Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Zotac

Introduction and First Impressions

The Zotac ZBOX CI321 nano is a mini PC kit in the vein of the Intel NUC, and this version features a completely fanless design with built-in wireless for silent integration into just about any location. So is it fast enough to be an HTPC or desktop productivity machine? We will find out here.

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I have reviewed a couple of mini-PCs in the past few months, most recently the ECS LIVA X back in January. Though the LIVA X was not really fast enough to be used as a primary device it was small and inexpensive enough to be an viable product depending on a user’s needs. One attractive aspect of the LIVA designs, and any of the low-power computers introduced recently, is the passive nature of such systems. This has unfortunately resulted in the integration of some pretty low-performance CPUs to stay within thermal (and cost) limits, but this is beginning to change. The ZBOX nano we’re looking at today carries on the recent trend of incorporating slightly higher performance parts as its Intel Celeron processor (the 2961Y) is based on Haswell, and not the Atom cores at the heart of so many of these small systems.

Another parallel to the Intel NUC is the requirement to bring your own memory and storage, and the ZBOX CI321 nano accepts a pair of DDR3 SoDIMMs and 2.5” storage drives. The Intel Celeron 2961Y processor supports up to 1600 MHz dual-channel DDR3L which allows for much higher memory bandwidth than many other mini-PCs, and the storage controller supports SATA 6.0 Gbps which allows for higher performance than the eMMC storage found in a lot of mini-PCs, depending on the drive you choose to install. Of course your mileage will vary depending on the components selected to complete the build, but it shouldn’t be difficult to build a reasonably fast system.

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Continue reading our review of the Zotac ZBOX CI321 nano!!

Be Quiet! Silent Base 600 Coming In September

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2015 - 01:49 AM |
Tagged: silent pc, mid-tower, computex 2015, computex, be quiet!, be quiet

Be Quiet unveiled the Silent Base 600 at Computex last week which is the company's second PC case. It is a smaller, quieter, and cheaper version of the existing Silent Base 800 while maintaining the same design and emphasis on noise reduction. Available in September, Be Quiet! is offering this mid tower case in both a side panel and windowed version at $99 and $115 respectively.

The Silent Base 600 is black with angled edges and a brushed metal front panel. It sits on four case feet that lift it up slightly to improve airflow. A panel on the front hides three 5.25" bays while the front IO sits along the top edge and two large vertical grilles act as front intakes. The side panel(s) have an adjustable height vent to increase or decrease airflow. A fan can be attached to the side panel (the window version of the case does not have vents) and users can adjust the intake around the edges of the vent to balance airflow and noise. Two Be Quiet! Pure Wings 2 fans come pre-installed (one 120mm in the rear and one 140mm front intake fan) and users can additionally install up to two 120/140mm fans up top, one 120mm side panel fan, one 140mm bottom mounted fan, and an extra 140mm front intake fan for a total of seven fans (or six if you opt for the windowed model). Be Quiet provides removable filters on all the intakes which is a nice touch.

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Check out Gamer's Nexus for more photos from be quiet!'s Computex booth!

Front I/O on the Silent Base 600 includes two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, two audio jacks, and an integrated fan controller. Be Quiet! continues to emphasis noise reduction with the inclusion of sound dampening material in the side panels, rubber mounts for the tool-less drives, and rubber mounts for the included fans to reduce vibration noise.

The Silent Base 600 will be available in black, silver, and orange colors. The color options get you accents around the front grilles and rubber cable management grommets in your chosen color among other color tweaks.

Internally, the Silent Base 600 has room for ATX motherboards, bottom mounted power supplies (290mm max), CPU coolers up to 170mm tall, and up to 400mm long graphics cards. Storage is handled by three 5.25", three 3.5", and two 2.5" drive bays. Other features include three rubber grommets to support external water cooling radiators, grommets in the motherboard tray to help with cable management, an optional fan controller to control an additional three fans, and seven PCI expansion slots should you be so inclined.

In all, it looks like a good base for an extremely quiet PC though I would have liked to see 360mm radiator support so that I could finally upgrade my case and move my radiator inside (heh). I'm looking forward to the reviews and seeing how well the noise reduction tweaks work.

Jimmy Thang (from Maximum PC) was able to check out the new case at Computex 2015 and you can watch their video with Chris from be quiet! on YouTube.

What do you think about Be Quiet!'s new mid tower case?

Manufacturer: Fractal Design

Introduction and First Impressions

The Define S from Fractal Design is a mid-tower enclosure based on the company’s excellent Define R5, and this version has a new interior for enhanced cooling support with an innovative approach to storage.

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Introduction

I've mentioned before that the PC enclosure market is crowded with options at every price point, but this can actually be a good thing because of the high level of individual preference this permits. Selecting a case is a multi-faceted thing, and while they all (well, mostly) keep components safely housed, once that need has been met there's a lot more to consider. Let's face it, aesthetics are important since the enclosure is the outward-facing representation of your build (and personal style). Support for your preferred type of cooling, storage, and future expandability are high on the list when selecting a finalist as well, and then there's the thermal/noise performance element to consider. It was Fractal Design's own Define R5 (review here) which offered a balanced approach to these needs, and while not looking especially flashy with understated style and a standard ATX layout, the R5 was an exceptionally well-done effort overall. Now, months later, enter the Define S.

With the Define R5 offering a solid combination of silence, expandability, and build quality, why would Fractal Design create another very similar case right on its heels? It’s all about giving people choice, and that’s something I can certainly stand behind - even when it means further segmenting a market that seems almost impossibly crowded now. And when we dive deeper into the Define S we see what is essentially a companion to the Define R5, and not a replacement. At first glance this might appear to be an identical case, but the interior layout clearly separates the two. In summary, the Define S loses 5.25” storage support found in the R5, and while that previous model had no less than 8 hard drive trays the S employs a novel approach to HDD support, but cuts the drive support from 8 standard 3.5" drives to just 3 in the process.

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Continue reading our review of the Fractal Design Define S enclosure!!

Introduction: Defining the Quiet Enclosure

The Define R5 is the direct successor to Fractal Design's R4 enclosure, and it arrives with the promise of a completely improved offering in the silent case market. Fractal Design has unveiled the case today, and we have the day-one review ready for you!

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We've looked at a couple of budget cases recently from the Swedish enclosure maker, and though still affordable with an MSRP of $109.99 (a windowed version will also be available for $10 more) the Define R5 from Fractal Design looks like a premium part throughout. In keeping with the company's minimalist design aesthetic it features clean styling, and is a standard mid-tower form factor supporting boards from ATX down to mini-ITX. The R5 also offers considerable cooling flexibility with many mounting options for fans and radiators.

The Silent Treatment

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One of two included 1000 RPM hydraulic-bearing GP-14 silent fans

There are always different needs to consider when picking an enclosure, from price to application. And with silent cases there is an obvious need to for superior sound-dampening properties, though airflow must be maintained to prevent cooking components as well. With today's review we'll examine the case inside and out and see how a complete build performs with temperature and noise testing.

Continue reading our review of the Fractal Design Define R5 enclosure!!

ASUS Shows Off Silent PC With AMD Trinity APU

Subject: General Tech, Systems | October 2, 2012 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: trinity, silent pc, passive cooling, asus, APU, amd

AMD officially launched its desktop Trinity APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) today, and along with the new processors are a number of new socket FM2 motherboards to support them. One of the cooler motherboard and Trinity APU pairings was shown off today in a completely silent PC by ASUS and AMD in the Akihabara district of Tokyo, Japan.

The silent system is nested inside a Streacom FC5 chassis that does double duty as a case and heatsink for the AMD APU. Inside the system is an unidentified power supply, two DDR3 DIMMS, Corsair Force SSD, ASUS F2A85-M PRO motherboard, and – of course – the AMD A10-5700K APU that we recently reviewed.

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The APU is covered by an aluminum and copper block that is then connected to the metal case via four heatpipes. Then, the outside of the case has a finned design to provide more cooling surface area (but likely just to make it look cooler, heh).

This passively cooled system would make for a really nice home theater PC case, and the GPU prowess of the Trinity APU is well suited to such a task. You can find more photos of the fan-less Trinity system over at FanlessTech.

What do you think of Trinity, and will you be using it in your next build?

Read more about HTPCs and Trinity APUs at PC Perspective!

Source: FanlessTech