Growing Support for VIA's 'Mini-ITX' Form Factor

Discussion in 'Beyond3D News' started by Dave Baumann, Apr 13, 2002.

  1. Dave Baumann

    Dave Baumann Gamerscore Wh...
    Moderator Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Messages:
    14,081
    Likes Received:
    651
    Location:
    O Canada!
    This this press release from VIA is boasting of increased support for their Mini-ITX form factor, with small chassis and Mini-ITX motherboards from various manufacturers.

    Now, this is something that has been bugging me for a little while now, especially since I've seen the new iMac in the flesh: why on earth are PC's still these massive lumps of metal under the desk? PSU, and Disks aside traditionally PC users have needed plenty of space of the multitude of expansion cards, however now that elements such as sound, Ethernet, modems, etc. are being integrated within the chipsets at lower and lower cost we are gradually going to see the needs for these as expansion cards diminish. Similarly with the introduction of USB/USB2 and Firewire many of the other internal expansion cards that we saw, such as video capture tools, are just as easily going outside the case.

    Eventually it could reach the point where its only really the Video card as an expansion device, so why not mount it in parallel with the motherboard? Alternatively with introductions such as the on-package BGA memory chips could the need for a video card be obfuscated? Perhaps, one day, we'll reach the point where instead of an AGP card we have Video Socket, which would greatly increase the argument for miniaturisation of the PC.

    Well, that was just a little food for thought, here's a couple of Mini-ITX form factor case images:

    <p align="center">[​IMG][​IMG]</p>
     
  2. Entropy

    Veteran

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2002
    Messages:
    3,137
    Likes Received:
    1,111
    Before I start to spout opinions, I'd like to point out a related informational tidbit. Toshiba has introduced a 2.5" disk drive to the market that packs 30 GByte/platter. A 9.5mm drive uses two platters for 60GB of storage (weighs 99g), and the thicker variety uses 3 platters for a total of 90GB. Toshiba hopes to be able to deliver 2.5" drives with twice this data density before the end of 2003.

    http://www.toshiba.com/taissdd/news/press50.shtml

    Todays densest 3.5" drives pack 40 GB/platter, weigh five times as much, draw 4-5 times more power, and are noisier with the exception of the Seagates.

    Smaller platters mean shorter travel to position the heads (= faster access times at the same rotational speed). Less moving mass makes it easier to increase rotational speed (this hasn't been done since the drivestarget protable application, where the increased power draw and noise would be a liability). Smaller also means, er.. smaller!, i.e. you can make the cabinet smaller, or pack more drives into an existing space.
    There where good reasons for the 3.5" drives to exterminate the 5.25" drives. The same reasons are starting to apply to 2.5" vs 3.5" drives. In fact, Fujitsu left the 3.5" IDE market due to too slim margins and predicted that 2.5" drives would start taking over the 3.5" market. That part of their official statement never got much attention in the press, but caught my eye.

    However, it is difficult to see that the advantages of 2.5" disks are compelling with todays cabinet sizes.

    Another tidbit that has bearing on future PCs:
    The above is referring to 2.5" disks.

    As Dave points out, we are starting to see FireWire, Ethernet, Sound, USB2 integrated on motherboards. Socketable gfx-solutions are a reality for portables. In fact, since portable computers exist (!) :wink: it is obvious that we can build small, quiet powermisers of computers based on similar techniqes but cheaper since they don't have to be as light or allow for battery power. Note that the ITX cabinets still use 3.5" disks for example (as well as CD/DVD-drives and even a floppy drive bay).

    Apple has sold cheapified portable tech for years with their iMacs, and have been quite successful selling them, by their own standards.

    The only reason I can see why this isn't happening in PC space is inertia. The people who want such solutions, and can pay, have bought the big portables. The ones who don't want to/can't pay have bought low end desktops. And corporations/education/government have bought desktops since they are cheaper (and not as easy/desireable to steal).

    Via is definitely on to something. If they provide the platform for small, quiet computers that draw small amounts of power and can be manufactured at low cost and still provide performance sufficient for corporations/education/government, the market potential is huge.

    The new iMac points the direction. The benefits are obvious. It is only a matter of time.

    Entropy
     
  3. Anonymous

    Veteran

    Joined:
    May 12, 1978
    Messages:
    3,263
    Likes Received:
    0
    DAMN. I really didn't want to go and waste time and money building a PC in my car for MP3's and so on, but this makes it all the more attractive.
     
  4. Dave Baumann

    Dave Baumann Gamerscore Wh...
    Moderator Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Messages:
    14,081
    Likes Received:
    651
    Location:
    O Canada!
    Yeah, that’s was another thought; disk technology has increased the amount of available space quite considerably recently – its getting to the point that most home users probably don’t even need a third of the space actually available in their PC’s! I had wondered when it would be that disk manufacturers would turn their efforts not to ever spiralling disk space but to scaling sensible desktop use space into smaller packages.

    I should imagine this will only really happen when price come a little more in line.

    Well, more importantly they don’t have to relay on LCD panels, which are one of the largest contributors to the price laptops.

    Yes, I noted the floppy bay, and IMO that’s one legacy device that really has lingered far too long – IMO it’s a mistake to leave this in the ITX form factor. With bootable CD-ROMs do we really need a bootable floppy? And with portable solid state storage devices, such as the USB storage devices that can fit on key rings, do we really need them these days?
     
  5. Anonymous

    Veteran

    Joined:
    May 12, 1978
    Messages:
    3,263
    Likes Received:
    0
    why would i want that.

    why would i want a bunch of intergrated crap...

    i like having options.. i like having space..
    i like having air flow to cool my parts.

    and a nice add in card ... geforce 4 4200 is nice.
     
  6. Dave Baumann

    Dave Baumann Gamerscore Wh...
    Moderator Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Messages:
    14,081
    Likes Received:
    651
    Location:
    O Canada!
    &lt;devils advocate mode>

    Is, say, an integrated Ethernet adapter instantly crapper than a separate just because its integrated? Is NForce’s sound ‘crapper’ than most other sound cards available?

    What for?

    And what if an equally, if not more, powerful solution were available in a socket’ed form?
     
  7. Anonymous

    Veteran

    Joined:
    May 12, 1978
    Messages:
    3,263
    Likes Received:
    0
    Re: why would i want that.

    Integrated network is as good as separate cards, in fact it sometimes uses the same chips although more modern systems integrate the network on the southbridge.

    The Cmedia audio chip that many use for onboard sound is also used for standalone cards, and the nForce sound functionality is arguably more sophsticated than 99,9% of us ever need.

    Integrated graphics is really the only thing which so far has been decidedly lackluster compared to add in cards. This is not because of inherent problems, but is due to market inertia for desktops. Look at portables, they have this solved.

    I have a big Athlon tower with SCSI-card, Radeon 8500, Sound card, Ethernet card and an IDE RAID card. The only component here that couldn't be smacked onto the motherboard is the 8500, and I would really have preferred if my slide scanner had used IEEE1394 instead of SCSI.

    I had a bitch of a time getting this current-state-of-the-PC-art rig to be acceptably quiet. Had to change power supply and then modify the new one, install dual Barracuda IV drives, use an Alpha 8045 heatsink in order to be able to use a low noise Pabst fan, solder quite a few custom voltage reducing cables for various case fans, break loose the fan on the 8500 and glue a Zalman passive copper heatsink into its' place. And it is still not as quiet as the totally fanless iMac that I also have and use. Which uses power-down techniques from portables so that it can be on unobtrusively 24/7.

    Well so do we all. PC users still haven't gotten used to the idea of high speed peripherals. Exactly what has to added to the innards of a box, apart from the memory, CPU, disk, and DVD(-writer) that these systems actually do allow you to replace?
    And how many really need such functionality?

    Well, that stylish Morex case to the right on the B3D front-page is 29.5 x 25 x 6.4 cm. Should give you plenty of space left.

    Wear boxers.

    Graphics can be solved by adopting a socket solution as in notebooks. Until that happens, graphics performance are probably what most limits these machines. The iMac integrates a Geforce2MX, which could concievably be exchanged for a Geforce4MX in future models. A socket would be better still.

    But lets remember that only a small percentage of all computers are used for 3D games, in fact only a small percentage of all computers are upgraded at all.

    From a PC-users perspective, what is interesting about the new iMac is that it shows how a computer that is conceived as a whole can differ from the PC paradigm of a collection of separate components. The mini-ITX initiative tries to create possibilities for making computers that fit better into peoples lifes and work-spaces, while still maintaining some degree of component mix and match for small scale manufacturers.
    It makes sense.

    Only question is - when will it take off in volume?

    Entropy
     
  8. Gilhooley

    Newcomer

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2002
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Le Cyberspace
    As in 'Socket X' spearheaded by Rendition some years ago..
     
  9. Dave Baumann

    Dave Baumann Gamerscore Wh...
    Moderator Legend

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Messages:
    14,081
    Likes Received:
    651
    Location:
    O Canada!
    I must admit that I'm not familair with SocketX, do you have any information?

    However, I do believe the 'AGP Socket', or some universal development of, that NV17M utilises may have some future beyond just laptops at some point.
     
  10. marco

    Regular

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2002
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    The netherlands
    Suprise... guess who is very heavy involved in VIA's Eden project?
    ME! I cannot tell very much right now.

    Some general thoughts (I have some other ideas which I will post later on, when I can); Floppy bays: get rid of them!
    Serial and Par. ports? get rid of them. USB? well it's good for now, firewire is better. CDrom? DVD? well depends on your needs, but I have several machines in my network without keyboard, mouse, cdrom or dvd and floppy drives, everything works by using internet or network.

    More later on...
     
  11. Anonymous

    Veteran

    Joined:
    May 12, 1978
    Messages:
    3,263
    Likes Received:
    0
    Existing peripherals?

    Why are they ditching the good old RS232 ports? Its the most industry connection.

    Do I have to replace my existing joystick, gamepad, mouse, keyboard, printer, Palm Pilot, smartcard reader, etc because I bought a new PC?
     
  12. Johnny Rotten

    Regular

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2002
    Messages:
    327
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Amen Dave.

    I'm a huge proponent of smaller, more integrated pc solutions. Unfortunately(?) I'm also an enthusiast and historically those two desires havent always meshed too well.

    Right now I have this big, ugly, noisy, 21" tower beside my desk. I hate it. But it was the only real option to house my 1ghz athlon, raid drives, cd writer etc. Still, there's a lot of dead room in there.

    Im almost 100% positive my next rig - due for purchase this xmas or shortly in the new year - will have a slimline case with integrated sound and ethernet. I have exactly ZERO use for 'expansion slots' (pci, serial, whatever) beyond an agp port. Imagine that. All I need is room for a cd drive, a couple of hardrives and adequate ventilation. Thats it.

    Those mini atx form factors really seem to suit the bill...
     
Loading...

Share This Page

  • About Us

    Beyond3D has been around for over a decade and prides itself on being the best place on the web for in-depth, technically-driven discussion and analysis of 3D graphics hardware. If you love pixels and transistors, you've come to the right place!

    Beyond3D is proudly published by GPU Tools Ltd.
Loading...