play PC games, Eve is based on Via's 533MHz Eden-N processor and Nano-ITX (10cm x 10cm) EPIA N motherboard. It includes a 4-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) liquid crystal display (LCD), Microsoft's Windows XP Embedded operating system, Via's CN400 chipset, a 20G-byte hard drive, 128MB of double data rate (DDR) synchronous dynamic RAM (SDRAM), two USB 2.0 ports, two hot-swappable rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, 802.11 wireless LAN (WLAN) connectivity, and one Compact Flash Type II card slot.

Eve is more than just a mobile gaming console. Because the device is essentially a small PC, Eve can also be used to watch stored videos or digital photos, as well as for other PC-based applications like Web browsing and, with the addition of a USB keyboard, word processing. Pricing and availability of Eve has not been announced.

Via will also demonstrate its GameDweller on-demand gaming service, which is currently being developed through a partnership with AceGain. Designed to be used with products like Eve, GameDweller takes advantage of hardware security features built into Via's processors and SIM (subscriber identity module) cards to offer digital rights management for games.

GameDweller is designed to function as a distribution platform for on-demand games. Users will pay to download games and game developers will be able to use different levels of digital rights management to protect their games from piracy, ranging from a simple "wrapper" used to distribute the game to the option to tie the rights to play a game to a specific piece of hardware.

Gaming is just one part of Via's push into consumer electronics. The company will also showcase a media center PC, the T4-400, developed by UK-based Tranquil PC.

Resembling a piece of stereo equipment, T4-400's case is made of aluminum, steel and polycarbonate and the device is based on the EPIA-SP motherboard with a Via C3 processor running at 1.2GHz or 1.4GHz, according to the company. The device will ship Microsoft's Windows XP Professional Media Center Edition, set for release later this year. It also includes a 160GB hard drive, 512MB of DDR memory, 10/100Mbps Ethernet and an HDTV tuner.

Unlike other media center PCs based on chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, Tranquil's T4-400 does not require a noisy cooling fan because of the low power requirements of the C3.

The result is a media center that is nearly silent, the company said.

Via will also be showcasing Digeo's Moxi digital set-top box, which is based on Via's 733MHz C3 processor. The Moxi device will be on display at the Via Technology Forum conference, which will take place alongside Computex on June 3.

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