Conclusion - Is This The Beginning Of A New Generation Of PC Systems?
We'd say yes. We have deliberately avoided comparing the EPIA platform with a fully equipped PC in this article, as the expectations and technical requirements have very little in common. So, for the benchmarks, we restricted ourselves to practical tests and analyses.
The benchmark results of Quake III and the Lame MP3 encoder are perfect examples. 30 frames per second, or over 20 minutes to encode a 178 MB WAV file, are unacceptable for most PC users. But the EPIA was never designed for this kind of task, which should be undertaken by more powerful (and bigger) computers.
The main strengths of the EPIA approach are, of course, the board's compact size and low power consumption. Even now, it would be easy enough to integrate a PC like this into a car or a small hi-fi component. System configurations with additional hardware are certainly possible. The problem of CPU cooling remains uncritical because of the low heat dissipation and can be solved, depending on application, much more neatly than by strapping on a cheap fan (see EPIA models with C3 processor). After all, big hi-fi amplifiers, which produce a lot more heat, are also usually cooled without having to resort to fans.
Anyone who complains about lower performance hardware should remember that this hardware is now fully mature. The teething troubles of the high-end products are highly unlikely and reliability has already been established. You can forgive a Windows system crashing (at least you can get used to it happening...) but a navigation system or the multimedia box in the living room should work all the time, every time.
Future EPIA generations are likely to provide increased performance and these should also provide the solution to the problem of processor-intensive playback of MPEG-2 (DVD) and MPEG-4 with AC3. But even from today's perspective, there are a lot of things that EPIA can do. Indeed, this could well be the platform that eventually ousts the desktop PC from today's homes and offices and replaces it with more compact computers that look more like CD players.
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