It had been coming increasingly clear for some time that my venerable VIA EPIA-PD just wasn’t cutting it any more. Despite all that was great about it (mini-ITX form-factor, essentially silent after modding and low, low power requirements), the downsides finally caught up with it (maximum of 1GB of RAM, no SATA ports, and it just felt increasingly slow in today’s world). Time for an upgrade!
Having faced a slew of problems over the years with various VIA hardware features, buying another of their boards wasn’t top of my list. On first glance this left me with very few options. Given that the case (Morex Venus 668) and power supply (Pico-PSU 120) were going to stay, there were constraints on both size and power consumption.
Essentially my choices at first were:
With the first two choices being based on the same VIA chipsets, my initial interest was in the Intel board. Designed as a low-end board for emerging markets (it is marketed in their Essentials range, presumably on a par with food, water & shelter), it stacks up as follows:
That didn’t look good. Whilst the processor was a definite upgrade (the VIA C3-2 Nehemiah @ 1GHz on the EPIA-PD was no powerhouse), and the migration to DDR2 can only be a good thing, there were too many alarm bells ringing for this to be a simple choice. Limiting the board to 1GB of RAM brings no improvement over the current board, and the SiS chipset fills me with dread.
As my OS of choice for this board was to be Linux, the SiS chipset promised almost as many problems as the VIA board it was replacing. Particularly worrying were the drivers for the SiS Mirage 1 integrated graphics.
Back to the drawing board.