Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 15, 2014 - 08:36 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFF, ncase, mini-itx, m1, enclosure, case, aluminum case
The NCASE M1 once famously posed next to a can of soda, and the rest is (unlicensed) history...
The M1 next to a can of some mystery drink that I've never seen before
Now the M1 is back for another round of pre-orders, with the price set at $185 for the microscopic, all-aluminum enclosure. The catch is that once again the enclosure ships directly from the OEM (Lian Li) in Taiwan, which means that import duty and taxes will be extra. Shipping this writer's abode in the province of the USA known as "Michigan" ranged from $30 for the slowest imaginable ocean freight, to a (comparatively) reasonable $55 for much faster air shipping.
Christmas is coming... Why not order 2? Or 5?
You may have been one of the (approximately) millions who read our review of this fantastic little enclosure, but just for old time's sake you can always read it again! The review features many photos of the case interior and exterior, as well as a some build examples to give readers an idea of what to expect before committing to the case sight-unseen.
Exploded view of the aluminum (or aluminium for our readers in the UK) construction
So what's different with the 3rd version? Here's the official change log from the hardforum page:
- Braces added to bottom corners of chassis for increased rigidity/decreased probability of wobbling
- 0.3mm decrease in side and front panel height
- Extra QC for wobbling & panel uniformity
- Changed model ID plate to read "V3.0" in place of "V2.0"
- SFX bracket raised 2mm and flange trimmed for better SFX-L support
- Additional motherboard standoffs added for compact mATX boards (226x173mm max w/SFX bracket)
- Slightly increased CPU cutout size
The M1's dimensions are just (HxWxD) 240mm x 160mm x 328mm, which translates to 9.45" x 6.30" x 12.91". The pre-order is currently open, but no offical word on when the newest production run will be finished and shipping just yet.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 21, 2014 - 06:42 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: maxwell, nvidia, gaming, mini ITX, small form factor, GTX 970, GM204, gigabyte
Gigabyte has announced a new miniature graphics card based around NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 970 GPU. The upcoming card is a dual slot, single fan design that is even shorter than the existing GTX 970 graphics cards (which are fairly short themselves). Officially known as the GV-N970IXOC-4GD, the miniaturized GTX 970 will be available for your small form factor (Mini ITX) systems in November for around $330.
The new Mini ITX compatible graphics card packs in a factory overclocked GeForce GTX 970 processor, 4GB of video memory, a custom PCB, and a custom WindForce-inspired cooler into a graphics card that is smaller than any of the existing GTX 970 cards. Gigabyte is using a custom design with a single 8-pin PCI-E power connector instead of two 6-pin connectors from the reference design or the 6-pin plus 8-pin from manufacturers like EVGA. The single power connector means less cabling to route (and
successfully attempt to hide heh) and better small form factor PSU compatibility. The cooler is an aluminum fin array with three copper heatpipes paired with a single shrouded fan.
The tiny card comes factory overclocked at 1076 MHz base and 1216 MHz boost, which is a respectable boost over the reference specifications. For reference, the GeForce GTX 970 processor is a 28nm chip using NVIDIA's GM204 "Maxwell" architecture with 1664 CUDA cores clocked at 1051 MHz base and 1178 MHz boost. It appears that Gigabyte has left the 4GB of GDDR5 untouched at 7.0 GT/s.
|Gigabyte GTX 970 Mini ITX||
Reference GTX 970
|Core (MHz) Boost||1216||1178|
|Memory Rate||7.0 (GT/s)||7.0 (GT/s)|
|PCI-E Power||1x 8-pin||2x 6-pin|
The display output on the miniature Gigabyte card differs slightly from the reference design with the addition of a DVI-D connection.
- 3 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x DVI-I
- 1 x DVI-D
According to Gigabyte, its custom cooler resulted in lower temperatures versus the reference design. The company claims that when running Metro: Last Light, the Mini ITX Gigabyte GTX 970 GPU ran at 62°C versus a reference design hitting 76°C running the same game. If true, the Gigabyte cooler is capable of keeping the card significantly cooler while taking up less space (though fan speeds and sound levels were not mentioned, nor compared to other custom coolers).
The small form factor friendly GTX 970 is coming next month with a MSRP of $329.99. Are you excited?
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2014 - 02:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: idf, idf 2014, nuc, Intel, SFF, small form factor
A few years ago, Intel introduced the NUC line of small form factor PCs. At this year's IDF, they have announced plans to make even smaller, and cheaper, specifications that are intended for OEMs to install Windows, Linux, Android, and Chrome OS on. This initiative is not yet named, but will consist of mostly soldered components, leaving basically just the wireless adapters user-replaceable, rather than the more user-serviceable NUC.
Image Credit: Liliputing
Being the owner of Moore's Law, they just couldn't help but fit it to some type of exponential curve. While it is with respect to generation, not time, Intel expects the new, currently unnamed form factor to halve both the volume (size) and bill of material (BOM) cost of the NUC. They then said that another generation after ("Future SFF") will halve the BOM cost again, to a quarter of the NUC.
What do our readers think? Would you be willing to give up socketed components for smaller and cheaper devices in this category or does this just become indistinguishable from mobile devices (which we already know can be cheap and packed into small spaces)?
Subject: Systems | January 7, 2014 - 05:08 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: CES, steam os, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, small form factor, dual boot, Digital Storm, CES 2014, Bolt 2
Today Digital Storm has announced the Bolt 2 small form factor computer. This little number is marketed as a “Steam machine”, and for very good reasons. This particular number packs in quite a punch in a very small space.
The custom designed case has a very effective and logical layout. It really is quite small, but it is very strong and robust. It can handle a micro-ITX board, multiple drives, and a dual slot graphics card. The system I saw was decked out with a GTX 780 Ti along with the Intel i7 4770K. It includes Digital Storm’s proprietary lighting and cooling module which of course controls the lighting… and cooling fan speed for the system.
Cooling is primarily based on the Corsair H100i dual fan unit. This portion takes air from one side/top of the case (depending on orientation) and then vents it through the rest of the chassis. The graphics card takes air from the other side of the case and routes it out the back. This cooling solution allows a fair amount of overclocking to be attempted by the end user, but it does have limitations as compared to a larger system with more airflow.
The design utilizes a 700 watt power supply, which is pretty impressive considering the space constraints that Digital Storm has to deal with. A lot of work with partners has allowed them to include this very small unit with a pair of 30 mm fans at either end. One would expect such fans to produce a LOT of noise. This is happily not the case. The design is good enough, and efficient enough, that at higher loads (including overclocking) it stays very quiet.
The system is very accessible, far more than most would expect. Anyone that has worked on an older small form factor case will testify as to how annoying and contorted setting up hardware (or swapping it out) can be. Digital Storm again took their time with the design to make sure that installation and the changing of components is as simple as possible. A person armed with a screwdriver can get to any major component in a few seconds. Swapping out the video card would take the amount of time of removing four screws, unplugging the power, and making sure not to rip out the PCI-E 16X ribbon connecting the card to the board.
Prices for the unit start at $1500 and go above $2500, depending on component choices. When Valve finalizes the Steam OS and has it ready for prime time, Digital Storm will be including the Steam controller with the build.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
What is a HTPC anyways?
Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series? Catch up on them here:
- Cutting the Cord Part 1: The Assessment
- Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC – The Hardware
- Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC – OS Install and Tuning
- Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building your HTPC – Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
- Cutting the Cord Part 5: Wrap up - Media Center Add-ons and Options
Continuing with our series on Cutting the Cord and building your own HTPC, we move beyond the "Assessment Phase" we discussed in part one and into the realm of actually building your own Home Theater PC with Windows 7 Media Center. In Part 2, we walk through our hardware picks for our HTPC. But before we dive headlong into that, I need to get something off my chest.
My Experience: /rant on. When I first planned to write this article, I thought it would be interesting to write a new HTPC building guide soon after Windows 8 was released in order to spotlight Windows 8 Media Center. While I initially had some concerns with Microsoft’s choice of separating Media Center from Windows 8 itself, and some other issues I heard rumor of, my own experience attempting to build a Windows 8 Media Center would push this long time Microsoft fan to the limits. Long story short, I spent nearly two days working up the article and building a Windows 8 Media Center only to come to terms with the fact that Microsoft has so jacked with some of the key features of Media Center in Windows 8 that I can’t recommend anyone use it. With that being said, I had to start over from scratch, rebuilding my HTPC with Windows 7 and doing a complete rewrite of the article. I want to thank Microsoft for showing us that they care more about cramming the Metro UI down our throats than they care about the passionate Media Center community that has rallied around and supported them these many years. Anyways, /rant off and back to our previously schedule HTPC building guide.
The market is currently littered with all manners of bringing content to your television set. There are devices that help you manage your current cable/satellite television subscription such as TiVo, Xbox with Verizon FIOS, Xbox with Comcast XFinity, or even the Google TV . There’s devices out there that give you access to additional features above and beyond your television viewing such as the Apple TV, the Roku, or the Boxee Box. There’s even a slew of “Smart TV’s” and Streaming Sticks that will turn any TV into a Smart TV that are loaded with applications to overlay content or get access to other services. For the hardcore DiY crowd, there’s also some other options to build your own devices with distributions like MythTV or XBMC (Xbox Media Center).
With so many new boxes, devices and options hitting the street just about every day and it’s easy to get lost in the flood of options. Luckily Veronica Belmont’s Mega Set Top Box List is still being maintained and has some great information to help you weed through the mess.
With so many options, many of which are $100 or less, you’d think that building a $500-$700 Media Center PC is overkill. Unfortunately many of these devices will not do everything you want them to do and I’ve not found anything that combines all the capabilities and functions I wanted into a single package as good as Windows Media Center (though the new Boxee TV Box might be a new contender on the block.) Building and running your own Media Center offers the flexibility and power all in one package to meet every scenario you could throw at it. You’re not stuck waiting for some developer to get around to writing new firmware or applications to add in support for what you want. If you can View, Read or Watch it on a Windows desktop, then you can most likely get it working directly through Windows Media Center. I still don’t understand why Microsoft hasn’t licensed or even produced their own device with their excellent Media Center UI.
Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2012 - 12:16 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ssd, small form factor, SFF, nuc, Ivy Bridge, Intel, htpc
Earlier this year, Intel showed off a small motherboard and processor combination that piqued the interest of many enthusiasts and attendees. The rather oddly named Next Unit of Computing (NUC) PC was originally intended to power digital signage, kiosks, and embedded systems (car PC anyone?). However, in response to the interest shown by enthusiasts, the x86 chip giant has decided to bring the super-small form factor computers to retail.
The Next Unit of Computing PC’s main attraction is its small size: the motherboard is tiny, measuring a mere 4” x 4.” For reference, the mini-ITX standard is a 6.7” x 6.7” motherboard, and VIA’s Pico-ITX form factor boards measure 3.9” x 2.7.” In that respect, the NUC is not the smallest PC that you can build, but it will be the fastest – and by a significant margin thanks to the bundled Ivy Bridge CPU.
While i3 and i5 editions were allegedly designed, currently Intel is only bringing the i3 to the retail market. Specifically, the CPU powering the NUC will be an Intel Core i3-3217U Ivy Bridge processor, and it will be soldered onto the motherboard. That particular CPU is a 1.8GHz dual core/four thread part with 3MB cache, and Intel HD 4000 graphics (there is no Turbo Boost functionality). Not bad for a small form factor PC!
Image credit: PC Pro.
The boards will have two SO-DIMM slots for RAM, an mSATA port for an SSD, and a mini-PCIe slot for a Wi-FI card. Intel is making two versions of the NUC motherboard that will differ only in IO. One motherboard will have 3 USB 2.0 ports, 1 HDMI output, and 1 Thunderbolt port. The other board will have 3 USB 2.0 ports, 2 HDMI outputs, and one Gigabit Ethernet jack. Intel believes that the Thunderbolt-equipped model will be more popular with consumers while the Gigabit-Ethernet and dual HDMI model will be used more by businesses.
Intel is reportedly sourcing several chassis designs for its custom form factor motherboard (there are at least two cases at present), and you will be able to build out a barebones system with one of the custom cases, integrated heatsink, and power supply. Additionally, when spec'ed out with the Intel i3-3217U CPU, 4GB of RAM, Wi-Fi card, and a 40GB Intel SSD, the company expects the entire NUC computer to cost around $399 in the US. The parts will be available for purchase in October, according to Engadget.
Hopefully, we will see OEMs take this form factor and make something cool with it. It's not clear which specific OEMs will be first to bring pre-built systems to market but they should be coming in the future.
Personally, I’m a big fan of small form factor computers, and despite the odd “NUC” name I’m excited to see where Intel takes this platform. If you were looking for a small but powerful computer to drive your next project, it might be worth keeping an eye on the NUC. What do you think of this sub $400, approximately 5” (with case) PC?