- Review Price: £147.00
VIA seems to have a steady stream of new EPIA boards coming in all sorts of configurations and one of the latest models is the TC10000. As with many of the other EPIA boards it’s based on the 1GHz C3 core and the CLE266 chipset, but the TC10000 is very different from the rest of VIA’s range.
At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that this is an MII10000 board due to the PC Card and Type II CompactFlash slots, but these are optional, although ICP who supplied us with the review sample ships all its TC10000 boards with these as standard. The main feature of the TC10000 is its 12V DC-DC converter which means that it is powered by an external 12V source. Although an external power supply doesn’t ship with the board, ICP stocks a suitable unit for £22.33. Now, you could use any regulated 12V source as long as it can deliver 60W of power, as anything less won’t allow you boot the system up.
The TC10000 also features a connector for LVDS add-on modules, something that I know that many EPIA users have been wanting some time for, although it still seems to be impossible to get hold of the LVDS module that fits in the connector. There are different modules that can be attached, but there seems to be most interest in the option for DVI output.
Another peculiarity of the TC10000 is the memory slot located at the bottom of the motherboard – it’s an SO-DIMM slot, which you generally only see in notebooks. This means that you have to buy more expensive laptop memory, although as the EPIA boards only use PC2100 a 512MB SO-DIMM would only set you back about £10 more than a normal DIMM.
Around the back are two PS/2 ports, a single D-SUB and serial port as well as two USB 2.0 ports and an Ethernet port for the onboard 10/100Mbit LAN. This is also where the audio connectors are, which consist of a stereo output, a line in and a microphone connector. The PC Card and CompactFlash slots are also accessed here and the blanking plate has cut-outs for them to fit through. There is of course still a single PCI slot available for any further upgrades, such as a second network card in the case you want to use the TC10000 as a Firewall or Internet sharing type device.
What is missing compared to the MII10000 is 5.1-channel audio and FireWire, not to forget the lack of TV output and S/PDIF, but these features aren’t always needed.
There are also connectors on the board for four additional USB 2.0 ports, a second serial port, a parallel port and most importantly a combined 12 and 5V power output. A special cable is supplied that provides power for up to three devices, as it has two standard Molex connectors and a floppy drive style connector. The drawback to this is that you can’t connect any device that draws a lot of power and it is suggested that you use a laptop style optical drive with this board as it uses less power than a full size optical drive.
The EPIA platform was never going to be the basis for a fast PC and the TC10000 is no exception, but to give you an idea we installed Windows XP and ran some of our standard benchmarks on it. SYSmark 2002 was chosen over SYSmark 2004 due to the fact that we only had 256MB of memory to test the board with and that some of the applications in 2004 need a more powerful PC to run. The scores in SYSmark 2002 weren’t anything to brag about as the TC10000 only managed a meagre overall score of 45. Similarly in PCMark 2004 the scores were at the lower end of the chart and just to see if it would run, 3DMark 2001 was also installed, which produced a score similar to notebooks with integrated graphics.
Now this is all quite irrelevant to the TC10000 as it would probably never have Windows XP installed on it, or at least not be used for any office applications or games. Where the TC10000 comes into its own is as some sort of home server or Firewall/Internet sharing appliance. It’s just a shame that you can’t boot from the CompactFlash card, as this would have meant that you could have a practically silent system. Of course this wouldn’t be of much use if you want to set it up as a fileserver, but this is only one of many possibilities of the TC10000.
The advantage of the PC Card slot is that you could install a wireless network card and thus either use it as a wireless access point or a wireless server. The limit is really your imagination in this case and I would even expect a lot of people to fit the TC10000 in their cars as some sort of in-car PC due to its 12V power input.
The EPIA TC10000 is a hard product to sum up as it can be used as the basis for so many different projects. It is also the first commercially available motherboard that has onboard DC-DC power conversion. The TC10000 is not super cheap at £146.88 inc VAT but it does have a lot to offer and it is virtually silent apart from the CPU fan.
The EPIA TC10000 is an odd product that will appeal to anyone that’s looking for a motherboard that can be powered by an external PSU or a car battery, but don’t forget the extra cost of the memory and external power brick.
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.