Page 1 of 5
The Little PC That Could: ASUS Terminator C3
Mission: To build a small PC to do everyday tasks without breaking your budget

Introduction

I have been on the small PC crusade for a while now. This interest has been fueled by the basic idea, how much PC does one really need to do everyday tasks. How big, fast and loud does it really need to be? Although I have built Shuttle XPC's in the past, the cost to build these systems is higher than basic conventional systems.

While AMD and Intel are fighting it out VIA has released a line of products to use in embedded applications such as PVR (personal video recorders), set top boxes, gaming consoles and industrial designs. These products are built using the Mini-ITX format which measures only 170mm x 170mm, that's just 6 " square and are called EPIA motherboards. These systems use a variety of VIA C3 CPU's that are soldered directly on the motherboard along with extensive onboard capabilities to handle most tasks. As a general rule if you make things smaller, they will cost more so again we find an EPIA system to cost about the same as a basic standard system but with 2 to 3 times less processing power. These EPIA motherboards are not easy to find, I asked a few local stores and both don't have and can't get them. Isn't there anyone that can make a small basic system that has the small price to go with it?

Well, it looks like Asus may have come up with something interesting here. The Terminator series is not new but coming up with a barebones including motherboard, CPU, case, power supply, Cd-Rom and floppy drive for 110$ is. All you need to add is some memory, a hard disk and have yourself a small HTPC / file server / printer server or a basic desktop system. This PC uses only about 100 watts total, which is roughly what just the CPU uses in today's regular systems. Imagine the impact of 20 systems like this in a library, less power consumption, less noise, less space but is it up to the task lets find out.

Scale of components

VIA C3 CPU Architecture

Based on the Samuel 2 core this 800mhz processor has 133MHz Front Side Bus, a 6 X multiplier, 128KB L1 + 64KB L2 cache and can use MMX and 3DNow instructions. Data that doesn't fit in a CPU's L1 cache normally goes back into the main system memory if no L2 cache is present, not good considering that system memory has a higher latency than cache memory. So although the C3 only has 64KB L2 cache, it does not contain a copy of the L1 cache, giving an effective total of 192KB of frequently used data (128KB L1 + 64KB L2). At 800MHz, the Thermal Design Power or TDP is only 11.3 watts, according to VIA.

Specifications

The Terminator C3 is based on a VIA C3 CPU with CLE266 north bridge, VT8237CD south bridge and supports DDR266 (PC2100) memory. The VIA Unichrome onboard graphics and additional support for IDE and SATA drives, 10/100 LAN, USB2, Firewire, S-Video out, S/PDIF, a PCI slot and the list goes on. Built using the same VIA technology as the EPIA boards at half the cost, was the major factor in deciding to try one. Case size is 12" high x 11 1/8" deep x 7 1/8" wide. The C3V motherboard an Asus proprietary design called TriOpix form factor and is 9.06" x 8.82". There is also a small daughter board that includes the Game/MIDI and serial port that plugs into the motherboard at the top. The beige color is kind of bland but nothing a little painting couldn't fix.

ASUS specifications