Subject: Motherboards | October 9, 2015 - 06:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, SFF, ROG, motherboard, mini-itx, Maximus VIII Impact, lga1151, asus
ASUS has announced their latest mini-ITX offering in the Republic of Gamers series, and the Maximus VIII Impact motherboard packs an outrageous number of features into one formidable little 6.7-inch square. In fact, short of the second PCIe slot afforded the larger mATX form-factor, the newest Impact board looks to be every bit as powerful as the recently released Maximus VIII Gene motherboard.
"To push performance even further, Maximus VIII Impact has a full-scale voltage-regulator module (VRM) dubbed Impact Power III vertically-mounted onto the tiny board, allowing you full access to digital power management for ultra-precise and stable overclocks with your processor and memory. ROG has also managed to squeeze in 5-Way Optimization auto-tuning and Pro Clock technology so you can get the most out of your 6th Gen. Intel processor and overclocked DDR4 memory which goes up to 4133MHz or higher."
Let’s check out the specs on this new Impact board:
- CPU: LGA1151 socket for 6th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron processors
- Chipset: Intel Z170 Express
- Memory: Dual-channel memory architecture
- 2x DIMM, max. 32GB DDR4-4133(OC) non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- PCIe Slot: 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 slot (supports x16 mode)
- Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics Processor
- HDMI 1.4b
- Intel InTru 3D/Quick Sync Video/Clear Video HD Technology/Insider
- Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac supports dual frequency band 2.4/5GHz; MU-MIMO
- Bluetooth: V4.1, 4.0LE
- USB: 2x USB 3.1 ports (1 Type-A and 1 Type-C) powered by Intel USB 3.1 controller; 6x USB 3.0 ports (2 at mid-board)
- Storage: 1x U.2 port (PCIe x4, 32Gb/s), 4x SATA 6Gb/s ports. Supports Intel Smart Response Technology
- LAN: Intel® I219-V Gigabit LAN with Anti-surge LANGuard, ROG GameFirst Technology
- HD Audio: SupremeFX Impact III
- ROG SupremeFX 2015 High Definition Audio Codec
- ESS® ES9023P DAC with Hyperstream™ Architecture
- 2Vrms Headphone Amp into 32-600 Ohms
- SupremeFX Shielding Technology
- Optical S/PDIF output at back panel
- Sonic Studio II; Sonic Radar II; Sonic SenseAmp; DTS Connect
- Fan headers: 2x 4-pin onboard; 3x 4-pin on daughter card
- Form Factor: Mini-ITX, 6.7" x 6.7" (17 cm x 17 cm)
Update, 10/11/15: The ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Impact motherboard is now available at Newegg.com for $248.99.
Subject: Motherboards | September 28, 2015 - 01:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, M.2, LGA 1151, Intel Skylake, asrock
ASRock (the Taiwan-based manufacturer currently owned by Pegatron) recently revealed its take on miniature Skylake motherboards with the Mini ITX form factor Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac.
The new SFF motherboard uses an 8-layer PCB with high quality Nichicon capacitors and the company’s Digi Power 8-phase power delivery feeding the LGA 1151 socket. The board has a red and black aesthetic with red VRM and Z170 chipset heatsinks, memory slots, and PCI-E slot adding a bit of flair to the otherwise all-black PCB and connectors. Very little space is wasted on this board save for the top edge. To the right of the CPU socket are two DDR4 memory slots (maximum 32GB at 4,000 MHz) and a single SATA Express connector. The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac further features four SATA III 6 Gbps (in addition to the two ports used for SATA Express) ports.
Expansion slots include a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, a M.2 slot with four lanes of PCI-E 3.0 mounted on the underside of the board, and a half-size Mini PCI-E slot that is used for the pre-installed 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 card
ASRock is using an Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC, a 2x2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio, and Realtek ALC1150 audio codec on this board. Keeping in line with the “Fatal1ty” theme, the board supports, using software, and adjustable USB polling rate on a certain rear port from 1 Hz up to 1,000 Hz with the default being 500 Hz.
On the back of the motherboard, it provides the following I/O options:
- 1 x PS/2
- 5 x USB 3.0
- 1 x USB 3.0 “Fatal1ty Mouse Port” (adjustable polling rate up to 1,000 Hz)
- 2 x USB 3.1 (one Type-A and one Type-C)
- Video outputs:
- 2 x HDMI (4K@60Hz)
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 3 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x Optical audio output
This board looks to be a solid base for a tiny gaming system (perhaps paired with the R9 Nano in a svelte living room friendly chassis even without going in for the Fatal1ty gamer-centric branding, if that's your thing. I am expecting this board to be priced competitively with or to come in slightly less than the Asus Mini ITX Z170 motherboard I wrote about yesterday. The audio and overclocking potential, at least in theory and bare specifications, appear to be a bit cut back on this board in comparison, but in exchange for that it's (hopefully slightly cheaper while still giving you most of the essentials. We'll have to wait for actual reviews where they are both put to the test to see for certain though!
For those curious, check out the manufacturer's page with photos and specifications as well as our previous coverage of the board from CES before we had the details on pricing and confirmation of 4K@60Hz HDMI and the Ultra M.2 slot support (and the user discussions).
Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | September 26, 2015 - 10:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qotom, fanless, Broadwell, SFF
FanlessTech found quite a few models of small form factor PCs on Amazon and, while it's not listed in the specifications, some of the manufacturer Q&A responses state that they are fanless designs. Each of these devices are built around the Broadwell Core i7-5500U, but that might not even be the best part. Each PC has 4x USB 3.0, 2x HDMI, and 2x Gigabit Lan. Dual LAN and Dual HDMI opens up quite a few possibilities for a cheap, silent PC, especially since it has a relatively high-performance processor.
Prices range from $360 to $444 for 2GB of RAM and 8GB up to 256GB of SSD storage (with several models between). A single 8GB RAM model, with a 256 GB SSD, is also available for $483. They also found one with an i3 processor, but you need to bring your own RAM, SSD, and WiFi. It does have the same port layout, four USB 3.0, two HDMI, and two gigabit LAN, but might make more sense to grab the Core i7 versions unless you already have DDR3L RAM and an SSD hanging around (or 2GB is insufficient and the 8GB model is out of your price range). At $221 USD plus these components, you probably will not be saving much to compensate for the drop in performance. You can also find some Core i5 models, too.
Quite a bit to consider, but I think that many would benefit from the thought.
Subject: Systems | September 14, 2015 - 04:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ECS, LIVA X2, SFF, Braswell, Intel
The new LIVA X2 ships with a Braswell N3050, either 2GB or 4GB of DDR3 and either 32GB or 64GB eMMC local storage. That new chip brings much better support for peripherals, such as M.2 cards of up to 1TB in size, three USB 3.0 port, HDMI and D-Sub as well as a combo audio port and even internal microphones. For connectivity, you can choose a mix of LAN cable, WiFi a/c and Bluetooth 4.0. You can see the inside of the device as well as performance results over at Mad Shrimps.
"The Braswell-equipped LIVA X2 is a much needed improvement over the original LIVA which brings more USB ports to the table, the ability to install a M.2 SSD up to 1TB for increased storage capacity while keeping a small footprint and very low power consumption (8.8W IDLE, 19.71W Full Load). Despite the new generation SoC, we have seen that its arithmetic performance is very close to the original LIVA, while the 3D one has been increased."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- ECS LIVA X2 Mini PC Review @ OCC
- Nvidia's Shield Android TV @ The Tech Report
- DinoPC Raptor Watercooled System @ Kitguru
- itGuru Complete Guide to Workstations – Part 4
- TechPowerUp $800 Build Guide
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 26, 2015 - 01:06 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SFF, micro-atx, mini-itx, SG12, Silverstone
The SilverStone SG12 is an SFF case which dreams big, built for Mini-ITX through Micro-ATX motherboards it is still large enough to fit a GPU over a foot long. Overall it is 266x210x407mm (10.5x8.3x16") in size, still small enough to fit in a living room or cart around with you thanks to the built in handle but large enough to fit high end components. Bjorn3D installed an i7-4790K on an ASUS Z97M-PLUS with a GTX 970 powered by a SilverStone SST-ST55F-G PSU which is about 40mm shorter than the majority of PSUs. For a cooler they used the SilverStone SST-ST55F-G, the 140x82x139mm size comes close to the maximum size you can fit into the case. Check out their full review here.
"Here at Bjorn3D we are no strangers to the SilverStone brand. They have been creating awesome cases, power supplies, coolers and more since 2003, and we have been fortunate enough to take a look at many of their offerings over the years. Early on in their history, they created the Sugo series of cases, a line which caters to those that wish to build a small form factor PC."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Silverstone Sugo SG12 Case Review @ Hardware Asylum
- SilverStone Sugo SG12 @ Benchmark Reviews
- Element Gaming Hyperian Micro-ATX Chassis @ eTeknix
- Cougar QBX Mini-ITX Gaming Chassis @ eTeknix
- Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX SE @ Modders-Inc
- Cooler Master MasterCase 5 @ techPowerUp
- Rosewill WolfAlloy Review Case Review @ Hardware Asylum
- Cooler Master MasterCase 5 & Pro 5 @ Kitguru
- MAINGEAR Shift @ Modders-Inc
- Thermaltake Suppressor F51 Midi Tower Review @ NikKTech
- Alphacool Custom 480mm Watercooling Kit Review @ NikKTech
- Enermax Liqmax II 240mm AIO CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- Optimized CPU Cooling with Top-Down Heatsinks @ Benchmark Reviews
- be quiet! Shadow Rock LP @ techPowerUp
- Deepcool Assassin II Review @ OCC
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 13, 2015 - 02:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: reeven, brontes, SFF
Reveen has not made a name for providing high end coolers for heavy overclockers, instead they focus on impressively short coolers for small systems. The Reeven Brontes, including the fan, is a mere 105x59x114mm (4.1x2.1x4.5") and a skinny 325g in weight. The heatsink will mount on any modern motherboard including the new LGA1151 and the PWM fan will allow you control over the speed if noise is a concern. Modders-Inc rather liked the cooler, sure it will not cool a CPU with a 140W TDP but can certainly handle low powered CPUs in SFF cases. One caveat, the 100mm may be hard to replace if it starts to have issues as it is not a common size.
"You cannot really judge how capable a CPU cooler is just by looking at it. If it well-made enough, even size can be deceptive which is good news for those who do not want the bulk of a tower style cooling solution and prefer to save some vertical space, although the question still remains."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Reeven Okeanos RC-1402 CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- Noctua NH-U9S U-Type Tower CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- Thermaltake Core X1 ITX Computer Case @ Modders-Inc
- Xigmatek LOKI II CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- D-Cooling FI-REEX Deluxe @ techPowerUp
- SilverStone Tundra Series TD03-Lite AIO CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- EK Water Blocks L360 Liquid Cooling Review, Wild Water! @ Bjorn3d
- Fractal Design Define S tower @ HardwareOverclock
- Zalman Z11 NEO Case Review: Value vs Features @ Modders-Inc
- Cooltek RM1 @ techPowerUp
- Fractal Design Node 202 Enclosure Review @ Madshrimps
Subject: Systems | August 10, 2015 - 03:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Celeron 3205U, DS57U, shuttle, SFF
Madshrimps have just wrapped up testing the Intel Celeron 3205U powered Shuttle DS57U, a SFF system which can be mounted to the back of a monitor with VESA or placed beside your monitor in the included stand. The presence of two serial ports, WOL and resume after power outage mean this little system could also be used in industrial or POS duties. It is worth noting that this system only supports 1.35V SODIMMs, make sure to choose the proper RAM to avoid disappointment. Check out the full review here; if you like the case but not the CPU there are i3, i5 and even an i7 model for you to consider.
"Shuttle has built the DS57U inside a proven chassis, which takes quite little space and succeeds to cool the internal components without the need of extra fans; one of the case laterals is acting like a huge heatsink and in this case it only remains warm even when the system is stressed to the max."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Wired2Fire Diablo Reactor Gaming PC @ Kitguru
- ZOTAC ZBOX Nano CI540 Plus Review @ Bjorn3d
- OCUK Evolution Wrath System @ Kitguru
- KitGuru Complete Guide to PC Workstations - Part 3
Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2015 - 04:21 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z3735F, ubuntu 14.04, SFF, linux, Intel, compute stick
Intel is giving Linux some love with a new Compute Stick equipped with Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS coming out this week for $110. This new model comes with less RAM and intrernal storage along with a $40 price cut versus the previous Compute Stick (which comes with Windows 8.1 With Bing).
On the outside, the new Linux-equipped Compute Stick (STCK1A8LFC) is identical to the existing SKU (read our review here) with its flash drive form factor, Intel logo, and small vents along the top and sides. Ports on the Intel STCK1A8LFC include one HDMI, one Micro USB port for power, one Micro SD card slot for storage, and a single full size USB 2.0 port for peripherals.
The Compute Stick is powered by an Intel Z3735F processor that is actively cooled by a tiny fan. This chip is a 22nm Bay Trail part with four CPU cores and Intel HD Graphics. The CPU has a base clock of 1.33 GHz and a maximum turbo clockspeed of 1.83 GHz. This SoC is paired with 1GB of DDR3L memory and 8GB of internal flash eMMC storage. There is also an 802.11b/g/n wireless radio with Bluetooth. The table below compares these specifications to the alternative Compute Stick with Windows.
|Compute Stick (Ubuntu)||Compute Stick (Windows)|
|RAM||1 GB||2 GB|
|Storage||8 GB||32 GB|
The STCK1A8LFC with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS will be available later this week from all the usual online retailers with an MSRP of $110.
It would have been nice to keep the 2GB of RAM even if Intel could not cut the price as much. There is always Micro SD for more stoage, but the 1GB of RAM is going to be somewhat limiting even for a Linux OS which typically can be made to run much leaner than Windows. It is nice to see Linux getting a design win and being bundled with the portable PC. If you need more RAM from your Compute Stick, you will need to buy the more expensive Windows version – at $150 – and install Linux yourself, however.
Subject: Motherboards | July 4, 2015 - 10:52 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, fanless, Braswell, Airmont, asus
Asus has introduced two new small form factor motherboards featuring soldered Intel “Braswell”-based Celeron processors. The Asus N3150I-C and N3050I-C are Mini ITX form factor boards with decent connectivity and lower power draw with the processor options topping out at 6 watts.
The two SFF motherboards are essentially the same, with the main difference being the bundled processor (see below). The boards have 24+4 pin ATX power inputs, two full-size DDR3 memory slots, two SATA 6 Gbps ports, a single PCI-E 2.0 x4 slot (open ended), and one mini PCI-E connector. The Intel processors on both boards are passively cooled by a large rectangular gold-colored aluminum heatsink.
The rear of the board includes the following I/O ports.
- 2 x PS/2
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x RS232
- 3 x Audio outputs
The N3150I-C board uses an Intel Celeron N3150 while the N3050I-C uses an Intel Celeron N3050. Both chips are 14nm and based on the newer Airmont architecture. These “Braswell” chips have incremental improvements in CPU performance and more significant graphics performance boosts with the inclusion of up to 16 execution units.
Specifically, the N3150 is a quad core chip clocked at 1.6 GHz base to 2.08 GHz burst with Intel HD Graphics (12 EUs up to 640 MHz) and a 6W TDP. On the other hand, the Celeron N3050 is a dual core chip – also with a 6W TDP – clocked at 1.6 GHz base and 2.16 GHz burst paired with Intel HD Graphics (12 EUs) clocked at up to 600 MHz.
These new boards could be used as the base for a NAS box, home media server, or a router and wireless AP by using those PCI-E and mPCI-E slots. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced, however.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 01:34 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: water cooling, SFF, Fiji, E3 2015, E3, dual fiji, amd
AMD revealed a new liquid cooled small form factor PC called Project Quantum during an E3 livestream today.
On the outside, an angled dual compartment aluminum case with rounded edges houses the processing hardware in the bottom and all the cooling components in the top part. AMD is using liquid cooling for the processor and graphics with the tubing running up the center column joining the two pieces together to a radiator or radiators. Red LEDs light up the center column while Radeon R9 branding sits in the bottom left corner.
While at first glance that Radeon R9 branding might be unassuming, it is actually referring to AMD's latest Fiji architecture. That's correct, Project Quantum is part of the Fiji product family and is, in fact, powered by two AMD Fiji-based graphics procesors!
Update: AMD has posted a behind-the-scenes video on the development of Project Quantum which you can watch below.
In the video, AMD reveals that they are using a modified ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac motherboard (thanks to djotter in the comments for pointing that out) which means that Project Quantum is using an Intel Haswell processor in addition to the two Fiji-based GPUs. AMD has removed all of the rear IO connectors save two USB 3.0 ports and an Ethernet jack. They have also moved the 8-pin CPU power connector to the back panel of the board next to the USB ports. My guess is that they did this for cable management and height restriction reasons within the bottom compartment. Specifically, from the CAD render shown in the video, it appears that the AMD graphics card sits horizontally on top of the motherboard which meant that at least some of the rear IO ports had to be removed or relocated.
Another bit of information from that AMD video is that Project Quantum is using what looks like an external power supply. The power brick connects to the system over a single cable to an internal board. This board provides power to a Pico PSU that is plugged into the ATX 24-pin connector on the motherboard and provides power to the AMD branded Solid State Drive (SSD) as well as the motherboard and CPU 8-pin connectors (which have both been modified to right angles for height and cable management reasons). The internal power board that connects to the socket at the back likely also powers the Radeon graphics card via PCI-E connectors, but it is difficult to tell from the photo (it is that red PCB towards the top of the photo).
Interestingly AMD has switched out the power and USB 3.0 headers with right angle models and removed the blue ASRock heatsinks covering the VRMs and PCH. AMD is instead using two large waterblocks to cool the components on the motherboard and graphics card. A large radiator and pump sit in the top compartment cooled by an 180mm Enermax Apollish fan. The 180mm radiator should result in quieter, or at least less annoying, fan noise since the large fan can spin slower while moving similar amounts of air as smaller fans paired with 120 or 140mm radiators. Using a single large radiator for both the CPU and GPU is an interesting choice here, and I think a correct one.
A rendering of the water loop layout on Project Quantum. Image from AMD with annotations by Aibohphobia.
It was actually djotter and Aibohphobia in the comments who spotted the Pico PSU and provided an example. (I did not notice that in the video initially, so thanks for pointing that out!) This power brick and tiny Pico PSU setup would certainly help to explain how AMD was able to make Project Quantum so thin (though an external PSU isn't necessarily a bad thing). The Pico PSU does suggest that the dual Fiji GPUs may be closer to lower end R9 Nanos than two high end Fury Xs (heh) or maybe some other yet unannounced cut-down Fiji chip entirely.
(End of update)
During the PC Gamer E3 Twitch stream, AMD CEO Lisa Su showed off Project Quantum, and Ken was able to snap a photo of the back panel.
Project Quantum has, from left to right, a single power input (see above), two analog audio jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, an Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet jack, four USB 2.0 ports, and a single horizontal PCI slot. A Radeon R9 graphics card is installed in this slot and features three DisplayPort and one HDMI 1.4 video outputs. We still do not know all the specs of this card, but is is Fiji-based and supports LiquidVR along with AMD's other features including FreeSync and Frame Rate Target Control.
(End Update 9:30PM)
Beyond that, we do not know many details on Project Quantum. From the other announcements around Fiji today, particularly the R9 Nano and R9 Fury X, this little machine is going to be a powerhouse with impressive power efficiency and performance per watt – especially for its size!
Of course, pricing and availability were not discussed at the event. Stay tuned to PC Perspective as we get more details closer to its official release!