--Stmok 19:35, 16 Feb 2006 (EST)
Developed by Centaur Technology (now a branch of VIA), the goal of this CPU is to provide adequate performance for day-to-day applications at extremely low cost, with low power consumption. (Word processing, web surfin, email, etc). Part of this cost saving measure resulted in the CPU needing to be relatively simple to design and produce. As a result, the FPU (Floating Point Unit) is very weak in comparison to competeing solutions from AMD and Intel. (This is often pointed out by everyone who owns a modern day system). The C3 is considered a PIII-era CPU.
To compensate for this deficiency, Centaur/VIA incorporated various hardware accelerated features on CPU and chipset. Such include MPEG2/4 acceleration, encryption acceleration (AES, etc). However, to take advantage of these features, your operating system must have support for it. (in terms of drivers, or kernel patches).
C3 powered systems are often found in "Below $1000" systems in Target and Big-W (often marketed as something fast), as well as in the embedded boards. The more popular embedded board that is targeted for the end user is the Mini-ITX format, (17cm x 17cm in size). This format is fully compatible with the regular ATX standard. VIA markets these embedded boards under the name EPIA.
There are several variants of the C3, and the C3 itself comes in two phyisical size. (Regular and Nano format). To further this confusion, VIA does not clearly label the steppings/revisions of the CPUs that are found on EPIA boards. Often, you will find one has a feature like encryption acceleration, and the other doesn't. (Even though both EPIA boards are marketed under the same name!)
For day to day use, C3 powered systems are fine. However, they are completely inadequate for modern day games. As a result, people often use VIA CPU powered systems for non-intensive tasks. (high-end firewall/router solution using Linux or BSD, home file/print server, thin-client, "mum's PC", etc). Long time fans/enthusiasts for EPIA solutions will be found using PCI based Nvidia and ATI video solutions to compensate for the incredibly poor performing onboard UniChrome video solution. (Mostly to play older, favourite games). Also bare in mind, the UniChrome solution does not meet the requirements of the upcoming Windows Vista. (So you must disable all the "eyecandy".)
For video playback, a 1Ghz C3 can handle just about any video format except HDTV and Quicktime HD format. Under those two case, the system will choke. (skip frames and such).
Depending on the type of enthusiast, most people will brush this solution aside in favour for more power consuming (and more powerful) Intel or AMD solution. While others, aroused by the "cuteness" of a small system, will often build custom cases around an EPIA board. An interesting example, is this Bender (Futurama) case http://www.wymenfan.com/bender/ More creative case examples can be found here => http://www.mini-itx.com/