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Jul 25, 2012

VIA ARM-Based Pico-ITX Motherboard




VIA Technologies continues to move forward in its small niche, that of embedded and low-power processors and platforms, and the latest product is quite the interesting sight among pico-ITX motherboards.

ARM's deal with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has removed the final barrier between the architecture and the PC maker: 64-bit processing. It will take a while for the fruits of their labors to show though, but that doesn't mean the architecture is going to stagnate in the meantime. Indeed, there are other areas where ARM processors are sought after, and VIA is all too eager to extend their usefulness and get some sales in the process. The company has launched the VAB-800, a pico-ITX motherboard (10 cm x 7.2 cm, 3.9 x 2.83 inches, ATX/ITX compatible), with an ARM-based SoC (System-on-Chip) acting as its core. Said SoC can perform computing and video rendering tasks up to 1080p playback on just 5W of energy. Thus, VIA believes high-end industrial and in-vehicle fanless embedded systems will greatly benefit from making use of it.

“The VIA VAB-800 extends our industry leading range of Pico-ITX embedded platforms,” said Epan Wu, head of the VIA embedded platform division, VIA Technologies, Inc. “As a leader in hardware and software support, VIA can tailor our new ARM based offerings for customers to create systems through starter kits, customization support or offering complete systems for different applications.” Prospective buyers will have to select between VIA's own WonderMedia 800 MHz or Freescale 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 SoCs. Either way, the small mainboard gets 1 GB of DDR3 RAM, a SATA 3.0 Gbps port and a 64 GB eMMC memory card. There is no GPU because both aforementioned SoCs have an IGP (integrated graphics processor). 

As for connectivity, the list is quite extensive, especially for something this small: mini-HDMI, D-Sub (VGA), 10/100 Ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports, an RJ-45 jack, standard HD audio and SDIO and GPIO headers. Unfortunately, VIA did not give out pricing information but it did promise that board starter kit packages would be included with each shipment (for Ubuntu, Android and Windows Embedded Compact 7).



VIA VAB-800
Image credits to VIA

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