Once again, VIA is shrinking the PC motherboard. First they released the
Mini-ITX form factor at
17cm x 17cm which is now commonly used on
robots. Next came the Nano-ITX at 12cm x 12cm. The Nano-ITX, while
sounding very promising for robotics use, was plagued with delays and
when it finally became available was priced out of range for robot
hobbyists. Today VIA announced the long rumored Pico-ITX,
which is only 10cm x 7.2cm. VIA has managed to shrink everything you
need on a PC motherboard down to two chips, a C7 or Eden CPU and a VX700
chip that combines all the I/O functionality. Speaking of I/O, the board
has IDE and SATA connectors, 10/100 Ethernet, four USB 2 ports, audio
and video ports, and one RS-232. Unlike the Mini-ITX, this board appears
not to have an I2C port, so you'd need to add a microcontroller to
get some additional I/O for robotics use. No pricing was announced,
but with Atmel's recent release of a $69 Linux SBC, it will be
interesting to see how competitive VIA can be. For more details see the Pico-ITX
whitepaper (PDF format). Read on for the full text of today's press
release from VIA.
VIA Technologies, Inc.
533 Chung Cheng Road 8F | Hsin Tien, Taipei | Taiwan
Tel: (8862) 2218-5452 | Fax: (8862) 2218-5453 | http://www.via.com.tw
For Immediate Release
VIA Defines Pico-ITX Form Factor, the World’s Smallest x86 Mainboard
Tiny 10cm x 7.2cm complete PC platform fits into palm of hand, more than
75% smaller than the Mini-ITX, embodies VIA’s “Small is Beautiful”
strategy to inspire x86 system innovation
Taipei, Taiwan, 19 April 2007- VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading
innovator and developer of silicon chip technologies and PC platform
solutions, today announcedthe VIA VT6047 Pico-ITX form factor reference
design, the smallest full-featured x86mainboard in the industry designed
for a new world of ultra compact embedded PC systems and appliances.
The Pico-ITX form factor is the latest advance in VIA’s proven record on
platform miniaturization. The Mini-ITX mainboard, at 17cm x 17cm, which
recently celebrated its 5th anniversary as an industry standard form
factor with wide marketadoption, was followed by the Nano-ITX form
factor at 12cm x 12cm, exactly 50% of the size of the Mini-ITX. Now, the
Pico-ITX, at 10cm x 7.2cm and 50% of the size of the Nano-ITX form
factor, truly embodies VIA’s “Small is Beautiful” technology design
strategy of shrinking the form factor to drive the x86 platform into
ever smaller systems and whole new devicecategories.
Leveraging VIA’s extensive expertise in miniaturization at the silicon
level through major advances in power efficiency, thermal management and
feature integration, the VIA VT6047 Pico-ITX mainboard was designed to
be powered by one of VIA’s energy efficient processor platforms, such as
the VIA C7 or fanless VIA Eden processor in the21mm x 21mm nanoBGA2
package, combined with feature-rich VIA system media processors to
enable the boardto pack a performance punch in a tiny, low heat, low
“The Pico-ITX represents VIA’scommitment to spearhead x86 innovation
through our proven technology leadership in driving down the platform
size,” said Richard Brown, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, VIA
Technologies, Inc. “As with the Mini-ITX and Nano-ITX form factors
before it, this new platform has raised theexcitement level among
enthusiasts and customers alike, firing the imagination an almost
unlimited range of what were previously impossibly small systems.”
More details about the Pico-ITX form factor and the VIA VT6047 Pico-ITX
mainboard reference design may be found in the “VIA Pico-ITX Form
Factor” white paper, available for download from the VIA website at:
The VIA VT6047 Pico-ITX reference design has been successfully
demonstrated during international trade shows this year, including
during CES, CeBIT Germany and Embedded System Conference West. The VIA
Platform Solutions Division will announce the first commercial mainboard
based on the Pico-ITX form factor shortly.
About VIA Technologies, Inc.
VIA Technologies, Inc. (TSE 2388) is the foremost fabless supplier of
market-leading core logic chipsets, low power x86 processors, advanced
connectivity, multimedia and networking silicon, and complete platform
solutions that are driving system innovation in the PC and embedded
markets. Headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, VIA’s global network links the
high tech centers of the US, Europe and Asia, and its customer base
includes the world’s top OEMs, motherboard vendors and system
VIA PR Contact
International: Richard Brown
Phone: (886)-2-2218-5452 #6201
Note to reporters, editors and writers: VIA is written in ALL CAPS.
All product or company names mentioned herein may be the trademarks
of their respective owners.
This looks like it could be great for a small inexpensive PC, but not
entirely ideal for robotics...
The CPU is probably fine, and the size/cost/power consumption could be
quite good. However, as you mentioned, it is somewhat weak where it
really counts... peripherals. I would think that rather than a hard
disk, flash memory might be the way to go (as was the case with the
CMU DARPA vehicles). For a small robot I think that I would rather
have a wireless interface to a laptop rather than a video adaptor or
ethernet connector. And of course, for real roboitcs we would want
PWM/Encoder functionality for talking to motors. Removing all of this
unneeded hardware could futher reduce the cost and power consumption.
The key would be to build something with real CPU "umph" (like the
very preliminary information about the Intel Larabee processor) while
avoiding the tower-PC-on-wheels mentality.
It would be interesting to draw up specifications for a true robotics
motherboard. Of couse, the market for such a product would initially
be rather small. I suspect that it will only become a reality after a
significant commercial market opens up for inexpensive sophisticated
mobile robots, at which point it would be developed out of necessity.