Shuttle's DS81 comes bareboned but offers a lot of choice

Subject: Systems | July 21, 2014 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: shuttle, htpc, SFF, DS81, barebones

The Shuttle DS81 ships with an H81 motherboard, an external 90 W power adapter and the 190 x 165 x 43mm case of course.  That means you have your choice of installed Linux or Windows and any combination of 65W or lower Haswell processor, memory and storage device to add to the ~$200 enclosure.  For outputs it provides HDMI and two DisplayPorts which means it can theoretically support 4K video, a pair of both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports and two LAN ports as WiFi is optional.  While it has only headphone out for audio, the onboard codec is capable of outputting digital sound through DP or HDMI which would be the preference of many users.  Check out MadShrimps full review here.

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"The Slim PC chassis from been reincarnated in the shape of the DS81 which supports the latest Haswell processors with a TDP up to 65W and supports 4K video output thanks to the DirectX 11.1 IGP. The DS81 chassis features a 1.3-liter slim design with a thickness of only 43mm, so it is suitable for many commercial applications; a VESA mount is also included as a bundle in order to mount the device behind the monitor."

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Source: MadShrimps

Have a ball with the Zotac Sphere OI520

Subject: Systems | June 12, 2014 - 07:13 PM |
Tagged: zotac, SFF, htpc, Sphere OI520

Inside this unique casing you will find a Core i5 4200U, up to 16GB of DDR3 and room for an mSATA and a 2.5" drive; but not a GPU.  The onboard HD4400 can output to HDMI or DisplayPort and in addition to the connections you can see below there is indeed 802.11ac and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity.   The power supply is external so there is only one rather quiet fan to be found inside the ball, perfect for HTPC usage as you won't be very impressed by its ability to game.  Check out Bjorn3D's full review and the reason they expect this will be available for well under $1000.

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"There was a time when a computer in most cases consisted of a big beige box that you certainly did not want to show off or which took up a lot of space on your desk. Those days are gone and today we have a lot more variety both how computer looks and how big they are. Zotac is a company that for quite some time have been pumping out smaller mini-PC’s under their ZBox brand and today we are taking a look at their new round ZBox Sphere OI520."

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Source: Bjorn3D

AAEON's SoC is an impressive implementation of Bay Trail

Subject: Systems | April 10, 2014 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: linux, mini-itx, AAEON, EMB-BT1, Bay Trail, SFF, htpc

You may not recognize the name AAEON but you will recognize its parent company, ASUS.  AAEON makes low power small form factor single board SoCs and with the introduction of Bay Trail they may become more common.  The EMB-BT1-A10-3825 sports a quad-core Atom E3845 @ 1.33GHz and Ivy Bridge era Intel HD graphics with support for up to 4GB of DDR3-1067.  It has a total TDP of 6W but unfortunately Phoronix's WattsUp meter was busy on another system so you will need to wait for an update on total power consumption.

The connectivity on this SoC is incredible, mSATA for an SSD, two SATA 6Gbps ports and two SATA-2 ports, dual gigabit LAN ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single 3.0 port, HDMI, VGA, COM, and audio jacks.  You could configure this as a small media server or as it supports dual displays it would serve wonderfully as an HTPC.

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"For those after a low-cost mini-ITX board for use within an HTPC, SOHO file server, or other low-power situations, AAEON has out an interesting board called the EMB-BT1, or more formally the AAEON EMB-BT1-A10-3825. This mini-ITX motherboard has onboard an Intel Atom E3825 "Bay Trail" SoC for delivering decent performance out of the six Watt SoC and having open-source-friendly graphics under Linux."

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Source: Phoronix

Sapphire Launches Low Profile R7 240 GPU For HTPCs

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 03:14 AM |
Tagged: sapphire, R7 240, htpc, SFF, low profile, steam os

Sapphire is preparing a new low profile Radeon R7 240 graphics card for home theater PCs and small form factor desktop builds. The new graphics card is a single slot design that uses a small heatsink with fan cooler that is shorter than the low profile PCI bracket for assured compatibility with even extremely cramped cases.

The Sapphire R7 240 card pairs a 28nm AMD GCN-based GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory. There are two HDMI 1.4a display outputs that each support 4K 4096 x 2160 resolutions. Specifically, this particular iteration of the Radeon R7 240 has 320 stream processors clocked at 730 MHz base and 780 MHz boost along with 2GB DDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz on a 128-bit bus. The card further has 20 TMUs and 8 ROPs. The card has a power sipping 30W TDP.

Sapphire Radeon R7 240 Low Profile Graphics Card for SFF Desktops and HTPCs.jpg

This low profile R7 240 is a sub-$100 part that can easily power a home theater PC or Steam OS streaming endpoint. Actually, the R7 240 itself can deliver playable gaming frame rates with low quality settings and lowered resolutions delivering at least 30 average FPS in modern titles like Bioshock Infinite and BF4 according to this review. Another use case would be to add the card to an existing AMD APU-based system in Hybrid CrossFire (which has seen Frame Pacing fixes!) for a bit more gaming horsepower under a strict budget.

The card occupies a tight space where it is only viable in specific situations constrained by a tight budget, physical size, and the requirement to buy a card new and not an older (single and faster, not Hybrid CrossFire) generation card on the used market. Still, it is nice to have options and this will be one such new budget alternative. Exact pricing is not yet available, but it should be hitting store shelves soon. For an idea on pricing, the full height Sapphire R7 240 retails for around $70, so expect the new low profile variant to be around that price if at a slight premium.

ZOTAC Combines 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 with NVIDIA GeForce GT 640

Subject: Systems | February 5, 2014 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: htpc, zotac, ZBOX ID45, gt 640

HONG KONG – Feb. 5, 2014 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and manufacturer of graphics cards, mainboards and mini-PCs, today combines the power of 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 processing with NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 graphics to create the ultimate 4K ready HTPC. The new ZBOX ID45 series delivers the perfect synergy of energy-efficiency and high-quality video processing in a compact form factor.

“ZOTAC has always married the capabilities of energy-efficient Intel processors with incredible NVIDIA GeForce graphics since the first ZBOX shipped with NVIDIA ION,” said Carsten Berger, senior director, ZOTAC International. “The latest ZBOX ID45 series pushes that synergy even further with greater performance while maintaining excellent energy-efficiency.”

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The NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 graphics enhances the video playback capabilities of the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series with high-quality HD processing and 4K video decode capabilities for a superior HTPC experience. An Intel Core i3 3227U processor delivers outstanding CPU performance with dual processor cores and Intel HyperThreading technology for unmatched multitasking responsiveness and quick video transcoding capabilities.

Dual Gigabit Ethernet enables excellent wired networking capabilities for redundant connectivity or to transform the ZBOX ID45 series into a high-performance network router. Wireless 802.11ac networking technology delivers a wireless experience that’s comparable to wired Ethernet on the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series.

The ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series ships as a barebones and as a PLUS version with 4GB DDR3 and 500GB hard drive preinstalled. Users can install a variety of operating systems on the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series including Windows 7, 8 and OpenELEC.

General details

  • ZOTAC Combines 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 with NVIDIA GeForce GT 640
  • New ZBOX ID45 series Intel Core i3 3227U 1.9 GHz, dual-core, 3MB L2 cache
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 2GB DDR3
  • PLUS models available with 4GB DDR3 500GB HDD
  • HDMI, DVI-I and VGA (with included adapter) outputs 4K video decoding
  • High quality HD video processing
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0 w/ external WiFi antenna
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet Bundled
  • VESA75/100 mount

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Source: Zotac

Does your NUC need a nice quiet home?

Subject: Systems | November 28, 2013 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: htpc, fanless, nuc, Logic Supply, LGX ML300

Logic Supply's LGX ML300 lineup offers you choices from an empty case to a pre-built system costing over $1000, allowing to pick and choose the HTPC system you want.  The case is completely fanless and the system sent to Silent PC Review consisted of a Core i5-3427U, 8GB DDR3-1333 and a 128GB mSATA SSD.  The outputs offer enough choice for most users, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, two mini DisplayPort a mini-HDMI and gigabit LAN.  Thermal performance was great with this case compared to some previous NUCs and SPCR had no issues with overheating during their tests.

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"A slim, silent, fanless case for an Intel NUC with room enough for a 2.5" drive is Logic Supply's latest passively cooled project. With the right NUC innards, it becomes a perfect ultra-mini media PC with both zippy performance and enough storage space."

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6 tuners, 1 card; not as dirty as it sounds

Subject: Systems | October 7, 2013 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: htpc, ceton, tv tuner

TV addicts and members of large families rejoice as Ceton's InfiniTV6 PCIe digital cable tuner card allows you to record up to 6 separate channels concurrently.  The $300 price tag makes it a bit of an investment but for those uninterested in online TV streaming services may really like the idea of being able to record that many shows at the same time.  Activating and pairing your cable card is not too difficult and the included instructions should be able to help anyone who does encounter troubles.  Missing Remote mentions that Win7 is the way to go with this card, Win8 support is in beta and nowhere near as reliable.

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"Six is a good number – even better when it is equated to the number of tuners in your current HTPC. Obviously it is possible to get by with less, but after considering EPG overlaps, a couple children and the spouse – what was an impossible luxury not that long ago quickly becomes a celebrated necessity. With ClearQAM disappearing and ATSC difficult to master in some markets, it is hard to argue with the simplicity that a single Digital Cable Tuner (DCT) provides. Ceton InfiniTV6 PCIe Digital Cable Tuner card includes the ability to use an M-CARD CableCARD to record any channel you subscribe to from your Cable TV Provider."

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Gigabyte Announces New Haswell-Powered BRIX PCs

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2013 - 10:01 PM |
Tagged: SFF, Intel, htpc, haswell, gigabyte brix, gigabyte

Gigabyte recently updated its BRIX line of small form factor PCs to include Intel Haswell processors, 4K display support, and additional IO port options. The new BRIX systems measure 29.9mm x 107.6mm x 114.4mm and feature a chassis constructed of anthracite aluminum with a glass top panel. The new BRIX PCs come in four SKUs, each of which comes with an Intel Haswell processor of i7, i5, i3, or Celeron varieties.

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The BRIX PCs come with the case, a small Gigabyte motherboard, an Intel CPU, and a wireless module with 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 radios. Users can choose their own mSATA SSD, DDR3 SO-DIMMs (two per system, up to 16GB), and operating system. The front panel of the Haswell-powered BRIX PCs includes two USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack that doubles as an optical S/PDIF output.

Gigabyte GB-BXi5-4200 Rear IO.jpg

The back panel of the BRIX system includes:

  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 1 x RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RT8111G NIC)
  • 2 x Video outputs:
    • 1 x Mini-DipslayPort
    • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DC-in
  • 1 x Kensington Lock

Internally, the BRIX PCs have one Mini-PCI-E slot, one mSATA slot, and two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots. The Mini-PCI-E slot is used by the pre-installed Wi-Fi module, however. Processor options include the Intel Celeron 2955U, Core i3-4010U, Core i5-4200U, and Core i7-4500U. At the high end, the i7-4500U is a dual core CPU with HyperThreading, 4MB cache, and clockspeeds of 1.8GHz base and 3.0GHz turbo. The i5 also has turbo boost, but only up to 2.6GHz. The Core i3-4010U has HyperThreading but no Turbo Boost while the Celeron is stripped of both Turbo Boost and HyperThreading. The chart below lists all the processor specifications.

BRIX Model GB-BXi7-4500 GB-BXi5-4200 GB-BXi3-4010 GB-BXCE-2955
Processor Core i7-4500U Core i5-4200U Core i3-4010U Celeron 2955U
Cores / Threads 2 / 4 2 / 4 2 / 4 2 / 2
Clockspeeds 1.8 GHz to 3.0 GHz 1.6 GHz to 2.6 GHz 1.7 GHz 1.4 GHz
CPU Cache 4MB 3MB 3MB 2MB
Maximum RAM 16GB 16GB 16GB 16GB

The new Haswell-powered Gigabyte BRIX PCs include the GB-BXCE-2955, GB-BXi3-4010, GB-BXi5-4200, and GB-BXi7-4500. Unfortunately, the company has not yet released pricing or availability for the SFF devices. More informtation on the Haswell models can be found on this Gigabyte microsite.

Read more about the Gigabyte BRIX platform and how it compares to the competition here.

Source: Gigabyte

Cooler Master Elite 130 Is A Mini ITX Case With Full Mesh Front Panel

Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 29, 2013 - 09:21 PM |
Tagged: mini ITX, htpc, elite 130, cooler master

Cooler Master recently released the Elite 130 Mini ITX case, which is an update to the existing Elite 120. The Elite 130 measures 9.4” x 8.1” x 14.9” (240mm x 205mm x 377.5mm) and will be available for under $50.

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The Elite 130 weighs 6.8 pounds and is constructed of a steel alloy body with a polymer mesh front panel. The all black chassis has a mesh front panel with IO on the left and a single 5.25” drive bay. There is an 80mm vent on the right panel and a vent (without a fan) on the left side panel. The rear of the case features two PCI slots and a single rubber grommet for water cooling or USB 3.0 pass through cables. The case supports standard ATX power supplies through the use of an extension bracket. The PSU sticks out slightly from the back of the case and a vent on the case’s top panel allows for the power supply to pull in cool air from the outside rather than from the case internals.

Cooler Master Elite 130 Mini ITX Case Rear IO.jpg

Front IO on the Cooler Master Elite 130 includes two USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks.

Internally, the Elite 130 supports a single 5.25” drive, two 3.5” hard drives, and a single solid state drive mounted in a side bracket. Alternatively, users can forgo an optical drive in favor of having three total 3.5” drives or four total 2.5” drives.

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The case comes pre-installed with a 120mm intake fan and users can add a single 80x15mm fan on the right side panel. Users can swap out the front intake fan for water cooling radiator.

The Elite 130 supports Mini ITX motherboards, graphics cards up to 13.5,” CPU coolers up to 2.5” tall, and power supplies up to 180mm long.

According to Maximum PC, the Cooler Master Elite 130 is available from Amazon for $43.26. The Mini ITX case comes with a two year warranty.

Google TV versus Chromecast; is there a difference?

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | August 9, 2013 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: asus, asus cube, google, google tv, htpc

With the release of the Google Chromecast streaming USB stick it seems apropos to revisit Google's other foray into the HTPC business, Google TV.  Specifically it is the ASUS Cube up for review at Bjorn3D which will be offered as an example.  At less than 5" a side it is a tiny device with HDMI input and output, an pair of USB 2.0 connectors, an ethernet port and a connector for an IR sensor for the remote.  It does have wireless connectivity to help keep down on the clutter if you install it somewhere noticeable.  Inside you will find a 1.2 GHz Marvell Armada 1500 chip, 1GB of RAM and 2GB of user accessible storage.  There are a variety of apps to help you find streams to watch and is certainly easier to set up than a full HTPC.  At $125 is is more expensive than the Chromecast but it is also more powerful, see how in the review.

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"Asus Cube is the device that features latest Google TV OS that want to be part of your living room entertainment setup. With a good design, an unique remote, and $139 price tag, can it push Google TV further where others may have failed? Let’s find out."

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Source: Bjorn3D