Introduction and First Impressions
The Zotac ZBOX CI321 nano is a mini PC kit in the vein of the Intel NUC, and this version features a completely fanless design with built-in wireless for silent integration into just about any location. So is it fast enough to be an HTPC or desktop productivity machine? We will find out here.
I have reviewed a couple of mini-PCs in the past few months, most recently the ECS LIVA X back in January. Though the LIVA X was not really fast enough to be used as a primary device it was small and inexpensive enough to be an viable product depending on a user’s needs. One attractive aspect of the LIVA designs, and any of the low-power computers introduced recently, is the passive nature of such systems. This has unfortunately resulted in the integration of some pretty low-performance CPUs to stay within thermal (and cost) limits, but this is beginning to change. The ZBOX nano we’re looking at today carries on the recent trend of incorporating slightly higher performance parts as its Intel Celeron processor (the 2961Y) is based on Haswell, and not the Atom cores at the heart of so many of these small systems.
Another parallel to the Intel NUC is the requirement to bring your own memory and storage, and the ZBOX CI321 nano accepts a pair of DDR3 SoDIMMs and 2.5” storage drives. The Intel Celeron 2961Y processor supports up to 1600 MHz dual-channel DDR3L which allows for much higher memory bandwidth than many other mini-PCs, and the storage controller supports SATA 6.0 Gbps which allows for higher performance than the eMMC storage found in a lot of mini-PCs, depending on the drive you choose to install. Of course your mileage will vary depending on the components selected to complete the build, but it shouldn’t be difficult to build a reasonably fast system.
Subject: Systems | June 2, 2015 - 09:30 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: mini PC, LIVA X2, LIVA Core, LIVA, intel core m, ECS, computex 2015, computex, fanless
ECS has announced two new LIVA fanless mini-PC models, including a new "Core" version with an Intel Broadwell Core M SoC.
Here are the full specs for the LIVA Core:
Platform: Intel Broadwell Core M-5Y10C SoC
Memory: DDR3L 4GB
Storage: 1x 80G/120G M.2 SSD
Audio: 1x Combo Jack, 2x D-MIC (internal)
LAN: 1x Gigabit LAN
USB: 4x USB 3.0 Ports
Video Output: 2x HDMI Ports
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.0
Dimensions: 136 x 84 x 38 mm
Card Reader: Micro SD
Adapter Input: AC 100-240V,Output: DC 19V / 3.43A
OS Support: Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10
The LIVA X has been refreshed as well with a new design and updated Intel Braswell SoC.
Here are the specs for the LIVA X2:
Platform: Intel Braswell N3050 SoC
Memory: DDR3L 2GB/4GB
Expansion Slot: 1 x M.2 for SSD (Up to 1TB)
Storage: eMMC 64GB/32GB
Audio: 1x Combo Jack, 2x D-MIC (internal)
LAN: 1x Gigabit LAN
USB: 3x USB3.0 Ports
Video Output: 1x HDMI Port, 1x D-Sub Port
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.0
Dimensions: 156 x 83 x 51 mm
Adapter Input: AC 100-240V, Output: DC 12V / 3A
OS Support: Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 (Windows 7 supported by M.2)
These new LIVA models are listed on the ECS product pages and should be available soon through the usual retail channels.
Subject: Systems | May 26, 2015 - 02:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: shuttle, SFF, fanless, Broadwell, DS57U, Celeron 3205U
The Shuttle DS57U is powered by a dual core Celeron 3205U running at 1.5GHz and a nice and cool 15W TDP. The system supports up to 16GB of DDR3 at 1.35 V, no 1.5V DIMM that TechPowerUp tried would work and for add-in cards you have a single full sized mini-PCIE slot and a half sized mini-PCIE slot which is already occupied by a WLAN card. The system does have only one SATA 6Gbps port so external storage may be necessary, thankfully there are a pair of USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports. This model is available for $250 currently, if you decide you need more power there are several versions going all the way up to the DS57U7 powered by an i7-5500U. If you are looking for an inexpensive SFF barebones system, Shuttle is not a bad choice overall and the DS57U is worthy of consideration.
"The Shuttle DS57U is a slim barebone PC that only needs RAM and a HDD or, even better, an SSD to boot. It comes with an Intel dual-core Celeron processor (Broadwell) and features lots of I/O ports, which make it suitable for a wide range of applications."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Asus VivoPC VM62B @ Kitguru
- MSI CUBI @ HardwareHeaven
- MSI Cubi @ KitGuru
- Gigabyte Brix S @ HardwareHeaven
- KitGuru Complete Guide to Buying a Workstation
- KitGuru Complete Guide to PC Workstations – Part 2
- BuyPower Noctis Intel Z97 @ eTeknix
- The making of Damagebox 2015 @ The Tech Report
Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 26, 2015 - 01:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, nuc, Intel, fanless, Cherry Trail, Braswell, asrock
Earlier this month, ASRock showed off a tiny fanless computer it is calling the Beebox. Powered by an Intel Braswell SoC, the new small form factor Beebox offers up a decent selection of I/O ports and general desktop performance while sipping power. The Beebox is approximately the size of Intel's NUC measuring 118.5mm x 110mm x 46mm x (4.67" x 4.33" x 1.81" -- WxDxH) and will come in three color options: black, gold, and white.
This compact PC has a fairly extensive set of ports on tap. The front panel includes a headphone jack, infrared port, one standard USB 3.0 port, and a USB 3.0 Type-C port which supports 5V/3A charging. The rear panel hosts the power jack, two HDMI outputs, one DisplayPort output, two USB 3.0 ports, a Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock slot. Not bad for a small form factor PC.
ASRock will be offering the Beebox in three configuration options including a barebones kit, a version with 32 GB internal storage, 2 GB of RAM, and Windows 10, and a Beebox SKU with 128 GB of internal storage and 4 GB of RAM (and no OS pre-installed). Each of the SKUs are powered by the same Intel Celeron N3000 Braswell SoC. From there, users can add a single 2.5" SATA drive and a Mini PCI-E card (although this slot is occupied by the included 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless module). The system uses two DDR3L SO-DIMMs and supports a maximum of 8 GB DDR3L at 1600 MHz.
The aspect that made the Beebox stand out to me was the inclusion of the Braswell-based Celeron N3000 processor. This 4W 14nm part features two Airmont CPU cores clocked at 1.04 GHz base and 2.08 GHz turbo paired with 2MB L2 cache and a Gen 8 Intel GPU clocked at up to 600 MHz. This is a desktop variant of the Cherry Trail chips being used in tablets, but it is the lowest TDP Braswell chip currently at a mere 4 watts. ASRock likely went with this chip to ensure they could passively cool it and still keep temperatures in check. As FanlessTech notes, the chassis ASRock is using leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to heat dissipation compared to other fanless cases on the market.
We will have to wait for reviews to see how well the Beebox and its Braswell processor perform, but so long as ASRock is able to keep thermals in check, the little PC should offer acceptable performance for general desktop tasks (browsing the internet, checking email, watching streaming videos, etc). Cherry Trail (and keep in mind Braswell is a higher power chip based on the same architectures) is promising noticeable improvements to graphics and at least slight improvements to CPU performance. According to ASRock, the Beebox is going to be priced aggressively at "very low" price points which should make it a good compromise between older Bay Trail-D systems and newer (and more expensive) Broadwell and Haswell systems.
The Beebox is slated for late June availability, with exact pricing to be announced at that time.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 28, 2015 - 08:15 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: cirrus7, SFF, nuc, broadwell-u, fanless
Next month, German manufacturer Cirrus7 will begin shipping its new Nimbini system. The Nimbini is an even smaller variant of the company’s small form factor Nimbus PC. This time, Cirrus7 has managed to pack a Intel NUC system into a fanless case with multiple layers of stacked laser cut aluminum panels that double as a heatsink for the internals. Even better, the Nimbini supports Intel’s Rock Canyon and Maple Canyon NUC boards, and supports Broadwell-U processors up to the 28W Core i7 models with Iris Graphics (e.g. the two core, four thread, Core i7-5557U with Iris Graphics 6100).
The Nimbini will come as a complete system (150 x 150 x 87mm) preloaded with Windows or Ubuntu Linux operating systems or as a barebones DIY kit – which at upwards of 90 pieces (per FanlessTech) is not for the faint-of-heart! This case can be customized to add different covers and to vary the thickness of the case by adding or removing layers. The standard configuration leaves room for a 2.5” drive in addition to the usual M.2 SSD used with NUCs. If you aren’t using that second storage drive, you can make the case thinner or expand it for maximum cooling. While also aesthetically pleasing, the best part about the aluminum construction is that it is a fanless design which is perfect for a HTPC (home theater PC) or audio engineering setup. Cirrus7 claims to support up to 28W processor TDPs without any fans.
Rear IO for the Intel Maple Canyon NUC installed in the layered Nimbini chassis.
Cirrus7 will being taking pre-orders in May. Among others, both the Rock Canyon (with its IR receiver and accompanying case window) and Maple Canyon internal hardware (NUC boards) with dual DisplayPort outputs will be on offer. Pricing has not yet been announced, but it looks promising if you are looking for a premium silent SFF PC.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 26, 2015 - 02:37 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: fanless, cooler
We are getting a fair amount of “big heatsink” options for enthusiasts, which is nice. This one is from a Japanese manufacturer, Scythe Co., and it's quite big. It is similar in size and weight to the Noctua D14, but in a four-tower design. Each stack of fins has three heat pipes, twelve fingers total, to deliver the heat up from the plate that rests on your CPU. It measures 13cm x 15.5cm x 15.3cm and weighs 0.9kg.
The product page doesn't seem to declare a fanless operation mode, but FanlessTech mentions that previous models were advertised at, not just abused by enthusiasts to, 65W in passive configurations. It is a pretty large cooler, so that makes sense. I have also seen a few posts where the Noctua D14 can be used fanless for around 65W. You cannot really make an apples-to-apples comparison between the two units though. While the size and weight are similar, the geometry is quite different. For example, the Noctua is really designed to have fans installed between the two towers as well as the ends, blowing air over the fins in a certain direction.
No news about pricing or availability for Europe or North America yet. The company does have an international presence though.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 8, 2015 - 01:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: thin mini itx, SFF case, SFF, mini ITX, fanless, akasa
Akasa recently introduced two new fanless Mini ITX cases under its Euler brand. The new Euler T and Euler M are all aluminum enclosures that cool up to 35W processors passively using an aluminium heatsink and the case’s own surface area to dissipate heat.
Both cases are black with a brushed metal texture and “diamond edge” finish around the front panel. The top and sides of the small form factor cases use a fin array design that benefits the passive cooling feature. Front IO includes a circular power button and two USB 3.0 ports.
The Akasa Euler T chassis. The Euler M (not pictured) is slightly larger).
The Euler T represents a refinement of the existing Euler S chassis with support for three 2.5” drives. The case measures 245 x 215.5 x 68.5mm. It is built with Thin Mini ITX motherboards in mind. It can be paired with an optional external power supply up to 150W.
Akasa’s Euler M case is deeper measuring 245 x 274.5 x 68.5mm. The case supports regular sized desktop memory modules and Mini ITX motherboards. Thanks to its larger size, it supports four 2.5” drive bays. The Euler M has an internal DC-to-DC power adapter and can be paired with an optional external 80W power supply.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 4, 2015 - 11:24 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: shuttle, SFF, fanless, core i7-5500u, Broadwell
The Shuttle DS57U is a new small form factor fanless PC packing Intel’s latest Broadwell processor. The Shuttle 1.3L chassis (7.9" x 6.5" x 1.5") is all black and sits vetically on raised feet. Vents run along the top of the case and the vertical design along with a large heatsink lets them offer a fanless design.
External I/O includes:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 2 x RS232
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- 2 x Analog audio
- 1 x SD card reader
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet (Intel i211 and i218LM)
The PC can be attached to the back of a monitor stand or to the wall using its VESA mounting holes.
Internally, the Shuttle DS57U comes with up to an Intel Core i7 5500U processor which is a 15W dual core part with Hyper Threading clocked at 2.4GHz base and 3GHz max turbo, 4MB cache, and Intel 5500 graphics clocked at up to 950MHz. It is a barebones PC which means that users have to add their own storage, memory, and operating system. Users can add two laptop DDR3 SODIMMs (16GB max), a single 2.5” drive, and a two Mini PCI-e devices (an 802.11n wireless module comes pre-installed in the half-height slot).
The Shuttle DS57U would make for a silent home PC, media server, or an extremely overpowered home router (heh). Its feature set also makes the DS57U suited for commercial and industrial applications. The fanless Broadwell PC is available now in Europe for 192 euros (approximately $220 USD). There is no word on when it will hit this side of the pond, but its introduction is a promising start to other fanless Broadwell systems hitting the market.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 11, 2015 - 08:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: HDPLEX, h5, fanless
FanlessTech published a preview of the updated H5 case from HDPLEX, which accepts CPUs that are up to 90W TDP. That is a lot of potential performance for a silent device, especially since it includes an optional fanless heatsink for dual-slot graphics cards. That said, because the company creates home theater PCs (HTPCs), they have a reasonable amount of room to work with, unlike a NUC (or similar) form factor. It keeps the components cool by attaching them to the case itself with heat pipes, using its mass and surface area as a reservoir and radiator to keep the heat away. The CPU and GPU each have access to eight pipes, sixteen total.
Beyond the home theater application, I can see this being useful for many professionals, especially sound engineers, who want a lot of performance but no noise. And even though it is not tiny, it is not even a foot and a half at its largest dimension, so it should not be too difficult to find room for it in a cabinet or something. Also, just to put the 90W TDP into perspective, Devil's Canyon is listed at an 88W TDP. You could probably fit one of those in here, although non-trivial overclocking is likely out of the question.
So yeah, fanless Devil's Canyon with options for a fanless discrete GPU. I think I made my point.
This photo is from the previous model. The upcoming chassis is not yet pictured.
The final design is not yet published, which is why we included the picture of its previous incarnation, but HDPLEX claims that production is currently in the tooling phase. Despite not yet being available, it is listed to sell for $275 USD. If the previous design is any indication, it is quite stylish too. It could pass for a retail BluRay player if people don't stop and wonder why there isn't a brand logo on the front.
Subject: Systems | November 13, 2014 - 04:03 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zotac, zbox ci540 nano, fanless, haswell, i5-4210Y
The Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano is a bit more powerful than your average Bay Trail based mini-PC, it sports a Haswell based dual core i5-4210Y which runs between 1.5-1.9GHz and has Intel's HD4200 onboard. This won't play AC:Unity but comes close to matching a NUC containing a Core i5-4250U, you give up a bit of horsepower for completely silent operation and for media it sports enough power to watch your favourite videos. As you look at Silent PC Reviews' article you can see the honeycomb patterned knockouts on the casing to allow heat to dissipate and to let in liquid if you don't put some thought into where you are going to place the ZBOX. It does have Bluetooth and there is an unofficial optional IR receiver that can be used to make it easy to place this tiny computer in a safe place.
"The Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano gives up a little CPU/GPU horsepower to deliver a completely fanless, silent and full-featured mini-PC experience."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Zotac ZBox PI320 Mini-PC Review and Teardown @ The SSD Review
- Zotac Zbox Pico @ HardwareHeaven
- Lenovo Horizon 2 AIO Desktop Computer @ Benchmark Reviews
- Logic Supply ML400G-50 Fanless m-ITX PC @ Silent PC Review
- Habey MITX-6771 Bay Trail Embedded Motherboard @ Silent PC Review