Smaller than a breadbox; building mini-ITX systems

Subject: Systems | May 31, 2013 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: htpc, mini-itx

Building a mini-ITX system that is small enough to be attached to the back of a monitor or hidden with your stereo components takes a bit more thought than assembling a full ATX system.  It is not just about the size of the components you are purchasing, heat dissipation is much more important in a small system especially if it will be located somewhere that does not have great air circulation.  TechSpot has put together a guide for those thinking of building such a system, using the Akasa Euler Case as the housing and powered with a Core i5-3470T.  As you can see from the picture below, the final system is smaller than an HD7970.

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"The idea behind the Thin Mini-ITX form factor, besides the obvious which is to create seriously compact computers, is also to allow for DIY all-in-ones (think of little PCs you can attach to the back of your monitor). Having that said, we don't fully intend to go the all-in-one route in this article, but are aiming to build a powerful Thin Mini-ITX system that can be used in the office or at home as a media PC.

This is what our finished system should look like: extremely compact, powerful, and near silent operation, as in no-moving-parts silent. For less than $700 including a 256GB SSD, we believe you'll love what the final product will look like."

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Source: TechSpot

ZOTAC Supercharges ZBOX with Intel Core i5

Subject: Systems | May 8, 2013 - 12:10 PM |
Tagged: htpc, zotac, zbox id88, zbox id89

HONG KONG – May 8, 2013 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and leading manufacturer of graphics cards, mainboards and mini-PCs, today supercharges the ZBOX mini-PC with desktop Intel Core i5 and i3 processors for outstanding performance that can match and outpace larger full-size desktop PCs. The new 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors ushers in a new era of performance to the mini-PC form factor.

“Users demanded the same performance as larger desktop PCs from our ZBOX but the small size made it virtually impossible to deliver the same performance as desktop PCs. After many months of engineering and fine tuning, we came up with a solution that enables us to install desktop LGA1155 socket Intel Core i5 and i3 processors without sacrificing size, noise or power consumption that will make our end users very happy,” says Carsten Berger, senior director, ZOTAC International.

Users have two choices of processor with the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors. Casual users seeking great performance for everyday computing can opt for the dual-core Intel Core i3 3220T-equipped ZBOX ID88 series while more demanding users can step up to the Intel Core i5 3470T-equipped ZBOX ID89 series.

The Intel Core i5 3470T processor adds Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 technology to intelligently increase clock speeds of individual processor cores up to 3.6 GHz depending on computing demands of the operating system and applications. Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d) enhances virtualization capabilities on the Intel Core i5 3470T for superior performance for virtualization uses.

Intel HD Graphics 2500 graphics processing transforms the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors into powerhouse HTPCs with Intel Quick Sync Video technology for lightning fast video conversions, Intel InTru 3D technology for stunning and smooth Blu-ray 3D playback with advanced audio technologies, and Intel Clear Video HD technology for hardware-accelerated high-definition video playback.

It’s time to play with the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors.

ZBOX ID88 series

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    Intel Core i3 3220T (dual-core, 2.8 GHz)

ZBOX ID89 series

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    Intel Core i5 3470T (dual-core, 2.9 GHz, up to 3.6 GHz Turbo)
    Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 technology

PLUS models available with preinstalled memory and hard drive

    4GB DDR3
    500GB HDD

HDMI & DVI-I outputs
802.11n Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0 w dual external WiFi antennas
Dual Gigabit Ethernet
High-amperage USB charging capable (yellow ports)
Bundled MCE-compatible remote w USB IR receiver
Bundled VESA75100 mount

Source: Zotac

Sapphire heads to the Edge again with the new VS8 Mini PC

Subject: Systems | April 24, 2013 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: sapphire, htpc, edge VS8

Sapphire continues to improve their Edge mini-PCs, the VS8 sports an quad core A8-4555M @ 1.6GHz with HD 7600G, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB 2.5-inch SATA hard drive, not the most powerful GPU on the planet but more than enough for an HTPC.  The entire system is 19.7x18.2x3.1cm, about the size of a 5.25" drive and has both WiFi and BlueTooth connectivity.  For outputs you can choose between Mini Display Port and HDMI for video and optical and line out for audio as well as a line in if you need that connectivity.  TechSpot really liked this machine but they would like to see a more expensive model with an SSD inside to really make the system snappy.

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"While full-sized desktop computers are still around, tablets and smartphones have proven that technology has come far enough to essentially cram a fully capable computer into a space that is suitable for your pants pocket, a purse, or a small backpack. This idea of shrinking hardware hasn’t been overlooked by manufacturers as several now feature space-saving designs based on mobile hardware.

Such is the case with Sapphire’s new Edge VS8 mini-PC powered by AMD’s A8 APU. The system is hardly any larger than an external optical drive, while still packing 4GB of DDR3 memory, Radeon HD 7600G graphics, a 500GB SATA HDD, built-in support for Bluetooth 3.0 as well as 802.11 b/g/n wireless and a bevy of rear I/O connections."

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Source: TechSpot
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Nerdytec

Gaming on your Couch

Sometimes really unique products come across our door step and we just love to tell our readers about things that might normally fall outside the PC hardware field.  The COUCHMASTER, essentially a piece of furniture made for gaming, is one of those items.

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The COUCHMASTER, produced by a German company called Nerdytec, is a device built to help gamers use a mouse and keyboard while sitting on a couch and gaming in large screen environments.  It has a pair of foam-stuffed side block that hold up a wood-constructed center panel that puts your mouse and keyboard at a comfortable angle. 

couch2.png

Cable routing is made simple with Velcro removable panels under the keyboard and mouse and some versions of COUCHMASTER include a 4-port USB hub for connecting input devices, audio headsets, etc.  The only that didn't work in our testing were external hard drives - just not enough power coming from the USB 3.0 connection through the include extension cable.

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I played the entirety of Bioshock Infinite with the COUCHMASTER, and other than getting some odd looks from my wife, couldn't think of a more impressive and comfortable way to play PC games from a distance and without a standard desk setup.

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I would love to see some changes like the addition of recessed drink holders on the sides, but otherwise, the only drawback to Nerdytec's COUCHMASTER is the price; it starts at $170 or so USD.

Check out the full video review posted below!!

UPDATE: The CouchMaster is now for sale in the US now!

PiixL Launches EdgeCenter PC, Hides Powerful Media Center Behind Your TV

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2013 - 12:08 PM |
Tagged: piixl, PC, Media Center, htpc, edgecenter

London-based startup PiixL recently launched a new media center PC called the EdgeCenter that attaches to the back of your television via VESA mount to turn any TV into a so-called smart TV. The PC comes in one of three configurations with (Media, Gamer, and Max) Windows 8 and increasing levels of hardware performance. The aluminum EdgeCenter chassis will attach to most TVs larger than 32-inches and can extend to bring the optical drive and other front IO ports to the edge of your TV for easy access. The EdgeCenter reportedly offers a quiet cooling system capable of dissipating 500W in a chassis that is (up to) 54mm thick. Users can use traditional mouse, keyboard, or remote to control it, or they can use gesture-based controls from up to 5 meters away.

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The Media Edition offers up an AMD A10 5700 APU with HD7660D graphics, 1TB of mechanical storage, and 4GB of RAM.  The Gamer Edition steps things up a notch with an Intel Core i5 3550 processor, an AMD 7870 2GB graphics card, 2TB of mechanical storage, and 8GB of RAM. Finally, the Max Edition features an Intel Core i7 3770 CPU, a NVIDIA GTX 680 4GB graphics card, 2TB HDD, 20GB SLC SSD (Intel SRT), and 16GB of RAM. Not bad at all for a PC that sits behind the TV. Having a PC mounted via VESA mount is not a new concept, but the EdgeCenter looks to pack the most horsepower an OEM has managed to cram into such a PC.

 

PiixL EdgeCenter.jpg

All three models support Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, Blu Ray playback, optical and analog audio output, and an SD card slot for getting your media onto the device. The Media Edition EdgeCenter has VGA, HDMI, and DVI vidio outputs, while the Gamer edition has DVI, HDMI, and two mini-DisplayPort outputs. Finally, the Max Edition EdgeCenter PC has one DisplayPort, one DVI, and one HDMI port. It is definitely an interesting design with plenty of computing horsepower for gaming and media center needs. PiixL has fitted each model with an 80+ Gold power supply and has stated that the PCs are designed with 24/7 operation in mind.

PiixL EdgeCenter_rear.jpg

The PiixL EdgeCenter is available for purchase now, but the performance will cost you a lot more money than your typical media center PC. The Media Edition, Gamer Edition, and Max Edition PCs start at £720.28, £1,116.76, and £1,513.25 respectively. For US customers that works out to about $1,085.97, $1,683.74, and $2,281.45. And that’s the bad news, it offers some impressive hardware, but is fairly expensive. Hopefully, if the EdgeCenter does well, we will see cheaper versions stateside at some point.

You can find more information about PiixL’s EdgeCenter PC on the company’s website. A full specifications comparison chart is also available here.

Source: PiixL

Value priced, Android powered media streamer from PIVOS

Subject: Systems | March 15, 2013 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: htpc, PIVOS, XIOS DS Media Play, android 4.0, xmbc

The XIOS DS Media Play is an Android 4.0 device powered by a Cortex-A9 and Mali-400 graphics, capable of streaming local and online media content including HTML5 and Flash to a TV.  Not quite a full HTPC in some ways but certainly more than a cable box at only 4" square and 0.6" tall it can be hidden in plain sight.  Overclockers Club tried out the functionality of both the native OS and the XBMC as well as using a variety of apps from the Google Play store, all with great success.  For a mere $110 they feel it is a great value; check out the full review for a longer list of compatible media and tricks you can do with local storage.

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"The XIOS DS Media Play looks sleek and has a very small footprint but packs some interesting features. The Android OS will bring new life to your TV and the thousands available apps in the Google Play Store translate into an impressive potential of fun, productivity, and entertainment. The box provides a great experience as is but PIVOS went the extra mile and collaborated with the XBMC Media Center development team to bring the software with hardware decoding to the Android OS. Add the connectivity capabilities of the unit and we have a serious threat to those fancy HTPC systems at a mere asking price of $115. Built around the ARM CORTEX-A9 CPU and a MALI-400 MP GPU, the XIOS DS Media Play has what it takes to satisfy the needs of the majority of media lovers."

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Brazos 2.0 powered ZBOX AD06 Plus

Subject: Systems | March 4, 2013 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: SFF, htpc, zotac, zbox ad06 plus, E2-1800

Zotac's ZBOX AD06 plus puts some graphical zip into a tiny package using an AMD E2-1800 1.7GHz and 2GB MHz DDR3-1333 with 320GB of local storage on a 5400RPM HDD.  They've included a VESA mount so it is quite possible to attach this device to the back of a display and control most functions with the included remote control.  Heat should not be an issue, when displaying 1080P clips it only pulls 16.8W, 27.7W when under full loads such as transcoding.  The benchmark results that TechPowerUp saw might not measure up to a full desktop system but they are certainly at the top of the pile when it comes to similar systems.  You can expect to pay just under $300 for the full system when it becomes available, or about $200 without RAM or HDD if you happen to have some handy.

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"The Zotac ZBOX AD06 utilizes the newest generation of AMD APUs, while the Plus model comes fully configured with a 320 GB hard drive and pre-installed memory."

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Source: TechPowerUp

Now console gamers can share with YouTube too

Subject: Systems | February 12, 2013 - 11:57 AM |
Tagged: htpc, Hauppauge, HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition

Now that capturing PC gaming is so easy to do, through either software or hardware, game walkthroughs and trick videos are commonplace on YouTube but the console gamers have not had that ability until recently.  XSReviews recently took a look at the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition which is a device that sits on an HDMI connection between your console or PC and your display and is capable of either passing through or recording a 1080p signal.  Unfortunately their testing did not go smoothly and even after updating the software they had issues recording or even playing at 1080p, however at 720p the device worked as advertised.  If you are needing to record at full resolution you might want to wait for another patch as you might run into some of the same issues.

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"On PC, it’s pretty easy to record footage of your games. Whether you’re using streaming software like XSplit or recording directly to your hard drive with Fraps, getting your gameplay out there is fairly well understood.

For consoles, it’s much harder – with a locked down environment devoid of third party applications, you can’t just download a program off the ‘net and start recording. Instead, you’ll need some physical hardware to do the job.

Enter the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition. This small cuboid is designed to make recording and even streaming your gameplay incredibly simple – just hook up a few wires and, if the back of the box is to be believed, you’ll be away.

In this review, we’ll put that to the test as we enter the exciting world of console recording and streaming!"

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Source: XSReviews

Arctic Releases MC001-XBMC HTPC Running XBMC 12

Subject: Systems | February 6, 2013 - 07:55 AM |
Tagged: xbmc 12, SFF, openelec 3.0, htpc, arctic

Arctic has released a small form factor PC that comes pre-installed with the recently-released XBMC 12 media center software. The Arctic MC001-XBMC is available in the United States and Europe. It measures 161 x 40 x 266mm with the PC attached to the stand. The MC001-XBMC comes in black or white and should fit easily into your AV rack.

The HTPC can be used to playback a variety of music and video file formats and can also be used as a network attached storage (NAS) device. On the software side of things, it comes pre-loaded with XBMC 12 “Frodo” and Openelec 3.0. It can act as a media center and television PVR.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (2).png

The HTPC is powered by a dual core Intel Atom D525 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, 2GB DDR3 1333MHz system memory, and a 1TB laptop hard drive (5400 RPM). Networking is handled by a Gigabit Ethernet controller and a 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi radio.

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The front of the system includes an IR receiver, two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks (headphone/mic), and a card reader. The back of the MC001-XBMC features the following IO options.

  • 6 x analog audio jacks
  • 1 x S/PDIF optical audio output
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 5 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x DVB-T connector for the ATSC tuner
  • 1 x DC power jack (19V, 60W)

The XBMC 12 UI is a Windows Media Center alternative, and while setting up TV recording features requires additional software and is more difficult to setup it is otherwise a decent media center experience. Users can control the HTPC using the included infrared remote or via apps on Android or iOS smartphones.

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The MC001-XBMC comes with a two year warranty and has an MSRP of $229 US or EUR 199. It is no speed demon by any means, but the SFF system is plenty of hardware to playback up to 1080p video files.

Source: Arctic

ASRock Launches FM2A85X-ITX Mini-ITX Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | February 3, 2013 - 02:09 AM |
Tagged: trinity, mini-itx, htpc, asrock, APU, amd, A85X

Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer ASRock has shown off a new mini-ITX motherboard aimed at home theater PC (HTPC) users called the FM2A85X-ITX. The new motherboard uses AMD’s A85X chipset and supports the company’s latest Trinity accelerated processing units (APUs).
The FM2A85X-ITX motherboard features an AMD FM2 socket surrounded by two DDR3 DIMM slots (max of 32GB 1866MHz RAM), a PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, and seven SATA 6Gbps ports. A six phase VRM, two USB 3.0 headers, 8 channel audio chip, and RAID 0/1/10 support round out the package.

 

ASRock FM2A85X-ITX motherboard.jpg

External IO on the mini-ITX motherboard includes:

  • 1 x PS/2
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x eSATA 6Gbps
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF
  • 5 x Analog audio jacks
  • 1 x DVI
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x VGA

According to Tech Power Up, the new motherboard will cost around $110 USD. Thanks to the form factor, APU support, and multitude of storage connectivity options, the board would make for an excellent addition to a HTPC build!

Read about other mini-ITX motherboard options at PC Perspective!