ZOTAC Shrinks Mini-PC Further with New Pocket- Sized ZBOX PI320 pico

Subject: Systems | August 27, 2014 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, PI320 pico, baytrail, win 8.1, htpc

Zotac's tiny new ZBOX PI320 pico should arrive in stores towards the end of September for $200, which includes not only the hardware but Win 8.1 meaning you can simply plug it in and start using it.  At 115.5mm x 66mm x 19.2mm (4.5" x 2.6"x 0.75") it is smaller than your average Galaxy smartphone and every bit as capable.

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HONG KONG – Aug. 27, 2014 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and manufacturer of graphics cards and mini-PCs, today shrinks the mini-PC further with the pocket-sized ZBOX PI320 pico. The new ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico delivers a superb quad-core Windows 8.1 with Bing computing experience in a compact and versatile form factor.

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“ZOTAC is a major innovator when it comes to miniaturizing the traditional PC. We began our push towards smaller and smaller mini-PCs with the ZBOX nano form factor and followed up with the ZBOX nano XS,” said Tony Wong, CEO, ZOTAC International. “Now with the all-new ZBOX PI320 pico, we have created our smallest mini-PC that can fit in your pocket.”

The pocketable form factor measures in at 115.5mm x 66mm x 19.2mm, which is roughly the same size as a small smartphone. Thanks to the tiny size, the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico is the perfect mini-PC for any room in a house, specialized installations, and for seasoned travelers on the go.

At the heart of the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico is an Intel Baytrail quad-core processor with Intel HD Graphics technology for snappy system responsiveness and stunning high-definition video playback capabilities. The very energy-efficient processor is cooled with a fan-less heatsink that generates zero noise for an excellent silent computing experience.

Microsoft Windows 8.1 with Bing is preinstalled on the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico mini- PC for instant out-of-box use. Just unbox the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico, plug it in, connect peripherals, and power it on.

The ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico ships with 2GB of DDR3L memory and 32GB solid-state storage with a micro SDXC slot to instantly increase storage up to 128GB. External expansion is available via three USB 2.0 ports on the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico.

A single HDMI output that’s capable of up to 1080p resolution enables the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico to easily connect to most LCD monitors and displays. High-speed 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 technologies ensure the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico delivers fast networking performance with and without wires.

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Source: Zotac

Viva the LIVA sale; ECS' barebone HTPC

Subject: Systems | August 22, 2014 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: SFF, sale, LIVA, htpc, fanless, ECS

The ECS LIVA is currently on sale at NewEgg for $165 after instant rebate and you can knock another $33 of that price until August 31st with the code LIVADISC. 

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This tiny little machine contains a Bay Trail-M N2807 @ 1.58GHz, 2GB of DDR3L and 32GB eMMC storage with 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 thanks to the NGFF card installed in the M.2 slot.   As you can see below it has both HDMI and D-Sub ports which can be used simultaneously and has onboard stereo audio thanks to the Realtek ALC282.  It only draws 15W and is completely fanless, making it a perfect HTPC.  You can get the full specs from ECS here.

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Source: NewEgg
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Thecus

Introduction

The Thecus N2560 is a dual-bay NAS Server powered by an Intel Atom SoC. With the addition of HDMI output could this be the answer for some basic HTPC needs as well?

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The Thecus N2560 at work in the living room

The N2560 is similar in some ways to the Thecus N2310 NAS we looked at a couple of months ago, but it builds on both the functionality and power of that unit. Both are 2-bay designs with support for up to 8TB of storage via dual 4TB hard drives, and they run the same OS (ThecusOS 6). There are some very big differences, too. The N2560 boasts an Intel Atom SoC which provides dual 1.60 GHz cores, compared to the N2310’s single 800 MHz PowerPC core. The N2560 also features a full-size HDMI output as well as SPDIF digital audio output, making it a potential alternative for some HTPC tasks.

The Thecus N2560 is an attractive-looking device, with the smooth lines and finish of a more expensive product. But beyond the N2560's appearance and basic function as a NAS, this is really a server. Digital audio and video output is certainly an impressive addition for a device that retails for around $180, making it a compelling budget HTPC option if the OS and media software work well. Since the basics of the Thecus OS and NAS usage were covered with the N2310, the media output potential of the N2560 is the area of focus for this review.

Continue reading our look at the Thecus N2560 NAS Server!

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.

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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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