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Transmeta Upgrades Hardware

Transmeta Mini-ITX Board Reviewed 128

NobodyButMe writes " has posted a link to a 'world-exclusive' IBASE MB860 review on This appears to be the first review of a Mini-ITX board built around Transmeta's efficeon technology. Transmeta has also approved this board to be the official reference platform for the TM8600 processor and if you take a look at the benchmark results in the review (page 4) then you'll understand why as VIA's EPIA-M10K board looks quite pale in comparison. The review also adresses issues such as power consumption, temperatures and thermal throttling - three very interesting points when looking at the Efficeon processors. If the MB860 weren't so expensive (~500$ or something as it's aimed at the 'industrial market') then this could easily beat the EPIA boards (IMHO)."
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Transmeta Mini-ITX Board Reviewed

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  • Mini-ITX variety (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jon Proesel ( 762574 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @06:43PM (#10626069) Homepage Journal
    Mini-box [] make some neato little ITX boxes which you could hook up to any number of storage solutions. Past that, I've had good success with Mini-ITX [] boards. I get the cases from Web-tronics [], as the MITX ones are very, very expensive -- they're meant to make your MITX look like a CD player, pretty much, and I can do more without having to worry about cosmetics. MiniBox (above) sells snap-in MITX power supplies ranging from 60w to 200w. For the extra cool factor, use a Xenarc [] display or use something 'headless', e.g., LCDProc and Crystalfontz []. (As I remember, the MiniBoxes come with their own little displays.)
  • Some of the specs (Score:3, Informative)

    by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @06:50PM (#10626132) Homepage Journal
    Well, it's slashdotted. Just for once, I was actually going to RTFA. Google doesn't seem to have the article in its cache, either. Oh, well.

    Here is the MB860 []. Since they're using the Transmeta chip, power consumption must be a big deal. Here's the spec. for that:

    Maximum Power Consumption

    (MB860-1.0GHz in 3Dmark2001)
    +3.3V : 3.03A
    +5V : 3.09A
    +12V : 0.35A)
  • by XST1 ( 824817 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @06:57PM (#10626201)
    I grabbed the last page before it got slashdotted if anyone wants a basic summary of what the review said:

    The MB860 initially attracted me because it was the first Mini-ITX board to be based around the Transmeta Efficeon technology. Given that Transmeta's track record with performance isn't the best I was very much looking forward to testing the MB860. Now that I have worked with it for several weeks I can say the following: "I like it, but..."

    One of the strong selling points is certainly that this board is fanless while offering good performance at very low-power consumption levels. It is quite impressive to see that the difference in total power consumption between idle (at ~18w) and full load (~30w) is very low. It's even more impressive if you realize that the CPU itself is only using a maximum of ~2w when playing a DVD. At the same time the temperature remains at an acceptable level while you are always sure that the system won't be damaged thanks to the thermal throttling. I think that the MB860 could be a great choice for CarPCs as these systems are especially sensitive as far as power consumption and heat are concerned.

    Attention to details such as the 44-pin IDE header and the included 44-pin cable are nice touches. There are however also a couple of annoyances such as the non-standard power-LED pins and the location of the ATX connector. While the second point varies depending on what case and power supply is used I'd personally prefer to use existing components such as the handy plug-in PSUs from iTuner. The I/O area of the board could also use 2 (4 would be even better) additional USB2.0 ports. Additionally I'd love to see an S-Video connector as many people prefer this option. For the future a DVI instead of the slowly aging VGA connector would also be appreciated. Especially since the ATI M7 core seems to be quite capable of producing high quality output signals.

    Software wise I can only complain about the M7 driver issue I'm having but as I said above that might be due to the fact that my sample is one of the first pre-production boards. In case I can come up with a solution I will update this article accordingly. As I didn't experience a single crash during my endless hours of testing and working on this system I'm lead to believe that the other drivers for the MB860 are very stable.
    One more thing which I'd like to see is a detailed documentation of the Observer tool and a better user-interface plus more option for this handy application.

    Here's a point which I haven't mentioned so far. Price. According to Transmeta the board is said to retail at around $450 but from I'm hearing from IBASE the retail price is likely to be higher. IBASE has made it clear that the MB860 is mainly aimed at the industry/industrial markets and this price-tag will certainly keep most regular consumers from considering this board. This is quite a pity in my opinion since the MB860 offers many features that consumers would also appreciate.

    In the end of each review the question always is: Is this product worth its money and should you consider spending your hard-earned cash on this product?
    For the regular reader here this will basically turn into the question whether a VIA EPIA board or the IBASE MB860 is the better choice for their system. Both boards have their strengths and weaknesses but I believe that there the EPIA boards offer two important advantages. Price being one of them as you can basically build a complete system for the price of the MB860. On the other hand the EPIAs have the advantage of being on the market for some time. Therefore you'll find more products (both hardware and software) and general support for this platform. This is certainly another point to consider.
    For the industrial market the MB860 certainly offers some compelling reasons to be purchased instead of an EPIA board. First of all industrial products normally have a higher reliability than consumer products. Given my own experience and hearing from other people I'd also suggest that the
  • Re:Some of the specs (Score:4, Informative)

    by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:03PM (#10626256) Homepage Journal
    Unless you have reason to believe that it uses the three voltages one at a time, you'd have to add them.

    Does 30W sound like a lot? My laptop uses a 57W powersupply [], with a CPU at 1/4 the clockspeed.

  • Mirrors Here (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kinetic ( 3472 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:05PM (#10626266) Homepage
    MirrorDot [] has mirrors of everything, including all the pictures.
  • by Kinetic ( 3472 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:08PM (#10626286) Homepage
    Mirrors, including all the pictures, are at MirrorDot []. Enjoy.
  • by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) * <> on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:13PM (#10626327) Homepage Journal
    Transmeta CPUs are x86 compatible. And you can configure your kernel specifically for them.
  • by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @07:14PM (#10626336) Homepage
    I have 5 Via mini-itx boards in varied levels of service (ogg player, firewall, yum repo, web content filter, etc.) and haven't had a problem with any of them. One of them I used for about a year in my truck to play ogg files off a harddrive which was some severe duty in a harsh environment.

    Of course that is a very small sample size so statistically speaking there could be a reliability issue that I'm not aware of. But I'm happy with their products to date.

  • by kirkjobsluder ( 520465 ) <kirk AT jobsluder DOT net> on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:01PM (#10627264) Homepage
    It's essentially built like a normal computer motherboard, but who in their right mind is using a low power embedded solution like this for a desktop?

    I went with a VIA EPIA for my desktop/server. After a few years of having a damn vacum cleaner next to my desk, it was an excellent choice. (Actually, with plenty of ram and xfce, it's quite a bit snappier than many of the WinXP boxes I use.)

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin