VIA launches Nano X2-powered mini-ITX board

Low-power specialist VIA has announced the launch of the first mini-ITX board to include a dual-core Nano X2 E-Series processor, the EPIA-M900.

Designed for low-power embedded applications, the mini-ITX motherboard includes a 1.6GHz Nano X2 E-Series processor coupled with the company's VX900 unified all-in-one media subsystem processor, giving it the oomph it needs to output high-definition video and impressive graphics despite taking up just 17cm x 17cm.

The board is the first time that VIA's X2 E-Series chip has been seen in a mini-ITX form factor since its closely related Eden X2 enjoyed an official unveiling at the Embedded World conference in Nuremberg earlier this year. Based on a 40nm manufacturing process, the chip offers a pair of 64-bit superscalar processing cores on a single die.

Despite its relatively dated manufacturing process, the X2 includes some impressive capabilities for a low-power chip: hardware virtualisation extensions are included in the form of VIA VT, while the VIA AES Security Engine performs encryption and decryption of data in hardware for on-the-fly security. Sadly, VIA's mini-ITX implementation doesn't include the passive cooling shown off for the Eden variant at the Embedded World conference, instead opting for a more traditional active air cooling system.

The motherboard's multimedia subsystem offers VIA's ChromotionHD 2.0 video engine, which includes hardware acceleration for VC1, H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV9 video codecs at resolutions of up to 1080p without, the company claims, loading the system CPU.

The board's rear IO panel includes a gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI video and audio output, an analogue VGA port, four USB 2.0 ports, a single 9-pin serial port, and three audio jacks. The system can be upgraded with additional hardware thanks to an on-board PCI Express x16 slot, although the system is only capable of utilising eight lanes in total.

"The VIA EPIA-M900 brings high-performance VIA dual core computing power to embedded devices for the first time," claimed VIA's embedded expert Epan Wu. "It will enable the creation of a wealth of innovative next generation digital signage, POS, Kiosk, ATM, home automation, healthcare and media client system design applications."

With its latest release, VIA is targeting the same market as Intel with its embedded series of Atoms and Celerons along with British chip design giant ARM. Offering a similar power draw to ARM's 32-bit dual-core chip designs with full 64-bit addressability - although limited by the motherboard's available slots to 8GB of RAM - and the familiarity of the x86 instruction set, VIA could have a serious contender for the lucrative embedded market on its hands.

Pricing and retail availability, sadly, did not form part of VIA's announcement today.