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!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 6, 2015 - 08:51 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFX, SFF, SF600, PSU, power supply, corsair, computex 2015, computex
Corsair has shown its first SFX form-factor PSU at Computex, the SF600.
Image credit: Tom's Hardware
True to its name the SF600 is a 600W PSU, and it features a fully modular design and will carry an 80 PLUS Gold certification. According to the report from Tom's Harware Corsair is using a 92 mm fan with the SF600, slightly larger than the 80 mm fans found in standard SFX power supplies, but smaller than the 120 mm fans that SilverStone has been using in its SFX-L form-factor PSUs.
Image credit: Tom's Hardware
This PSU was secretly powering the new Corsair Bulldog living room PC, also shown at Computex. Naturally there was no announcement on pricing or availability for this new PSU, but we'll keep you posted if anything official is announced.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 4, 2015 - 07:06 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFX PSU, SFF, node 202, mini ITX, HTPC case, fractal design, computex 2015, computex
Fractal is showing off several new products at Computex, but the one that caught my eye was the new Node 202 which is a small form factor Mini ITX case perfect for the living room. The thin case is all black with a metal texture finish, rounded corners, and diagonal ventilation grilles along the sides and top. The 10.2 liter capacity case measures 377mm x 88mm x 332mm (including case feet) and can accommodate SFX power supplies, Mini ITX motherboards, and a dedicated graphics card.
The front of the case has two USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks in the bottom left corner next to the power button. Large filtered vents are located on the right, top, and bottom of the case while the left side has a thin grill along the bottom. Needless to say, there is plenty of room for airflow and the case would do well with both air cooled and fanless systems. Users can mount the case horizontally or vertically using an included stand. Interestingly, the Node 202 divides the case into two separate chambers to isolate the graphics card from the CPU, motherboard, and power supply to facilitate cooling.
Internally, the Node 202 has room for a Mini ITX or Thin Mini ITX motherboard with CPU coolers up to 56mm tall, a 130mm SFX power supply, and a dual slot graphics card up to 310mm in length. Users can install up to two 120mm fans in the GPU chamber. Storage support tops out at two 2.5" hard drives or solid state drives (SSDs).
Fractal Design is also offering a version of the Node 202 bundled with its Integra SFX 450W power supply. The 80+ Bronze power supply will come with custom length cables and connectors designed specifically for the Node 202. It is covered by a 3 year warranty.
The PSU-less Node 202 will have a MSRP of $79.99 while the Node 202 with bundled PSU will be $139.99. Both models will be available soon in the US.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | May 30, 2015 - 02:14 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, raid, mini server, media server
Zotac recently launched a new line of tiny ZBOX PCs under the new R Series that support two drive RAID 0 and RAID 1 setups. The series currently includes the ZBOX 1323 and ZBOX R1531. Both systems can be mounted vertically or horizontally and strongly resemble the company's existing ZBOX computers. The top and bottom panels are black with a silver bezel around the sides. A Zotac logo sits in the corner and a large blue circle sits in the center of the top.
The front panel hosts two audio jacks, an SDXC ard reader, COM port, IR reciever, and power button. Around back, the ZBOX boasts two antennas for the internal wireless module, two Gigabit Ethernet jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, and DisplayPort and HDMI video outputs. A third USB 3.0 port sits along the top edge of this small form factor PC.
Internally, Zotac is using Intel processors, a small form factor motherboard with two SO-DIMM slots (up to 16 GB), a Mini PCI-E slot for the 802.11ac (plus Bluetooth 4.0) wireless card, and support for up to two 2.5" SATA drives. The motherboard supports RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD configurations for the SATA drives, and the R1531 SKU adds a mSATA slot for a third drive.
The ZBOX R1323 is equipped with a 11.5W dual core Intel (Haswell) Celeron 2961Y processor clocked at 1.1 GHz with 2MB cache and Intel HD Graphics clocked at up to 850 MHz. The ZBOX R1531 steps up to a 15W dual core (plus Hyperthreading) Broadwell-based Intel Core i3-5010U clocked at 2.1 GHz with HD 5500 graphics clocked at up to 900 MHz.
Both versions will be offered as barebones systems and the R1531 is additionally be sold in a PLUS model that comes with a 64GB mSATA SSD and 4GB of RAM pre-installed.
The new ZBOX R Series PCs would make for a nice home server with a mSATA drive for the OS and two storage drives in a RAID 1 for redundancy. The Core i3 should be plenty of horsepower for streaming media, running backups, running applications, and even some light video transcoding. The included COM port will also make it suitable for industrial applications, but I think this is mostly going to appeal to home and small business users.
Zotac has not yet revealed pricing or availability though. Hopefully we are able to find out more about these mini PCs at Computex!
Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 29, 2015 - 07:53 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Cherry Trail, SFF, pentium, nuc, Intel, celeron, Braswell, Airmont
Reports around the web along with this Intel PDF point to the official launch of a new low power NUC coming next month. The NUC5CPYH and NUC5PPYH are powered by Braswell-based Intel Celeron and Pentium processors topping out at 6W TDPs.
These new NUC models have room for a motherboard, Braswell processor, a single laptop memory slot, a Mini PCI-E slot for the wireless module, and one 2.5" hard drive or SSD. There is no support for mSATA here which likely helped Intel cut costs (and as Olivier from FanlessTech points out mSATA support was dropped around the time of NUC 2.0). Further, unlike the lower power (4W versus 6W TDP) Braswell-based ASRock PC (which is also SFF but not a NUC), the two Intel NUCs are surely actively cooled by a fan.
On the outside of the compact PC, users have access to two USB 3.0 ports (one charging capable 5V/3A), a headphone/mic jack, infrared receiver, and SDXC memory card reader on the front. The rear panel hosts an additional two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, Gigabit LAN port, and optical audio output. The PC also has a Kensington lock port and is VESA moutable.
Internally, Intel has opted for two of the highest power Braswell processors, the Intel Celeron N3050 and Intel Pentium N3700. Both are 14nm chips with a 6W TDP with Airmont CPU cores and Intel HD Graphics. The N3050 is a dual core part clocked at up to 2.16 GHz (1.6 GHz base) with 2MB cache and HD Graphics clocked between 320 and 600 MHz. The Pentium N3700 model on the other hand features four CPU cores clocked at up to 2.4 GHz (1.6 GHz base) paired with HD Graphics clocked at 700 MHz (400 MHz base).
Both the NUC5CPYH and NUC5PPYH will reportedly be available on June 8th starting at $140 and $180 respectively. This is an interesting price point for NUCs though it's popularity is going to heavily depend on the Braswell CPU's performance especially with Bay Trail-powered versions still on the market for even less (though with less performance).
Subject: Systems | May 26, 2015 - 02:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: shuttle, SFF, fanless, Broadwell, DS57U, Celeron 3205U
The Shuttle DS57U is powered by a dual core Celeron 3205U running at 1.5GHz and a nice and cool 15W TDP. The system supports up to 16GB of DDR3 at 1.35 V, no 1.5V DIMM that TechPowerUp tried would work and for add-in cards you have a single full sized mini-PCIE slot and a half sized mini-PCIE slot which is already occupied by a WLAN card. The system does have only one SATA 6Gbps port so external storage may be necessary, thankfully there are a pair of USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports. This model is available for $250 currently, if you decide you need more power there are several versions going all the way up to the DS57U7 powered by an i7-5500U. If you are looking for an inexpensive SFF barebones system, Shuttle is not a bad choice overall and the DS57U is worthy of consideration.
"The Shuttle DS57U is a slim barebone PC that only needs RAM and a HDD or, even better, an SSD to boot. It comes with an Intel dual-core Celeron processor (Broadwell) and features lots of I/O ports, which make it suitable for a wide range of applications."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Asus VivoPC VM62B @ Kitguru
- MSI CUBI @ HardwareHeaven
- MSI Cubi @ KitGuru
- Gigabyte Brix S @ HardwareHeaven
- KitGuru Complete Guide to Buying a Workstation
- KitGuru Complete Guide to PC Workstations – Part 2
- BuyPower Noctis Intel Z97 @ eTeknix
- The making of Damagebox 2015 @ The Tech Report
Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 26, 2015 - 01:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, nuc, Intel, fanless, Cherry Trail, Braswell, asrock
Earlier this month, ASRock showed off a tiny fanless computer it is calling the Beebox. Powered by an Intel Braswell SoC, the new small form factor Beebox offers up a decent selection of I/O ports and general desktop performance while sipping power. The Beebox is approximately the size of Intel's NUC measuring 118.5mm x 110mm x 46mm x (4.67" x 4.33" x 1.81" -- WxDxH) and will come in three color options: black, gold, and white.
This compact PC has a fairly extensive set of ports on tap. The front panel includes a headphone jack, infrared port, one standard USB 3.0 port, and a USB 3.0 Type-C port which supports 5V/3A charging. The rear panel hosts the power jack, two HDMI outputs, one DisplayPort output, two USB 3.0 ports, a Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock slot. Not bad for a small form factor PC.
ASRock will be offering the Beebox in three configuration options including a barebones kit, a version with 32 GB internal storage, 2 GB of RAM, and Windows 10, and a Beebox SKU with 128 GB of internal storage and 4 GB of RAM (and no OS pre-installed). Each of the SKUs are powered by the same Intel Celeron N3000 Braswell SoC. From there, users can add a single 2.5" SATA drive and a Mini PCI-E card (although this slot is occupied by the included 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless module). The system uses two DDR3L SO-DIMMs and supports a maximum of 8 GB DDR3L at 1600 MHz.
The aspect that made the Beebox stand out to me was the inclusion of the Braswell-based Celeron N3000 processor. This 4W 14nm part features two Airmont CPU cores clocked at 1.04 GHz base and 2.08 GHz turbo paired with 2MB L2 cache and a Gen 8 Intel GPU clocked at up to 600 MHz. This is a desktop variant of the Cherry Trail chips being used in tablets, but it is the lowest TDP Braswell chip currently at a mere 4 watts. ASRock likely went with this chip to ensure they could passively cool it and still keep temperatures in check. As FanlessTech notes, the chassis ASRock is using leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to heat dissipation compared to other fanless cases on the market.
We will have to wait for reviews to see how well the Beebox and its Braswell processor perform, but so long as ASRock is able to keep thermals in check, the little PC should offer acceptable performance for general desktop tasks (browsing the internet, checking email, watching streaming videos, etc). Cherry Trail (and keep in mind Braswell is a higher power chip based on the same architectures) is promising noticeable improvements to graphics and at least slight improvements to CPU performance. According to ASRock, the Beebox is going to be priced aggressively at "very low" price points which should make it a good compromise between older Bay Trail-D systems and newer (and more expensive) Broadwell and Haswell systems.
The Beebox is slated for late June availability, with exact pricing to be announced at that time.
Some familiar scenery
If you thought that Intel was going to slow down on its iteration in the SFF (small form factor) system design, you were sadly mistaken. It was February when Intel first sent us a NUC based on Broadwell, an iterative upgrade over a couple of generations for this very small platform, 4" x 4", that showed proved to be interesting from a technology stand point but didn't shift expectations of the puck-sized PC business.
Today we are looking at yet another NUC, also using a Broadwell processor, though this time the CPU is running quite a bit faster, with Intel Iris 6100 graphics and a noticeably higher TDP. The Core i7-5557U is still a dual-core / HyperThreaded processor but it increases base and Turbo clocks by wide margins, offering as much as 35% better CPU performance and mainstream gaming performance boosts in the same range. This doesn't mean the NUC 5i7RYH will overtake your custom built desktop but it does make it a lot more palatable for everyday PC users.
Oh, and we have an NVMe PCI Express SSD inside this beast as well. (Waaaaaa??)