CES 2008: VIA at Piero’s

As usual Piero's Italian restaurant hosts an array of gadgets from VIA.

In pleasant contrast to the overwhelming crowds in the CES main halls, is Lunch at Piero’s – a eclectic gathering of innovative manufacturers huddled in an Italian restaurant just over the road from the convention centre. There are two great things about Lunch at Piero’s. First, I get a break from the main show floor, have a chance to sit down and grab a bite to eat in reasonably relaxed surroundings, and second, I get to see some interesting stuff that I’d probably never notice on the main show floor.

As usual, VIA had a big presence at the event, this year showing off many handheld devices based on its technology from manufacturers like OQO and Samsung, but I’d seen most of that before. Far more interesting to me was the VESA mount PC that VIA had on show. This very small form factor PC is built entirely into a slim aluminium housing. Looking around the chassis, there’s a surprisingly full array of ports, including both D-SUB and DVI connections, while there’s room inside for 2.5in hard disk. Considering that 500GB 2.5in drives have recently been announced, there’s a potentially generous amount of storage for such a slim device.

But as its name suggests, there’s more to the VESA mount PC than it being slim and fully featured. The aluminium case has four screw holes in it to match the VESA display mount standard. This means that if your monitor is VESA mount compatible, which is more than likely, you can actually mount this PC behind your screen, making for a very tidy setup.

VIA was also showing off a media player/streamer based on its picoITX platform. The device is about the same size as the smallest media streamers out there, but you have to remember that there’s actually a whole PC inside. This means that you can load any codec pack you like onto it, to ensure support of your whole video library.

VIA assured me that this picoITX PC is capable of playing back 1080p high definition video without any trouble, but I would imagine that means MPEG2 based 1080p content, since even full size PCs can find themselves struggling when your throw h.264 encoded 1080p content at them.

Before you get too excited about this tiny media PC/streamer I should mention that the only video output is an analogue D-SUB port – there’s no HDMI or even DVI on offer. The Wi-Fi module is also limited to 802.11g rather than Draft-N, although VIA assured me that there will be an 802.11n version available very soon.

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