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Via touts low-profile motherboard

The new motherboard combines features from the PC and consumer electronics world, including hardware-supported DVD playback, a low-power 1GHz processor and antipiracy components.

Via Technologies has introduced a new motherboard built for a new type of PC that combines features normally associated with consumer electronics into a PC platform.

The Epia M10000 motherboard, launched Tuesday, offers a low-profile design that looks similar to a DVD player or stereo component. This appearance carries over to the board's integrated components, including an integrated MPEG-2 decoder for DVD playback, hardware-supported 5.1 audio and connectors for television and digital audio. The board runs on Via's own 1GHz C3 processor using a "Nehemiah" core.

The Taiwanese hardware maker, best known for its Advanced Micro Devices- and Intel-compatible chipsets, said the new board is designed for consumer-oriented PCs as well as high-tech consumer devices such as digital video recorders (DVRs). To make the hardware more suitable for the living room, Via said, the board consumes 10 percent less power than its previous boards and produces 50 percent less system noise due to its fan and design.

"For Via, platform-level innovation means enabling new applications through increases in performance combined with decreases in power use and system noise," Timothy Brown, a marketing manager at Via, said in a statement.

Via, like other PC hardware and software makers, has been aggressively pursuing a growing market for devices combining entertainment and PC functions. Via's approach has been to encourage altering what desktops look like, first with its Mini-ITX motherboards and now with the low-profile motherboard.

The new motherboard distributes various processing needs to different components, offloading the MPEG-2 work to a dedicated chip, for example. This allows the machine to use a relatively low-powered 1GHz processor, which in turn eliminates much of the power-consumption and heat-production issues faced by AMD and Intel processors running around 3GHz, Via said.

The MPEG-2 decoder is part of Via's UniChrome CLE266 North Bridge, one of the semiconductors that connects the processor to the parts such as memory and input-output devices. The board supports up to four USB (universal serial bus) 2.0 ports.

In a nod to the piracy concerns that have been raised by copyright owners regarding DVRs and similar devices, Via has built in a "data encryption engine," a hardware-based random number generator that can be used for Digital Rights Management technology.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London.