Silents PCs are often a bit of a misnomer, with even my dual-core Athlon 64 and Pentium 4, each inside their own Sonata II chassis being annoyingly loud at times, so it's always of great interest to me when I see embedded devices that are completely passive. One of the biggest problems with completely passively cooled PCs is performance, which often has to suffer in favor of lower power. Via has been hard at work on this, and recently has released the Epia EN12000E motherboard
, which not only has a 1.2GHz Eden processor in it, but has support for DDR-2, allowing it to get a boost in performance not available to other low-power solutions. Dissipating only 7.5W, it produces barely enough heat to get warm. As usual with Epia boards, it's an absolute perfect fit for many embedded solutions, as the board comes decked out with video, sound, ethernet, USB and most everything else you'd need for a home theater system or low profile system.
Unfortunately, even the Eden-class CPUs from Epia clocked at 1GHz were often times too slow to consider for use in a home theater environment. All the effort into producing a low-power CPU resulted in too large of a hit to performance. However, along with HD-TB output support, DDR-2, hardware MPEG-2 decoding, and offering both 1.2GHz and 1.5GHz varieties for the CPU, this might be Via's break that makes them a good contender for home media. In the performance testing, the Via board did very well, considering it's past. Unfortunately, it still fell short of being flawless, unable to play 720P or 1080P media without stuttering. To it's credit, however, it played 720P video better than an Athlon64 3400+, showing that the improvements to the Epia CPU have come a long way. For a standard home theater system, it's quite ready. It's an interesting article, and if you are into media and embedded computing, take a look.