ASRock Launches FM2A85X-ITX Mini-ITX Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | February 3, 2013 - 05:09 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!

Ceton's My Media Center goes Metro

Subject: Systems | January 23, 2013 - 05:48 PM |
Tagged: htpc, ceton, my media center, win8, Metro

Ceton's My Media Center is a replacement interface for Windows Media Center's UI, allowing you to control functions on a device separate from the display which is connected to your WMC.  That means that any device running the Metro interface of Win8, which is any flavour of Win8, can be set up to connect to your HTPC and allow you to control WMC even if you are out of the house and it won't interfere with anyone who happens to be using it at the time.  The Companion software is loaded onto both the HTPC and the secondary device and with a little configuration, which Missing Remote details here, you will be in full control of WMC from anywhere.

MR_cetonmetro.jpg

"Earlier today a new Windows 8 "Metro" version of Ceton's suite of applications for managing Windows Media Center joined the existing lineup of Andriod, Windows Phone and iOS companion apps priced at $4.99. As part of this effort they were rebranded from "Ceton Companion Apps" to "My Media Center". All the great functionality for browsing recordings, managing series and scheduling, and browsing the guide is still there, but this time Windows 8 tablet and desktop "Metro" users can also join the party. We had a chance to take an early spin through the updated UI, let's dig in."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

HDPLEX Introduces H3.TODD and H5.TODD Fanless Cases

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 10, 2013 - 09:09 AM |
Tagged: htpc, HDPLEX, h5.todd, h3.todd, fanless

Custom case manufacture HDPLEX recently introduces two new fanless cases with the H3.TODD and H5.TODD. Both cases support mini-ITX motherboards and would blend well into your home AV rack. The fanless chassis are constructed of 6063T aluminum and come in powder coated black or brushed aluminum silver. The H3.TODD and H5.TODD are cases that also double as CPU heatsinks by way of copper heatpipes that carry heat away from the processor into the aluminum case. Both can support processors up to 75W TPDs without requiring fans.

Both the H3.TODD and H5.TODD are compatible with LGA 775, 1155, and 1156 Intel processors and AMD AM2, AM3, FM1, and FM2 chips. Further, the cases come with a single USB 3.0 port on the front. HDPLEX will also include a power supply and IR reciever with the cases for an additional fee.

H3TODD Case.jpg

The H3.TODD measures 325 x 298 x 60mm and weighs 12.5 lbs (5.5 kg). The case supports mini-ITX motherboards, 3.5” hard drives, and 12.7mm optical drives.

H3TODD Case (2).jpg

On the other hand, the H5.TODD is a wider case that can support both Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX form factor motherboards as well as a single full height PCI-E expansion card. The case measures 325 x 438 x 60mm and is a total of 16 lbs (7.5kg) by itself.

The H3.TODD is available for pre-order now for $248 while the H5.TODD is currently in stock for $275. Pre-orders for the H3.TODD should being shipping on January 25, 2013.

You can find more photos of the cases on the HDPLEX website.

Source: FanlessTech

CES 2013: Intel Announces Three Future NUC Systems, Coming Later This Year

Subject: Systems | January 10, 2013 - 02:06 AM |
Tagged: CES, nuc, next unit of computing, Intel, htpc, haswell, core i5, celeron 847, ces 2013

Intel released its first Next Unit of Computing system last year, and it seems that the 4 x 4-inch computer was enough of a success that Intel is ready to introduce new models. The Tech Report managed to talk to Intel on the CES show floor, and the x86 chip-maker is planning as many as three new models for release later this year.

Intel is reportedly planning a cheaper model as well as two higher-performance models. The former is a NUC system that switches out the current-generation’s Core i3-3217U processor for a cheaper Celeron 847 chip. While the Core i3-3217U is a dual core part with HyperThreading clocked at 1.8GHz. It is a 22nm, 17W part with 3MB of cache. On the other hand, the Intel Celeron 847 CPU that will allegedly be at the heart of the next NUC is an older 32nm chip with two physical cores, no HyperThreading, 2MB of cache, and a clockspeed of 1.1GHz. It does retain the same 17W TDP, but it is an older and slower part (and cheaper as a result).

This new NUC is said to be available for around $220 with a Thunderbolt port or $190 without Thunderbolt. That makes it as much as $100 cheaper than the current-generation NUC that we reviewed in December 2012.

In addition to the Celeron-powered model, Intel is also ramping up the performance with a Core-i5 powered NUC due in April 2013. There is no word on pricing but it should be available for purchase sometime in April 2013. It will have USB 3.0, triple monitor, and vPro support. The article in question was not clear on whether the Core i5 NUC will keep the Thunderbolt port in addition to USB 3.0 or if it will simply be swapped out. One concern I have is heat as the Core i5 chip will be faster and run hotter than the Core i3-3217U. With the current generation NUC, there were issues of heat that caused the system to hard lock during large file transfers over the network. Granted that particular issue is thought to be caused from heat generated by the NIC and SSD heat causing a component to overheat, but any new/additional heat (like that of a faster CPU) in the same NUC form factor may be problematic. Here’s hoping that Intel has found a way to resolve the overheating issue with the new 2013 models.

Finally, Intel is reportedly also planning to release a Haswell-powered processor in Q4 of this year. IT seems that Intel is preparing a trifecta of NUCs aimed at lower cost, higher performance, and higher efficiency (Haswell) respectively.

Are you excited about the Next Unit of Computing form factor? 

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Tech Report

CES 2013: ASUS Launches Qube With Google TV

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2013 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: qube, htpc, google tv, ces 2013, CES, asus

In addition to the expected flood of tablets and ultrabooks, ASUS has announced a new cube shaped device–called the ASUS Qube–that runs Google TV. Similar to the Nexus Q without the expensive analog audio hardware, the ASUS Qube is a box that is designed to bring streaming media to your living room. In this case however, the ASUS Qube is running Google TV and is paired with motion, voice, or Android smartphone controls for input.

Asus Qube.jpg

 

The Qube can access Netflix, Amazon, and Youtube for video content along with other standard Google TV applications. It can also display a customized TV guide and play games, for example. ASUS has paired the aptly-name Qube with a new interface that displays on screen options in a rotating cube.

To sweeten the deal over other Google TV boxes, ASUS is throwing in 50GB of WebStorage cloud storage space with each Qube.

Unfortunately there is no word on pricing or availability for the ASUS Qube.

Read more about Google TV at PC Perspective.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Asus

Valve and Gabe Newell Confirm Steam Box for Living Room PC Gaming

Subject: General Tech | December 11, 2012 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: valve, steambox, Steam Box, steam, htpc, gaben, Gabe Newell, big picture mode

Well it finally happened this week - Gabe Newell confirmed what we all assumed was going to happen - a Valve software branded and controlled PC for gaming and computing in the living room.  We first started grumbling about the "Steam Box" back in March at GDC when Valve announced the Big Picture Mode for Steam and rumors of the hardware platform first began.   The next moth, Valve's Doug Lombardi denied the rumors but fell short of saying it wouldn't happen in the future.  In September the Big Picture Mode for Steam went into beta bringing the Steam interface into the world of TVs and 10-ft design, followed this year with the full release. 

And let's not forget the Linux client beta currently on-going as well as the capability to buy non-gaming software on Steam.  Valve has been a busy PC company.

valve1.jpg

Big Picture Mode was the first necessary step

Based on an interview with Gabe at Kotaku, there are a surprising amount of details about the hardware goals that Valve will set for the "Steam Box" in addition to the simple confirmation that it is a currently running project. 

He also expects companies to start selling PC packages for living rooms next year—setups that could consist of computers designed to be hooked up to your TV and run Steam right out of the gate.

valve4.jpg

HTPC builders have been making "Steam Box" computers for some time...

Interestingly, Valve is saying its contribution will be more tightly controlled than we might have thought:

"Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment," he said. "If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room.

No time tables were discussed and we are left once again with just a hint of what is to come.  I think its pretty obvious based on the direction Valve is going that we are going to see a Linux-based small form factor PC with Steam pre-installed available for consumers in 2013.  If Valve starts pushing Linux support as hard as we expect it could mean quite a bit of trauma is ahead for Microsoft in the enthusiast community, one that is already reeling from the problems with Windows 8.

valve3.jpg

If you were to potentially add to the "Steam Box" a pre-configuration tool like NVIDIA's GeForce Experience that sets game options based on your hardware for you, the PC could easily turn into a solution that is nearly as simple as the console for gamers.  And because Steam is already accepting non-games, it won't take much for there to be Netflix and Amazon apps in addition to anything else you currently have running on HTPCs or tablets. 

Source: Kotaku
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer:

What is a HTPC anyways?

Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series?  Catch up on them here:


08_Hardware_Parts.jpg

Continuing with our series on Cutting the Cord and building your own HTPC, we move beyond the "Assessment Phase" we discussed in part one and into the realm of actually building your own Home Theater PC with Windows 7 Media Center.  In Part 2, we walk through our hardware picks for our HTPC.  But before we dive headlong into that, I need to get something off my chest.

 My Experience: /rant on.  When I first planned to write this article, I thought it would be interesting to write a new HTPC building guide soon after Windows 8 was released in order to spotlight Windows 8 Media Center.  While I initially had some concerns with Microsoft’s choice of separating Media Center from Windows 8 itself, and some other issues I heard rumor of, my own experience attempting to build a Windows 8 Media Center would push this long time Microsoft fan to the limits.  Long story short, I spent nearly two days working up the article and building a Windows 8 Media Center only to come to terms with the fact that Microsoft has so jacked with some of the key features of Media Center in Windows 8 that I can’t recommend anyone use it.   With that being said, I had to start over from scratch, rebuilding my HTPC with Windows 7 and doing a complete rewrite of the article.  I want to thank Microsoft for showing us that they care more about cramming the Metro UI down our throats than they care about the passionate Media Center community that has rallied around and supported them these many years.  Anyways, /rant off and back to our previously schedule HTPC building guide.

 The market is currently littered with all manners of bringing content to your television set.  There are devices that help you manage your current cable/satellite television subscription such as TiVo, Xbox with Verizon FIOS, Xbox with Comcast XFinity, or even the Google TV .  There’s devices out there that give you access to additional features above and beyond your television viewing such as the Apple TV, the Roku, or the Boxee Box.  There’s even a slew of “Smart TV’s” and Streaming Sticks that will turn any TV into a Smart TV that are loaded with applications to overlay content or get access to other services.  For the hardcore DiY crowd, there’s also some other options to build your own devices with distributions like MythTV or XBMC (Xbox Media Center).

 

02_Roku_Stick_TV.jpg

With so many new boxes, devices and options hitting the street just about every day and it’s easy to get lost in the flood of options.  Luckily Veronica Belmont’s Mega Set Top Box List is still being maintained and has some great information to help you weed through the mess.

 

03_Set_Top_Megalist.jpg

With so many options, many of which are $100 or less, you’d think that building a $500-$700 Media Center PC is overkill.  Unfortunately many of these devices will not do everything you want them to do and I’ve not found anything that combines all the capabilities and functions I wanted into a single package as good as Windows Media Center (though the new Boxee TV Box might be a new contender on the block.)  Building and running your own Media Center offers the flexibility and power all in one package to meet every scenario you could throw at it.  You’re not stuck waiting for some developer to get around to writing new firmware or applications to add in support for what you want.  If you can View, Read or Watch it on a Windows desktop, then you can most likely get it working directly through Windows Media Center.  I still don’t understand why Microsoft hasn’t licensed or even produced their own device with their excellent Media Center UI. 

 

04_WMC_Screen.jpg

Read on to dive headlong into our HTPC build!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Various

The Skinny about Cutting the Cord

Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series?  Catch up on them here:


There was a time in the not too long past that having a Cable or Satellite TV subscription was just a given.  Like water, phone or electricity, if you wanted to watch anything other than a few local networks or crazy UHF stations you had to pay your local cable /satellite conglomerate a tidy little sum to pump the channels into your TV.

01_Cord_Cut.jpg

That’s where I was back in January of 2010.  Staring at a $150 bill for Time Warner Cable with the “Basic Package + HD” and a pair of TiVo’s I began to wonder if I was just wasting money since 80% of our regular viewing consisted of a dozen or so shows scattered across only four or five channels.  Within a month, and after some deliberation, we decided we’d try to ‘cut the cord’ and since that time I’ve happily saved nearly $5,000 that would have been lining the pockets of some Time Warner/TiVo executives.  Ponder that for a moment, $5,000 spent on television.  Even after I factor out the cost of hardware I needed to buy and setup, that’s enough money to buy a new big screen TV every year and then some.

02_TV_Money.jpg

Regardless of what big cable and satellite companies say, between 2008 and 2011, 2.65 million households dropped cable/satellite subscriptions.  A recent survey found that 9 percent of the people surveyed had cancelled their cable subscriptions in the last year and Time Warner Cable alone has had 10 straight quarters of Pay for TV customer losses.

This multipart series on PC Perspective will walk you through the process of becoming a “Cord Cutter” yourself.  Starting with some thoughts on whether or not cutting the cable is right for you we’ll walk you through everything from start to finish.

  • Cutting the Cord Part 1: The Assessment
  • Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC – The Hardware
  • Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC – OS Install and Tuning
  • Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building your HTPC – Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
  • Cutting the Cord Part 5: Wrap up - Media Center Add-ons and Options

I’ll also include a few little personal tidbits from My Experiences in my quest to cut the cord and stay that way for the last few years.  

To Cut, or Not to Cut, That is the Question…

While dropping your cable or satellite subscription can save you some serious money, it’s not for everyone.  Television is a central part of the entertainment for many households, and you need to look at it from all angles before you call your provider and tell them you want out.  Cutting the cord may require some concessions and serious changes to the way you get your television content.  While you might not mind some inconvenience, your significant other or children may have a meltdown if they can’t get their regular fix of Honey Boo Boo or Yo Gabba Gabba the moment it’s aired.

03_YoGabbaGabba.jpg

Regardless, with some consideration and pre-work you can determine if cutting the cord is right for you and make the transition nice and smooth if you decide to kick your cable or satellite provider to the curb.

If you’re willing to take that chance, read on to see if Cord Cutting is for you!

XBMC 12 Beta Now Live, Brings Several Improvements

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2012 - 07:27 AM |
Tagged: xbmc 12, xbmc, Media Center, htpc, frodo

A new version of XBMC recently became available on the developer’s website. After eight months, XBMC version 12 “Frodo” is now in beta, and it brings several improvements over previous iterations of the media center software.

XBMC 12 Frodo splash screen.jpg

The XBMC 12 beta is available to download for Windows, Linux, OSX, Raspberry Pi, iOS, and AppleTV2. The beta is also rolled into a customized Ubuntu-based Linux distribution called XBMCbuntu which comes as an .iso image download. New features in the XBMC beta include:

  • HD audio support via the new XBMC AudioEngine:
    • DTS-MA and Dolby True-HD
  • Live TV and PVR support
  • h.264 10bit (aka Hi10P) video software for decoding anime
  • 64-bit version for OSX
  • Improved image support and additional formats
  • Raspberry Pi support
  • Initial Android platform support
  • Improved Airplay support across all platforms
  • Advanced Filtering in the library
  • Advanced UPnP sharing
  • Translations now powered by Transifex

In addition, the user interface and software startup feels snappier from my informal testing. After loading up my video and music folders, it worked without issues or crashes. XBMC does note that this is still beta software, so it is not advisable to use in a production environment. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to try out the live TV functionality.

 

 

You can grab the new beta from the XBMC.org website.

 

Have you tried the new XBMC 12 beta?

 

Source: XBMC

Lenovo Launches IdeaCentre Q190 SFF PC

Subject: Systems | November 17, 2012 - 03:59 AM |
Tagged: SFF, PC, Lenovo, ideacentre q190, htpc

Lenovo recently launched a new small form factor PC with the IdeaCentre Q190. This small desktop measures 192mm x 155mm x 22mm and packs some hardware punch that handily surpasses the specs of traditional net-top computers. Exact hardware specifications have not yet been released, but the company has talked about the top-end model.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190.jpg

The IdeaCentre Q190 PC will have up to a 2nd generation Core i3 Intel Sandy Bridge processor, 8GB DDR3 memory, HD3000 integrated (processor) graphics, a 1TB hard drive, and a 24GB caching SSD. These specifications are, of course, for the top end model.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190_1.jpg

The IdeaCentre Q190 with the optional optical drive attached.

In addition, the Q190 can support a DVD writer or Blu ray optical drive that mounts on top of the PC, which adds a bit of depth but can still be mounted vertically with the supplied stand. Other optional accessories include a handheld wireless keyboard and mouse trackpad.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190_2.jpg

External IO includes an SDXC card reader, S/PDIF optical audio port, VGA video output, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, and a Gigabit Ethernet jack.

The Q190 will come preloaded with Windows 8, and an option for Windows 8 Pro. Lenovo is pushing the HTPC merits of the computer, and it will certainly do a serviceable job. It would also make for a nice low-power desktop system as well, and it looks nice enough to display on your desk.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190 will be available in January 2013 and will have a starting price of $349, with the top end model described above costing a bit more (the exact amount is as yet unknown).

Source: Lenovo