Subject: Systems | March 12, 2014 - 07:38 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, SFF, projector, i3-4010u, gigabyte, bxpi3-4010, brix projector, brix
With more than a few of NUC-sized SFF PCs floating around these days, the BRIX Projector, with a catchy model number of BXPi3-4010, has something that no other option can offer: an integrated mini projector. As the name would imply, the BRIX Projector is part BRIX and part projector, and the combination is unique to the market as far as I can tell.
The guts of the BXPi3-4010 are split seemingly in half between the computer components that make up the BRIX and the DLP LED projector that rests on top. The processor inside is a Core i3-4010U that runs at up to 1.7 GHz and includes integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics. With a dual-core HyperThreaded design, the 4010U is competent, but nothing more, for standard application workloads and productivity. The HD 4400 graphics can run your most basic of games (think Peggle, FTL, Starbound) but isn't up to the task of most demanding 3D games like Bioshock.
You'll get a set of four USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet connection, mini-DisplayPort and HDMI output. Combined with the projector, you can use any TWO displays at one time: projector plus HDMI, HDMI plus mDP, etc.
The mini-HDMI input is pretty interesting and allows you to use the BRIX Projector as a stand alone projector, hooking up a DVD player, game console or anything to be displayed. The power button on the projector is separate from the PC power and you can run each without the other.
The unit comes as a barebones design, meaning you'll have to add mSATA storage and DDR3 low power SO-DIMMs to get up and running. Once you have your OS installed, you are going to be met with a rather small 854x480 resolution projector powered by a 75 lumen output. It's good, but not great.
That low resolution causes some issues with browsing the web and using some applications like Steam because we have all moved past the likes of 800x600 - thank goodness. Windows works fine and even Big Picture mode in Steam is an easy fix.
You can see in the video review below that image quality was pretty good for such a small device but the noise levels of the fan cooling the projector are quite high. I was even thinking of ripping it open and trying more creative ways of cooling the display components until Gigabyte informed me they need it back in a...functional capacity. Oh well.
The Gigabyte BRIX Projector BXPi3-4010 is selling for about $550 on both Newegg.com and Amazon.com which does NOT include the memory or storage you'll need (WiFi is included though). That seems kind of steep but considering other pico or mini projectors can easily cost $250-350, this BRIX unit is a better deal that the price might first indicate.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 03:14 AM | Tim Verry
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2014 - 10:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, SFF, mintbox, linux, ipc2, haswell, compulab
CompuLab, the company behind the MintBox, launched its small form factor Intense PC 2 last month in four SKUs using Intel's latest Haswell processors. The systems are now available for purchase starting at $388 for the base model. The Intense PC 2 shares a similar form factor to the existing Intense PC and MintBox systems (resembling a consumer router), but features new hardware and IO options.
The Intense PC 2 measures 6.3” x 7.4”x 1.57” and has an aluminum chassis that acts as a passive heatsink for the internal components. The case is dark gray with a finned top surface. The front of the system can be customized with FACE modules that offer different IO options. However, by default the Intense PC 2 has two USB 3.0 ports and three indicator LEDs on the front and the following IO ports on the rear:
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports (Intel NICs)
- 2 x HDMI video outputs
- 1 x DisplayPort video output
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 3 x RS232
- 3 x (2 x analog, 1 x digital S/PDIF)
- 1 x SIM card slot
- 2 x antenna connectors
The FACE modules can expand connectivity to include VGA ouptuts, video capture inputs, additional networking, and additional USB ports (among other options).
Internally, the Intense PC 2 has a small motherboard that comes with an Intel Celeron, i3, i5, or i7 Haswell processor, up to 16GB of DDR3L 1600 MHz memory (two slots), a single mSATA port, and a single mPCIE port (the mSATA port is a combo mSATA/mPCIe port). An 802.11ac+Bluetooth 4.0 radio is included as part of the package. The 15W TDP CPU can be passively cooled, and at the high end you can get up to an Intel Core i7 4600U with HD 4400 graphics. The dual core (plus hyperthreading) chip can turbo up to 3.3 GHz. The table below from the CompuLab specification sheet (PDF) details the hardware layouts of the various IPC2 SKUs.
The Intense PC 2 is aimed at desktop users as well as the industrial sector. The passively cooled mini PC can be easily used as a desktop, home server, router+802.11ac access point, HTPC, or Steambox (streaming endpoint mainly), for example. It is also capable of driving signage and large 4K displays for adversiting and other tasks.
The Intense PC is available in four base SKUs ranging in price from $388 to $902. Adding an SSD and/or pre-installed OS add to that base price. CompuLab offers a 5 year warranty on the SFF system.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 12, 2014 - 03:08 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zotac, zbox 01520, zbox, SFF, CES 2014, CES
Zotac unveiled a number of products at CES 2014 in Las Vegas including several small form factor (SFF) PCs. In addition to the ZBOX Steam Machine, Zotac showed off a ZBOX 01520 computer in a spherical form factor. The ZBOX 01520 comes in bare-bones and PLUS SKUs, similar to the other, existing, Zotac ZBOX computers.
On the outside, the new PC is a small black orb with straight edges on the back and bottom to support it. Inside, Zotac has fitted a tiny motherboard, an Intel Core i3-4010U dual core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz, two SO-DIMM slots (up to 16GB), a spot for a single 2.5" hard drive. The motherboard further includes one mSATA slot for a solid state drive and wireless radios for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Greek tech site Tech Blog managed to snap photos of the new Zotac PC.
Rear IO on the ZBOX 01520 orb includes four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI video output, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a single 4-1 card reader slot.
The bare-bones kit includes the motherboard, CPU, and case while the PLUS version adds 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB hard drive. Users can add their own mSATA drive for increased performance.
Beyond the basics, details are scarce on the new Zotac PC. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more details on the SFF PC as it becomes available.
Are you interested in the spherical ZBOX 01520?
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 6, 2014 - 10:59 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, iris pro, Intel, gigabyte, CES 2014, CES, brix pro, brix
Gigabyte is showing off a new small form factor BRIX-series PC at CES this week. This new BRIX Pro computer offers up desktop-level performance in a tiny form factor (approximately 4.2” width x 4.5” length x 2” height).
The BRIX Pro is available as a DIY kit that comes with a black or red chassis, choice of either Intel i7 4770R or Intel i5 4570R processor, mini PCI-E Wi-Fi card, and power adapter/cable. In addition to the CPU performance offered by the Haswell processor, the big news here is that the BRIX Pro ships with the processor-integrated Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200. This GPU is the high-end model that comes with 64MB of eDRAM. Considering how rare the Iris Pro GPU with embedded DRAM has been in desktop PCs, having it available in the BRIX platform is good news for enthusiasts!
Gigabyte claims that the BRIX Pro is capable of 3D gaming and is compatible with content creation/production applications. Additionally, it can output 4K resolutions over HDMI thanks to the Iris Pro 5200 GPU (at least the desktop and video, most gaming is out at 4K).
From there, users can add their own memory, mSATA SSD, and 2.5” SATA III drive. There is a mPCIe slot as well, but it is used by the 802.11ac Wi-Fi + BT 4.0 card.
Photo courtesy Allyn Malventano (PC Perspective).
External IO on the BRIX Pro includes two USB 3.0 ports and a combination analog headphone/digital S/PDIF jack on the front. On the back of the SFF PC, users have two USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet jack, one Mini DisplayPort output, one HDMI video output, a DC power input, and a Kensington lock.
Gigabyte has not revealed pricing or availability information, but it should be coming out sooner rather than later in 2014. When it does become available, there will be two models: the GB-BXi7-4770R and the GB-BXi5-4570R.
Photo courtesy Allyn Malventano (PC Perspective).
The BRIX Pro looks to be a powerhouse for its size, though I am curious about the noise levels produced by the cooling fan needed to keep the high end processor cool. Overall though, the BRIX Pro looks to be a nice addition to the compact BRIX PC lineup, and I am looking forward to reviews of it. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information as it becomes available.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | January 6, 2014 - 09:30 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Windows 8.1, SteamOS, steambox, SFF, maingear, CES 2014, CES
Not content to let Digital Storm have all the fun with SteamOS, MAINGEAR has launched a small form factor SPARK Steambox PC! Clad in the traditional red and black colors of Maingear, the Spark is a stylish gaming system powered by an AMD APU that is about the size of an Intel NUC. Maingear is offering the system with Valve's Linux-based SteamOS as well as Microsoft's Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 operating systems.
The Steambox PC measures 4.5" x 4.23" x 2.34" and weighs 0.98 pounds. The system has a vivid red and black design with large mesh vents on the sides and rear panel. IO includes two USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks on the front as well as one HDMI, one Mini DisplayPort, one Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports on the rear IO panel. The design is striking and likely to appeal to gamers though it may clash with your other A/V equipment in the entertainment center (which really comes down to personal tastes).
Despite the small size, Maingear has managed to pack a respectable amount of PC hardware into the Spark. The SFF Steambox is powered by an AMD A8-5557M APU (four threads) clocked at 2.1GHz base and 3.1GHz turbo along with an AMD Radeon R9 M275X graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and up to 16GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory (two SO-DIMMs). Storage includes a single SATA III 6Gbps port (with room in the case for a single 2.5" drive) and one mSATA slot that supports SSDs up to 256GB. The Spark does support Gigabit Ethernet, but it also comes with a pre-installed Mini-PCIe card that provides 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz bands) and Bluetooth 4.0. Users will be able to customize the RAM and storage options, but the other specifications are not user-configurable.
The Maingear Spark will be available for purchase in late Q1 2014 for an as-yet-undisclosed price. For what it's worth, Maingear has stated that the tiny Spark gaming PC will an "affordable PC solution."
Personally, depending on price, I am interested in this steam machine as I rather like the aesthetics and the internal hardware should be sufficient for basic gameplay on the hardware itself and game streaming from my main desktop when that feature becomes available.
What do you think about Maingear's miniscule APU-powered Steam Machine?
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Small form factor cases and the push to Mini ITX designs took a dramatic journey during 2013 as the popularity of the smaller PC once again became a popular trend. Though a company like Shuttle, that hardly exists in the form it did in 2004, was the first PC hardware company to really drive home the idea of an SFF system design, many other players have released compelling products helping to strengthen it as one of the unique possibilities for enthusiast PCs.
Even better, though a Mini-ITX based platform could mean limited options for hardware and performance, with companies like ASUS, EVGA, BitFenix and others in the mix, building an incredibly fast and powerful gaming machine using small hardware is not only easy but can be done at a lower price than you might expect.
One entry that found its way to our offices this December comes from Silverstone in the form of the Raven Z, RVZ01 case. This case includes unique features and capabilities including the ability to support nearly any high end graphics card on the market (dual slot or single), space for larger heatsinks and even liquid coolers along with a home theater friendly look and style. Oh, and it's
the same almost the same design that Valve used for its beta Steam Machines as well. (Update: Turns out the size of the Steam Machine is actually a fair bit smaller than the Silverstone RVZ01.)
Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2013 - 08:43 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: usb 3.0, SFF, nuc, celeron, Bay Trail, atom
Intel and Gigabyte announced new Haswell powered SFF (small form factor) PCs earlier this month around the time of Intel's IDF 2013 conference. It seems that Haswell is not the only processor Intel has in mind for NUC, however. A recent report from Hexus.net suggests that a new lower-cost NUC will be available early next year for $140. The NUC DN2810FYK will use Intel's new Bay Trail-M Atom processor and be available as a barebones system or motherboard/processor combination. The barebones system, which includes a case, motherboard, soldered processor, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi module will have a $139 MSRP.
Intel's Bay Trail Atom processors use the Silvermont architecture which was built from the ground up with low power usage and efficient performance in mind. The new SoCs will span from smartphones and tablets to desktop PCs. The specific chip used in the upcoming DN2810FYK NUC PC is the Celeron branded N2810, which a dual core 7.5W TDP (4.5W SDP) Bay Trail-M SoC clocked at up to 2GHz with Intel HD Graphics clocked at 756 MHz. The processor comes pre-soldered onto the NUC motherboard which supports a single DDR3L SO-DIMM, one SATA port, and one mPCIe slot for the included Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0 NIC. For the barebones system, users will only need to bring their own RAM and a SATA hard drive or SSD to the table.
External IO includes:
- 1 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x IR receiver
- 1 x Analog audio jack
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port
As such, the Bay Trail-powered NUC is not quite as expandable as the Haswell model which supports four USB 3.0 ports (among other additional ports) externally and a mSATA SSD slot internally. On the other hand, because of the reduction in IO and hardware horsepower, the new NUC will be significantly cheaper than the existing models.
The DN2810FYK is slightly taller than the Haswell NUC at 55mm (versus 35.6mm), which is likely due to the use of mobile-class SATA drives rather than mSATA. Again, this is a compromise that allows Intel to offer up a budget SFF system.
Code-named "Forest Canyon," I expect the new Next Unit of Computing PC to be a popular NUC option that will help to drive adoption of small form factor systems thanks to the attractive $140 price point while still being sufficient performance wise for budget desktop, HTPC, and home server uses! I will wait for the full reviews to make up my mind, but I am optimistic about the upcoming Bay Trail-M NUC.
Is this Atom-powered NUC the one that you've been waiting for?
Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2013 - 02:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, nuc, Intel, hd 5000, haswell, 4k
Intel has announced a new Haswell-powered NUC called the D54250WYK. The new barebones kit includes an Intel D54250WYB NUC motherboard with soldered processor in a small form factor case that measures 4.6″ x 4.4″ x 1.4″. The new NUC is faster, has new IO options, and reportedly fixes the overheating issues of previous NUC systems. The Haswell-powered NUC has a bit of competition with the recently launched Gigabyte BRIX system which also got an upgrade to Intel's latest consumer architecture.
The new NUC D54250WYK barebones kit.
The Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK uses a new 4.33" x 4.33" motherboard with a pre-soldered Intel Haswell Core i5-4250U processor. The system further supports two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots (up to 16GB of 1600MHz memory), a single SATA port, two mini PCI-E slots (one for mSATA SSDs and one half-height for Wi-Fi NICs), and a USB 2.0 header supporting to USB 2.0 ports. The Core i5-4250U CPU is a 22nm chip with a 15W TDP. It is a dual core part clocked at 1.3GHz base and 2.6GHz Turbo with HyperThreading, 3MB of cache, and HD 5000 processor graphics (200Mhz base and 1GHz Turbo).
The new NUC motherboard and Haswell processor.
While Intel has removed Thunderbolt support, external IO is still decent, with the following ports:
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 2 x Analog audio jacks
- 1 x Infrared receiver
2 x Video outputs:
- 1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Mini HDMI 1.4
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 2 x USB 3.0
Notably, the Intel NUC Kit with i5-4250U CPU requires active cooling, but aftermarket cases offering passive cooling are likely in the works. Of course, users will be able to purchase the barebones D54250WYK kit or just the D54250WYB NUC motherboard and CPU that can be paired with a third party or custom built case. Like Gigabyte, Intel has not released specific pricing or availability, but expect the new Haswell-powered NUC to be coming soon as the system appears to be ready to go. Hopefully full reviews will be hitting the Internet soon!
Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2013 - 04:15 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: solidrun, SFF, Freescale, cubox-i, arm
SolidRun Ltd. Has come up with its own ARM-powered mini computer called the CuBox-i. The new PC measures 2” x 2” x 2” and has some respectable IO for its size. The CuBox-i comes in multiple flavors from $45 to $120. The cheapest version competes in many ways with the Raspberry Pi while the top-end device is more in line with Android development boards that tend to run in the hundreds of dollars.
There are actually four SKUs in the CuBox-i series:
The CuBox-i PCs are powered by single, dual, or quad core variant of a Freescale i.MX6 SoC at up to 1.2 GHz. The SoC uses ARMv7 instructions and dedicated NEON media encode/decode hardware. The GPU included in the SoC supports OpenGL ES 2.0 on all models, and the GPU in the two higher-end models further supports OpenCL 1.1 embedded. Memory is 512MB on the $45 CuBox-i1, 1GB on both CuBox-2 systems, and 2GB of DDR3 on the CuBox i4Pro. The mini PCs support 1080p video playback, and are compatible with Android 4.2.2, XBMC, and various Linux distributions.
IO on the CuBox-i PCs includes two powered USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet (Gigabit on the higher end models, limited to less than 470 Mbps internally), one eSATA 3Gbps port, an optical S/PDIF output, microSD slot, microUSB (RS-232 adapter on higher end models), and an infrared reciever. The two higher-priced models also include an infrared transmitter. The high end systems also support Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth, and a hardware RTC (Real Time Clock) with backup battery.
The table above shows the breakdown of IO and internal hardware in the various SKUs. While the systems start at $45, it is the higher priced models that add some interesting features. It is always nice to see competition in the mini PC space. The CuBox-i series will be available in limited quantities later this year. Pre-order pricing breaks down as follows:
- CuBox-i1 for $45
- CuBox-i2 for $70
- CuBox-2Ultra for $95
- CuBox-4Pro for $120
Compared to the previously-announced CuBox Pro, the CuBox-i series is slightly cheaper, uses a faster SoC, and is available in multiple SKUs. For example, the top-end CuBox-i4Pro is a bit cheaper at $120 versus $160 for the CuBox Pro's original price. Naturally, the lower end CuBox-i's are even cheaper but also have less memory and IO.