VIA Artigo: A Pico-ITX System

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VIA Artigo: A Pico-ITX System

Post by MikeC » Wed Feb 11, 2009 2:14 am


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Post by MiKeLezZ » Wed Feb 11, 2009 2:57 am

The article is 17 pages long, since it was uploaded twice

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Post by lm » Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:11 am

Why on earth does it default on VGA and PATA and such obsolete technologies?

Does anyone have displays that don't take DVI input anymore?

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Post by Avalanche » Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:16 am

Looks like a nice bit of design work went into that. It's small and tidy. If the price was around $100, I would be interested. Nice review, Lawrence. I appreciate all the pictures!

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Post by psiu » Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:48 am

Nice idea maybe, but sounds like the execution of it is just crap.

Yes, sticking with PATA instead of SATA is definite thumbs down. VGA is a little more understandable--you could maybe expect this getting used in POS or industrial applications with cheap displays, though the ability to stick on the back via VESA mount would be nice.

And that noisy? That cruddy of a heatsink? Not even their current technology that might stand a chance of competing (ok, HD playback is rough--but the Atom platform did it with lower power so that's where the bar is).

For as long as Via has been going at the low power market you would think they would have a better lineup--especially in the chipset area.

edit: though the idea of a computer in a 5.25" bay sounds appealing :D

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Post by lm » Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:13 am

psiu wrote: Yes, sticking with PATA instead of SATA is definite thumbs down. VGA is a little more understandable--you could maybe expect this getting used in POS or industrial applications with cheap displays, though the ability to stick on the back via VESA mount would be nice.
Even industrial and POS applications use LCD displays instead of picture tubes nowadays, and for those, digital -> VGA -> digital conversion is actually extra work for which you need extra circuitry. For full digital path, you need less/simpler parts, so shouldn't it actually be cheaper NOT to use VGA?

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Post by ryboto » Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:40 am

To defend the VGA, my brand new Samsung 7-series LED DLP doesn't have a DVI, instead, VGA. As for the system, isn't it a bit unfair to pit the VIA Artigo, a relatively OLD system aimed at DIY projects against Atom offerings? Did the article touch on this at all?

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Post by blandoon » Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:52 am

It's pretty clear from the photos that there is at least one SATA header on the board. And some of those other mysterious unused connectors may be, for example, LVDS for a laptop-style LCD panel connection. But for some reason the kit VIA provides still uses PATA.

Having said that, however... what this review really tells us is that the novelty of the tiny PC has officially worn off. Sure, it's small, but even if you can make it quiet, if you can't make it actually do something, like play high-quality video, what are you really going to use it for? How many little web-browsing devices do you really need? The market is absolutely littered with those things.

I would consider trying to build something this small for my car, for example, but without the ability to play back video at least at 720p, for that application it is limited at best.

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Post by MoJo » Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:06 am

Can anyone explain what the point of this system is?

It's fairly useless as an embedded system thanks to the small fan (will clog up eventually) and lack of expansion/performance for use as e.g. a router.

The form factor is pointless for desktop - you can save a lot of money and get far more performance (and silence) from a larger form factor that will still be invisible if stuck to the back of an LCD. If you really care that much about space then chances are you would be better off with a netbook anyway since the keyboard/mouse/LCD will be too large for this form factor.

It's pointless as a media centre since it's underpowered, doesn't have any digital outputs, the fan is noisy and it's much more expensive than an mATX system. Even the space saving doesn't seem very important in most cases, when mATX is only about the same as a double height DVD player.

Who do they expect to buy it and what for?

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Post by jessekopelman » Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:47 pm

ryboto wrote:To defend the VGA, my brand new Samsung 7-series LED DLP doesn't have a DVI, instead, VGA. As for the system, isn't it a bit unfair to pit the VIA Artigo, a relatively OLD system aimed at DIY projects against Atom offerings? Did the article touch on this at all?
Yes, but your Samsung does have HDMI inputs and with a DVI-HDMI adapter or cable could be easily connected to a PC with only DVI output. There is no such simple/inexpensive for connecting a PC with only VGA output to a monitor with only DVI/HDMI input . . .

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Post by jessekopelman » Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:59 pm

MoJo wrote:Can anyone explain what the point of this system is?
Via needs a way to keep making money from their obsolete CPU and chipsets, as their new stuff seems to be taking a really long time to gain any market penetration. Sadly, this thing is not that way, as it is priced at least 2X too high. At $100-150 it might make a fun toy for someone who wants to mess around making a low-end NAS, torrentbox, squeeze-server, etc. At current price it goes head to head with Eee Box and the smaller size just isn't going to make up for being at a huge disadvantage at every other regard. Meanwhile, if you can live with something the size of a hard cover book, look at the MSI Wind PC for < $150 (barebones with Atom and GigE networking)!

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Post by |Romeo| » Wed Feb 11, 2009 3:01 pm

Very interesting review, not least because it confirms the rumour I got (on Monday) that these boards had changed -although the rumour only mentioned the heatsink, not the battery (by the way, if Lawrence could measure how high the battery is from the board (I suspect it may now be 7mm to match the SODIMM) I'd be really really grateful). The original battery mounting is/was so bad I had to change an enclosure to accommodate the *******. The new one looks unbelievably better.

I am surprised the fan is still so noisy, because the original was a total disaster from a noise point of view, I can't see why they would change it, but not improve it :roll:

You could use a SATA drive if you rigged a SATA power connector on the PSU; the board has a SATA data connector (some of the later ones have a power connector too).

Although to be honest, I can't see any realistic application for this board where you would care about that -you'd either be using a flash module (and the IDE ones as smaller and cheaper) network booting or going the cheapskate method (which is what I do) and using a USB key.

Since I use this board (or rather an earlier revision, but the same part no.) I have studied the manual in depth, so I can clear up what all the headers do, and I'm going to do that by posting a list of all the expansion connections the board has:

VGA (full size connector soldered onto the board. Connector is a physically delicate part and shouldn't have been fitted. 2mm pin header would have been much better)

LAN (full size connector, slightly oversized apparently to cater for Ethernet isolation requirements internally (no transformer and gap on the board))

IDE (laptop sized, complete with power. Placement dubious because leaves pins vulnerable to damage, but allows many flash modules to connected directly and not exceed height of heatsink and SODIMM slot, good for integration)

SATA (full size, selection is dubious as using a straight SATA cable exceeds heatsink height (right angle cable OK). I would rather have had a right angle connector flush with an edge of the board, although that would have brought its own problems)

USB (4 USB 2.0, on 2mm pins, front of board. What else can you say)

PS/2 (on 2mm pins, front of board (wouldn't back have been more sensible?))

Front Panel (2mm pins, front of board)

Audio (2mm pins, 5.1 with device sense, front of board, I've never tested it on mine but I assume it works)

Com Port (2mm pins at the rear of the board. Sensible placement)

LVDS/DVI (1mm pins with surround. In LVDS mode can also control LCD backlight inverter)

Multimedia Connector (Brings out pretty much everything else, including GPIO, TWI, SPI (I think anyway, they use non standard labels and I haven't hooked up a scope to try and check) SPDIF, and a lot of others -it's an 80 way very fine pitch connector)

PICO power (2mm pins with keyed surround, 3.3, 5, 12, 5_SB)


Now, as to who might want it? Someone who needs to use an x86 because an ARM option lacks

a) drivers (big one)
b) a good C compiler/debugger (ducking before the gcc fans club me)
c) support for some programming languages (e.g. MATLAB realtime)

...and where size/weight constraints preclude any other x86 solution. You don't really care about cost because Via is (at least for the past 18 months or so) the only game in town.

Also, if you match it with a WI (wide input) PICO PSU, you get an x86 that you can power from a 6xAA battery box (or a PP3 battery).

Now why would you use this one rather than the 500Mhz fanless model? (power consumption quoted at 1W, haven't had one to test yet) Because the 1Ghz one is cheaper and easier to get hold of -so even if you plan to use the fanless one, chances are you'll do dev work on this board, because each replacement will cost less.

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Post by Reachable » Wed Feb 11, 2009 3:16 pm

This computer would be perfect for espionage. It would fit in the pocket of your trench coat. You could use it anywhere there are monitors and mice, no matter how highly secured the computers present are.

You could make it fit in the dashboard of your car where the radio/CD player would be. Using a tiny touch-screen monitor to get it started, it could crunch mountains of secret data for hours while your car sits in a parking lot, without attracting the slightest attention or even perhaps running down the battery too far. In addition, you could have access to all 25,000 of your MP3 files as you cruise down the highway.

I'm being very silly and reaching very far.

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Post by ryboto » Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:32 pm

I didn't know this was being targeted at the mainstream consumer, as that's what the review seems to imply when they compare it to the EEE boxes. Like I said, this is an OLD system, the Artigo has been around a while, and it isn't intended as competition with the netboxes. Maybe when this is updated with the new CPUs it might be a more viable alternative, but still, it's a DIY box for enthusiasts.

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Post by jessekopelman » Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:17 pm

ryboto wrote:but still, it's a DIY box for enthusiasts.
But so is the MSI Wind PC and that has much better features, like Atom and GigE, for half the price. Yes the Wind is much much larger, but at the size of a large hardcover book it is still very small for a PC. The Via has a definite niche with its ultra-small size, but it is hard to argue that the price is not too high, given the obsolescence of the components.

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Post by amdavies » Thu Feb 12, 2009 6:32 pm

VIA held the retail sub-mATX monopoly for a long time but now Intel is using the Atom to control the segment. VIA's loss of the small platform started with Intel's introduction of a product built around a Celeron CPU, to which they added a SIS chipset on a mini-ITX form factor motherboard and substantially undercut the other (mostly VIA) products available.
The Atom has further intruded upon VIA's space and, with the introduction of nVidia's ION platform, will soon push Intel almost totally into VIA's desktop retail CPU market if the pico-ITX sized demonstration units are realized.

VIA has survived on a niche and Intel has shown just how much people have had to pay to be part of that niche. Nano seems to be a good enough product to beat Atom in terms of performance but, I'd guess, VIA just hasn't got the muscle to price it at a competitive level.

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Post by ryboto » Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:26 pm

jessekopelman wrote:
ryboto wrote:but still, it's a DIY box for enthusiasts.
But so is the MSI Wind PC and that has much better features, like Atom and GigE, for half the price. Yes the Wind is much much larger, but at the size of a large hardcover book it is still very small for a PC. The Via has a definite niche with its ultra-small size, but it is hard to argue that the price is not too high, given the obsolescence of the components.
But you're basically confirming what I've said, it's old, it's old old old! I really don't understand the timing of this review. The MSI Wind PC is a pico ITX project box PC for DIY projects? News to me. This is targeted at a different audience, and it's not even a great deal for them anymore. But at one point, there were no other options, which is why I still don't understand it being reviewed against the EEE's this late in it's lifetime.

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Post by loimlo » Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:04 am

Seriously speaking, this VIA tiny board is mostly aimed at Industrial/Development niche markets. That's the reason why this board has so many dated connectors like VGA, Com, PS/2, IDE etc - Industrial equipments like bank ATM don't have built-in DVI, instead ATM have VGA. Besides, you've to control, adjust, and maintain manufacturing machines in factory by Com or IDE.

As for DVI, AUO, Chimei, and LG etc still manufactures utterly crappy LCD monitors with VGA only - There's always people who want nothing but lowest price and manufacturers need to differentiate products' features from top to bottom.

Having said all of that, the bottom line is that don't buy this if you were a desktop computer usage user nowadays. This thing might be interesting 3 years ago, yet time passed by. Sorry for my English if you don't get my point, I'm a native chinese speaker.

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Post by LodeHacker » Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:47 am

Did I read correctly?! Can you mount that VIA system kit in a DVD bay of a normal system? If so it would be really awesome to put one in a complete system so then you have two PCs and can do parallel computing or whatever it's called.

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Post by lowpowercomputing » Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:26 pm

LodeHacker wrote:Did I read correctly?! Can you mount that VIA system kit in a DVD bay of a normal system? If so it would be really awesome to put one in a complete system so then you have two PCs and can do parallel computing or whatever it's called.
Yes, it is possible. What exactly do you mean by "parallel computing"? Clustering?

[sarcasm]When doing that you don't have to worry about your main system's noise level anymore because the Artigo's 40mm fan will surely drown it.[/sarcasm]

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Post by jessekopelman » Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:46 pm

ryboto wrote:The MSI Wind PC is a pico ITX project box PC for DIY projects?
No, it's a small mini-ITX box PC for DIY projects. So yes, the Artigo is still the only game in town for pico-ITX. But what are the situations where one absolutely needs pico-ITX? I think in most cases the Wind PC is still small enough to able to make due with, plus it has better features and a much lower price. Sure you might want your car-puter in the glove box, but if going with it under the seat saves you $150-200 and gives you better capabilities I think most people will go that route. Same deal with secondary PC in drive bay. Nice, but is it really nicer than much better secondary PC in case small enough to barely be noticeable sitting on top of a µATX tower (again at half the price)? It all comes back to price. I can see why Via still sells this, since until (if) there is a retail Ion they have the pico-ITX form factor locked up, but who are they kidding with the price? It's like they are trying to sell mopeds that are more expensive than Harley-Davidsons.

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Post by ryboto » Sat Feb 14, 2009 6:46 am

jessekopelman wrote:
ryboto wrote:The MSI Wind PC is a pico ITX project box PC for DIY projects?
No, it's a small mini-ITX box PC for DIY projects. So yes, the Artigo is still the only game in town for pico-ITX. But what are the situations where one absolutely needs pico-ITX? I think in most cases the Wind PC is still small enough to able to make due with, plus it has better features and a much lower price. Sure you might want your car-puter in the glove box, but if going with it under the seat saves you $150-200 and gives you better capabilities I think most people will go that route. Same deal with secondary PC in drive bay. Nice, but is it really nicer than much better secondary PC in case small enough to barely be noticeable sitting on top of a µATX tower (again at half the price)? It all comes back to price. I can see why Via still sells this, since until (if) there is a retail Ion they have the pico-ITX form factor locked up, but who are they kidding with the price? It's like they are trying to sell mopeds that are more expensive than Harley-Davidsons.
The Wind doesn't look like it is at all targeted at DIY, it looks like a netbox to me. If there's MSI PR documentation stating otherwise, I'd be surprised. Granted, Via hasn't price adjusted the Artigo, but still, like i've tried to beat to death, it's OLD. It's been around, it needs an update, yet we get a review now?

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Post by Hildebrandt » Sun Feb 15, 2009 12:27 pm

I bougt this about a year ago - but instead of the case used in this review, i selected the fanless (!) case... the heatsink w. fan is removed, and heat from cpu/chipset is handled by heatpipes...
Only sound is hdd - and that is *very* little... I'm using it 24/7 for ed2k/torrent/SqueezeCenter server - and it does the job...

VIA tech support is terrible, though - i contacted the re: software for reading CPU temp (apparently the hardware allows it and linux utilities are available to do just that) and the third time the same tech rep sent a mail requesting the same info (where did you buy it, what is your problem) i gave up...

Nice little kit - I won't be buying from via again, though, I'm still angry about their (lack of) support...

It's a bit strange, though - this site is about silent computing - why review the version WITH a noisy fan, when a passive cooled version exists???

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Post by jessekopelman » Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:59 pm

ryboto wrote: The Wind doesn't look like it is at all targeted at DIY, it looks like a netbox to me. If there's MSI PR documentation stating otherwise, I'd be surprised.
It's a bare bones kit, just like Artigo. No RAM, no HDD. So, how's Artigo more DIY?

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Post by ryboto » Mon Feb 16, 2009 7:05 am

jessekopelman wrote:
ryboto wrote: The Wind doesn't look like it is at all targeted at DIY, it looks like a netbox to me. If there's MSI PR documentation stating otherwise, I'd be surprised.
It's a bare bones kit, just like Artigo. No RAM, no HDD. So, how's Artigo more DIY?
Barebones doesn't mean it's designed for the same applications. Regardless, as supported by the user who said he's had this for a year, the Artigo is OLD, this review tests it against NEW products that are technologically superior. It should have been reviewed a year ago, but maybe samples weren't available.

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Post by |Romeo| » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:18 am

ryboto wrote:
jessekopelman wrote:
ryboto wrote: The Wind doesn't look like it is at all targeted at DIY, it looks like a netbox to me. If there's MSI PR documentation stating otherwise, I'd be surprised.
It's a bare bones kit, just like Artigo. No RAM, no HDD. So, how's Artigo more DIY?
Barebones doesn't mean it's designed for the same applications. Regardless, as supported by the user who said he's had this for a year, the Artigo is OLD, this review tests it against NEW products that are technologically superior. It should have been reviewed a year ago, but maybe samples weren't available.
I just want to make an observation here, that when Via announce "availability" for a part, and when you can actually buy the damn thing from anyone tend to be rather different things.

So whilst this board is indeed old, it's not as old as it should be for the parts it uses -if that makes sense (and when oh when am I going to be able to buy a Mobile ITX board Via???)

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Post by ryboto » Mon Feb 16, 2009 7:53 pm

|Romeo| wrote: I just want to make an observation here, that when Via announce "availability" for a part, and when you can actually buy the damn thing from anyone tend to be rather different things.

So whilst this board is indeed old, it's not as old as it should be for the parts it uses -if that makes sense (and when oh when am I going to be able to buy a Mobile ITX board Via???)
yea, but didn't someone say they've had there's for a year?

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Post by wwenze » Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:10 pm

Long time haven't visited this forum.

Is this C7 still the same C7 that came out in... late 2005?

Man I had the 2GHz C7-M on a notebook and it couldn't handle SD H.264 perfectly. To play SD XviD it clocks itself to 1.4GHz.

So upon seeing HD H.264 being used as benchmark on a 1Ghz C7 I was 0.o

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