Do not confuse VIA‘s most recent ARTiGO, the A2000, with its predecessor, the A1000 Pico-ITX DIY Builder kit. Whereas the A1000 conveniently packages VIA’s Pico-ITX form factor into a kitten-cute, yet, highly functional and ground-breaking system (“That’s a computer, really? It’s sooo small…”) for all those gadget-loving geeks and tech-savvy engineers alike, the A2000 (dubbed Home Mini Vault by VIA) is far more niche driven.
VIA is marketing the A2000 as a storage-oriented device that is “always on”—and it is designed to be just that.
The ARTiGO A2000 comes bundled with the VIA System Management Tool for dedicated 24/7 system monitoring. For users who frequently download media via the internet, the storage monitor utility can be configured to alert the user when free space is below a user-specified percentage. This handy feature helps users to stay proactive in maintaining system stability. A power-off scheduling feature is also included— helping users to conserve energy with the system automatically powering off after downloading completes.
Popular Mechanics also wrote a review of the ARTiGO A2000. You can read it here.
VIA also is recommending pairing the ARTiGO A2000 with the FreeNAS software. So, we installed FreeNAS on the A2000 in order to see how things check out. You can read our blog post on it here.
Here is what the A2000 has to offer:
- Onboard 1.5GHz VIA C7-D processor
- VIA VX800 chipset with DirectX 9 graphics support (so it’s Vista capable)
- Supports up to 2GB DDR2 667 SO-DIMM memory
- Supports two 3.5″ SATA hard drives for up to 3TB of storage
- Onboard, bootable CompactFlash slot on bottom of mainboard (excellent for installing your Linux OS)
- VIA VT6130 PCIe 10/100/1000 LAN
- Supports wireless connectivity via USB wireless module
- Features VGA, LAN, 2 audio jacks, and 3 USB ports
- Is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and Ubuntu 8.04
- Costs $299 for system (hard drives, CF card, and memory not included)
Inside, the A2000 comes with what VIA calls a “proprietary form factor” mainboard. But, once you open the system up, you’ll discover the mainboard is Nano-ITX and is titled the N701.
The system measures (w x h x d) 135 mm x 120 mm x 260 mm (5.3″ x 4.7″ x 10.2″). Pictures really don’t do it justice, because it is actually much smaller than it appears in 2-dimensional form. And, it looks awfully pretty sitting next to a black, shiny monitor.
As for system features, it comes with a variety of system management tools such as VIA Security Suite with Tru-Delete and StrongBox, HDD usage information, and WLAN control. It supports a USB wireless module, but, if you plan on installing a Linux-based operating system, I recommend choosing the Qcom version that we have on our site and not the VIA-based one. The Qcom module uses a Ralink chip, which has excellent Linux driver support.
All-in-all, the A2000 is an excellent NAS system to free up one’s desktop from downloaded media files, documents, etc. It has power-off scheduling to help you conserve energy, it is easy to assemble, it supports up to 3TB storage capacity, and you can conveniently install your OS on a CompactFlash card.
Okay, I must admit, when the A2000 was first introduced to me, there was some skepticism here at first. The A1000 had done so well with both the consumer and the embedded markets alike. Why would VIA release something purely targeted at the consumer market while VIA still has momentum with the Nano processor? What about all of VIA’s embedded customers keeping their fingers crossed for a VIA Nano-based board that is not a VB series (no long-term support) that will be around for awhile?
When the A1000 was announced last year, there was no doubt of it’s potential success. Building on the fame of the Pico-ITX form factor, VIA strategically entered the barebone market with a well thought-out solution. The A1000 is a highly marketable piece of hardware just in the mere fact that it is so darn small and lightweight. We couldn’t keep enough in our warehouse to satisfy the demand for them.
And, while the A1000 never was originally marketed as an embedded system, it has all the right features for an embedded system. Many of our customers are looking to use the A1000 for projects because it’s small, efficient, and provides just the right amount of I/O.
In contrast, the A2000 appears bulky (in pictures) and it uses the VIA C7-D (not a new Nano!). Also, it seems that it is targeted at a very niche market where there are other viable and affordable solutions readily available.
But, then it arrived. And everyone in the office wanted one. Except for me, because I wouldn’t know what to do with it, but if I did, I would probably want one, too.
Why did everyone in the office want one? Well, most of the employees here are fervent computer lovers who will see a cool, new gadget and think, “I want one of those. Now, what can I do with that?” The employees here don’t just have one computer at home, they have multiple computers (e.g., one for a multimedia center, one for a firewall, one for a desktop, one for storage). So, they saw the A2000 and said, “I want one of those, and I know exactly what I can do with that.”
So, while the ARTiGO A2000 probably won’t appeal to our embedded customers, I am pretty confident that it will do exceptionally well in the consumer market—which is also what VIA intends to see happen.
Also, I’m not entirely sure what VIA’s motivation was for naming the A2000 in a similar vein to the A1000, except that both systems are DIY builder kits and both have black, shiny enclosures (VIA uses the phrase “slimline black beauty”). But, other than having a similar paint finish and putting “do-it-yourself” in the title, that’s pretty much where their likeness ends.
VIA’s press release draws a few comparisons between the two:
“The VIA ARTiGO A2000 proves that small can be not only beautiful, but also substantial when it comes to storage capacity,” said Jerry Yuan, VIA Embedded Business Development Manager. “Building on the success of the ARTiGO A1000 Pico-ITX builder kit, VIA has once again broken the mold for barebones, creating a device that embodies VIA’s reputation for innovation and creativity in small spaces.”
Both ARTiGOs certainly do use “creativity in small spaces.” VIA has a knack for introducing efficient and compact platforms. My only wish was to see the Nano processor on a mainboard like the VIA EPIA SN or the EPIA-M700 first. Or, ideally, see the A2000 outfitted with the Nano.
The A2000 barebone is now available as a configurable system. Visit our product page here.