Sapphire Launches Low Profile R7 240 GPU For HTPCs

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 12:14 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 - 10:46 AM |
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.”

ZBOX ID45-17.jpg

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

ZBOX ID45-PLUS-14.jpg

Source: Zotac

Does your NUC need a nice quiet home?

Subject: Systems | November 28, 2013 - 11:26 AM |
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.

SPCR_ml300b.jpg

"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."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

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

Subject: Systems | October 7, 2013 - 03:09 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.

15-706-005-TS.jpg

"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."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

HTPC

Gigabyte Announces New Haswell-Powered BRIX PCs

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2013 - 07:01 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.

Gigabyte GB-BXi5-4200 with Retail Packaging.jpg

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 - 06:21 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.

Cooler Master Elite 130 Angled.jpg

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.

Cooler Master Elite 130 Cooling.jpg

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 - 10:34 AM |
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.

Bj3DAsus_Cube_07.jpg

"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."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: Bjorn3D

Thermalright Releases Low Profile AXP-200 CPU Cooler

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2013 - 04:57 PM |
Tagged: thermalright, low profile, htpc, cpu cooler, axp-200

Thermalright recently released the AXP-200, a new low profile CPU cooler suitable for HTPCs and other systems with CPU HSF hieght restrictions. The AXP-200 is the successor to the existing AXP-100, and is available in Europe for €50 Euros, which is approximately $67 USD.

Thermalright AXP-200 with 150mm fan.jpg

Thermalright’s AXP-200 measures 150mm x 140mm x 73mm including the bundled TY-14013 140mm fan and weighs 475 grams (~1.04 lbs). Features include a nickel plated copper base plate that connects to an aluminum heatsink with 49 fins via six soldered 6mm nickel plated heatpipes. Thermalright logos are etched onto the heatpipe caps and fan shroud. Speaking of the fan, it is rated at 700-1300 RPM, 64.52 CFM, and a maximum of 30.6 dBA.

Interestingly, the AXP-200 comes with a TY-150 mounting frame that allows it to support a150mm TY-150 fan instead of the bundled 140mm model.

Thermalright AXP-200 side.jpg

The cooler supports all of the latest CPU sockets including:

  • Intel:
    • 775, 1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011
  • AMD:
    • AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2

The low profile AXP-200 is available now in Europe for €50 and will hopefully hit the US soon. It should be a decent little cooler for your next HTPC or mini-ITX desktop build, though it is on the pricier side of things.

Source: Thermalright

Samsung Acquires Boxee For $30 Million, Its Cloud DVR Service Is Ending July 10th

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2013 - 12:01 AM |
Tagged: smart tv, Samsung, media streaming, live tv, htpc, cloud dvr, boxee

Earlier this week, set top box maker Boxee was acquired by Samsung in a deal worth approximately $30 million. The Korean company will retain all 45 Boxee employees as well as hold the rights to Boxee assets. Samsung plans to put the Boxee team to work on improving the user experience of its own Smart TVs. Unfortunately for Boxee users, the company announced on its website yesterday that it will be discontinuing its Cloud DVR service on July 10th.

Samsung's new "key talent and assets" from Boxee will work on improving the software used in Samsung's internet-connected Smart TVs. Smart TVs have become rather common, but much like the built-in 3D features, consumers may have a TV with Internet connected functionality but many do not utilize these features. The Boxee team will work on improving the interface, and hopefully with Sasmsung's muscle behind the team it will be able to offer enticing media functionality without running into rights issues with the big media companies, which Boxee has run into in the past.

boxee-logo.png

Other than the brief announcement from Boxee and a couple of short quotes from Samsung to the BBC, details on the deal, the Boxee team's future involvement and road map on Boxee-inspired software are scarce. On one hand it is sad to see a small startup being bought out. On the other hand, it seems like it really takes a big company with lots of resources to make inroads into the living room, especially where TV and video is concerned due to media companies and cable companies (and in Comcast's case, both) fighting vigorously against these Internet streaming boxes. Hopefully Samsung realizes what it has and takes advantage of its new talent to make its Smart TVs better! In the meantime, there is always Roku to look to for alternative streaming boxes or XBMC and WMC for fully-fledged home theater PCs.

What do you think about the Boxee acquisition and the future of so-called "Smart TVs?"

Source: Boxee

Computex 2013: ASUS Releases More Information On VivoPC and VivoMouse HTPC System

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 01:50 AM |
Tagged: vivopc, vivomouse, htpc, computex 2013, computex, asus

ASUS unleashed a barrage of product announcments at its opening keynote at Computex 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan earlier today. Two of the products shown off in slide form at the event were the HTPC-oriented VivoPC and VivoMouse. After the event, ASUS posted a press release that went into a bit more detail on the two devices. However, while the company has provided specifications and a tentative Q3 2013 release date, it has not yet announced pricing information.

ASUS VivoPC_1.jpg

The ASUS VivoPC is a small form factor HTPC clad in an angular brushed aluminum textured chassis. It measures 190 x 190 x 36.2mm and is large enough to accomodate a single 3.5" or 2.5" hard drive. The hard drive and memory can be easily replaced and the PC serviced by lifting up the (lockable, via a switch on the back) lid. It will come equipped with an as-yet-unnamed Intel processor with integrated processor graphics (likely Haswell, since ASUS did not mention a SKU or series and Intel has not had its keynote yet), DDR3 memory, and an 802.11ac wireless radio. It is unclear whether or not ASUS intends to sell both barebones and fully-configured SKUs, but as mentioned previously at leas the memory and HDD or SSD can be purchased seperately.

ASUS VivoPC_2.jpg

Rear IO options include:

  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x SD card slot
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN
  • 1 x S/PDIF
  • 2 x Audio jacks
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x Power button
  • 1 x top cover lock switch

ASUS' preferred input method is, of course, their own recently-announced VivoMouse accessory, which is a large remote-control sized mouse with a large circular touchpad. The mouse has a 1200 DPI sensor and the touchpad supports 3-point multi-touch. It operates over the 2.4GHz RF frequency band, which is nice to see as it eliminates the need for an IR sensor and line of sight to the VivoPC box. The ASUS VivoMouse measures 135 x 78 x 25.5mm.

ASUS VivoMouse.jpg

Personally, I think that I would rather have a WMC remote (such as the remote with qwerty keyboard and mini-trackpad on one side and media controls on the other that was Allyn's hardware pick on the podcast awhile back) with hardware buttons, but I have to admit that the VivoMouse at least looks stylish and people that also run Windows apps on their HTPCs might find having a large multi-touch touchpad useful.

Pricing has not yet been announced, but ASUS has stated that users should expect both the VivoPC and VivoMouse accessory to be available sometime in Q3 2013.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Computex 2013 coverage!

Source: ASUS