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VIA Nano In Action: Shuttle XS29F

Shuttle XS29F: Is VIA's Nano Processor Powerful Enough?

A textured finish and black band across the face visually separate the XS29F from the X27D, but ports remain identical. Shuttle provides separate VGA and DVI-D connections, rather than using a DVI-I connector with an adapter. This could be a concern when buying a replacement monitor cable, since a few have extra pins surrounding the flat connector in the DVI output. The lack of any HDMI connector or adapter is an indication of XS29F and X27D desktop positioning.

The XS29F is a little more interesting internally, as the size of its passive sink is reminiscent of Pentium MMX days, and the motherboard is not a Shuttle form factor (two slot) design. The actual form factor for both the XS29F and its Atom-based sibling is Mini-ITX (one-slot), a standard developed by VIA for previous-generation compact systems. The resulting style is more book-sized rather than cubical.

Not that the single PCI slot is accessible, unfortunately. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if Shuttle removed it from production version, since the case doesn’t support expansion.

A moderate 1MB L2 cache and relatively simple design by modern x86 CPU standards lends itself to a small 63mm² die and low 5W TDP, in spite of the U1700 processor’s "ancient" 65nm process technology. Packing the contacts into VIA's NanoBGA2 format further decreases package size to 21x21mm, freeing up a substantial amount of motherboard real estate.

The VX800 single-component chipset appears much larger than the CPU, its S3 Chrome9 H3 graphics and Vinyl HD Audio controllers accounting for at least part of that increase. Interfacing the CPU, two channels of memory, and several peripheral interfaces, its ball grid grows to 31x31mm.

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