Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2019 - 02:01 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, ryzen, mini-stx, barebones, asrock, APU, amd, AM4
ASRock is launching a new small form factor barebones system later this month that incorporates what the company claims Is the first Mini STX motherboard for AMD’s Zen-based processors (primarily APUs) using the AM4 socket, a tiny case, and optional accessories. The DeskMini A300 and A300W are barebones PCs where you are responsible for adding your own CPU, RAM, and storage. Measuring 155 x 155 x 80mm (approximately 6.1” x 6.1” x 3.15”), the 1.92-liter PCs sit somewhere between an Intel NUC and a Mini ITX build. The DeskMini A300 case is all black with subtle rounded corners, a stylized front panel, and ample square mesh ventilation grills along the top, left side, and back. Up front sits two audio jacks (mic/headphone), one USB 3.1 Type-C, and one USB 3.1 Type-A (both USB 3.1 Gen 1 / 5Gbps) and two USB 2.0 ports can be added via an optional front panel add-on using a header on the motherboard. Around back ASRock’s A300M-STX motherboard offers up one USB 3.1 (5Gbps), one USB 2.0, one Gigabit Ethernet, and three display outputs (one each of HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort). There is also a DC-in jack for power with the kit using a 19V 120W power brick.
Inside the case the DeskMini A300 uses the ASRock A300M-STM motherboard with measures 5” x 5”. While not the first Mini STX motherboard for AMD processors (Mini STX is generally an Intel form factor), it is reportedly the first for newer AMD chips using the AM4 socket. The board supports up to 65W CPUs and will generally only be used with APUs that have their own integrated graphics as this motherboard lacks a PCI-E x16 slot for installing a dedicated GPU. Granted, an enthusiast might well be able to use a CPU only Ryzen processor and sacrifice a M.2 slot to add in a GPU but then you would need a bigger case and at that point it might be easier to just go Mini ITX (Note that some Mini STX motherboards do support external graphics via MXM slots but those mainly mobile focused GPUs can come at a hefty premium). In any event, the AM4 socket is paired with two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots (up to 2933 MHz), two Ultra M.2 2280 slots for NVMe storage, one M.2 Key E for wireless modules, and two SATA 3 6Gpbs ports (RAID 0 and 1 are supported). ASRock sells an optional 65W CPU cooler, but if you plan to add your own height is limited to 46mm.
Audio is handled by the Realtek ALC233 codec/chipset while networking is handled by the Realtek RTL8111H NIC for wired and the Intel AC-3168 Wi-Fi for wireless (on the A300W SKU).
The DeskMini A300 barebones PC is slated for release later this month starting at $119 which gets you a tiny SFF motherboard, case, and power supply. Tom’s Hardware was able to get a hands-on look at the case and motherboard at CES and took several photos of the kit. It is an interesting product utilizing Mini STX and is nice to see an AMD option in this middle ground form factor.
Looking at the photos, the second M.2 slot as well as the CMOS battery being on the underside of the motherboard may prove to be rather inconvenient (it’s not clear if that case has a motherboard cutout for those areas or not). Using vertical SO-DIMM slots shouldn’t be a problem airflow wise in this case though and should be a bit sturdier than the angled approaches long term. Storage and other I/O seems decent especially considering this system uses the lower-end A300 chipset.
Hopefully reviewers (and modders!) will be able to get their hands on the small form factor hardware soon. What are your thoughts?
- Sapphire Shows Off New 5x5 Ryzen V1000 Platform for Embedded Systems
- Mini-STX Build: ECS H110S-2P and SilverStone VT01 Review
- AMD Details AM4 Chipsets and Upcoming Motherboards
- The AMD Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G Review: Return of the APU
Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 02:35 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: msi, SFF, barebones, nuc, kaby lake, Intel, Optane, computex
MSI recently introduced a new member of its Cubi small form factor barebones PC lineup. The Cubi 3 is a fanless PC that is build around Intel’s Kaby Lake-U processors and will arrive sometime this fall.
The Cubi 3 is a bit larger than its predecessors, but with the larger enclosure MSI was able to achieve a fanless design for up to (U series) Core i7 processors. The SFF PC sports a brushed aluminum case that shows off the top of the CPU heatsink through vents that run around the top edge of the case. There are two flat antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooh integrated into the left and right sides of the case.
FanlessTech reports that the MSI Cubi 3 will sport 15W Kaby Lake-U processors from low end Celerons up to Core i7 models. These parts are dual core parts with HyperThreading (2c/4t) with 3 MB or 4 MB of L3 cache and either HD (615 or 620) or Iris Plus (640 or 650) integrated graphics. The processor is paired with two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots for up to 32 GB of 2133 MHz memory, an M.2 2280 SSD (there is even Intel Optane support), and a single 2.5” drive.
The Cubi 3 has an audio jack and two USB 3.0 ports up front, and what appears to be two USB 2.0 ports on the left side. Rear I/O includes one HDMI, one DisplayPort, two more USB 3.0, two Gigabit Ethernet, two COM ports, and one power jack for the 65W AC power adapter.
There is no word on pricing yet, but it is slated to begin production in August with availability this fall.
It is always nice to see more competition in this niche fanless SFF space, and the little box would not look out of place on a desk or even in the living room. What are your thoughts?
Choosing the Right Platform
Despite what most people may think, our personal workstations here at the PC Perspective offices aren’t exactly comprised of cutting edge hardware. Just as in every other production environment, we place a real benefit on stability with the machines that we write, photo edit, and in this case, video edit on.
The current video editing workstation for PC Perspective offices is quite old when you look at the generations upon generations of hardware we have reviewed in the years since it was built. In fact, it has hardly been touched since early 2011. Built around the then $1000 Intel Core-i7 990X, 24GB of DDR3, a Fermi-based NVIDIA Quadro 5000, and a single 240gb SandForce 2 based SSD, this machine has edited a lot of 1080p video for us with little problems.
However, after starting to explore the Panasonic GH4 and 4K video a few months ago, the age of this machine became quite apparent. Real-time playback of high bit rate 4K content was choppy at best, and scrubbing through the timeline next to impossible. Transcoding to a lower resolution mezzanine file, or turning down the playback quality in Premiere Pro worked to some extent, but made the visual quality we gained more difficult to deal with. It was clear that we were going to need a new workstation sooner than later.
The main question was what platform to build upon. My initial thought was to build using the 8-core Intel Core i7-5960X and X99 platform. The main application we use, Adobe Premiere Pro (and it’s associated Media Encoder app) are very multithreaded. Going from 6-cores with the i7-990X to 8-cores with the i7-5960S with modest improvement in IPC didn’t seem like a big enough gain nor very future proof.
Luckily, we had a pair of Xeon E5-2680v2’s around from another testbed that had been replaced. These processors each provide 10 cores (Hyperthreading enabled for a resulting 20 threads each) at a base frequency of 2.8GHz, with the ability to boost up to 3.6GHz. By going with two of these processors in a dual CPU configuration, we will be significantly increasing our compute power and hopefully providing some degree of future proofing. Plus, we already use the slightly higher clocked Xeon E5-2690v2’s in our streaming server, so we have some experience with a very similar setup.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 1, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: steam os, living room gaming, liquid cooling, gaming, DIY, corsair, computex 2015, computex, barebones, 4k
Today at Computex, Corsair unveiled a new barebones gaming PC aimed at the living room. The compact Bulldog PC is an upgradeable barebones DIY kit that offers gamers an interesting base from which to build a living room PC capable of 4K gaming. The chassis resembles an overbuilt console in that it is a short but wide design with many angular edges and aesthetic touches including stylized black case feet and red accents surrounding the vents. A hidden panel in the lower right corner reveals two USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks. It looks ready to fight in the next season of Robot Wars should you add a flamethrower or hydraulic flipper (heh).
The Bulldog kit consists of the chassis, motherboard, small form factor power supply, and a customized Hydro H55F series closed loop liquid CPU cooler. From there, users need to bring their own processor, RAM, and storage devices. There is no operating system included with the kit, but it, being a full PC, supports Windows, Linux, and SteamOS et al.
As far as graphics cards, Corsair is offering several liquid cooled NVIDIA graphics cards (initially only from MSI with other AIB partner cards to follow) that are ready to be installed in the Bulldog PC. Currently, users can choose from the GTX TITAN X, GTX 980, and GTX 970.
Alternatively, Corsair is offering a $99 (MSRP) upgrade kit for existing graphics cards with its Hydro H55 cooler and HG110 bracket.
The Bulldog case supports Mini ITX form factor motherboards and it appears that Corsair is including the Asus Z97I-Plus which is a socket 1150 board supporting Haswell-based Core processors, DDR3 memory, M.2 (though you have to take the board out of the case to install the drive since the slot is on the underside of the board), a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, four SATA 6.0 Gbps ports, and the usual fare of I/O options including USB 3.0, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and optical and analog audio outputs (among others).
A mini ITX motherboard paired with the small from factor Corsair H55F CPU cooler (left) and the internal layout of the Bulldog case with all components installed (right).
User purchased processors are cooled by the included liquid cooler which is a customized Hydro series cooler that mounts over the processor and exhausts air blower style out of the back of the case. The system is powered by the pre-installed 600W Corsair FS600 power supply. The PSU is mounted in the front of the system and the graphics card radiator and fan are mounted horizontally beside it. Along the left side of the case are mounts for a single 2.5" drive and a single 3.5" drive.
GPU manufacturers will be selling card with liquid coolers pre-installed. Users can also upgrade existing air cooled graphics cards with an optional upgrade kit.
The liquid cooling aspect of the Bulldog is neat and, according to Corsair, is what is enabling them to cram so much hardware together into a relatively small case while enabling thermal headroom for overclocking and quieter operation versus air coolers.
I am curious how well the CPU cooler performs especially as far as noise levels go with the compacted and shrouded design. Also, while there is certainly plenty of ventilation along the sides of the case to draw in cool air, I'm interested in how well the GPU HSF will be able to exhaust the heat since there are no top grilles.
Corsair is marketing the Bulldog as the next step up from your typical Steam Machine and game console and the first 4K capable gaming PC designed for the living room. Further, it would be a nice stepping stone for console gamers to jump into PC gaming.
From the press release:
“Bulldog is designed to take the 4K gaming experience delivered by desktop gaming PCs, and bring it to the big 4K screens in the home,” said Andy Paul, CEO of Corsair Components. “We knew we needed to deliver a solution that was elegant, powerful, and compact. By leveraging our leading expertise in PC case design and liquid cooling, we met that goal with Bulldog. We can’t wait to unleash it on gamers this fall.”
The Bulldog DIY PC kit is slated for an early Q4 2015 launch with a MSRP of $399. After adding in a processor, memory, storage, and graphics, Corsair estimates a completed build to start around $940 with liquid cooled graphics ($600 without a dedicated GPU) and tops out at $2,250.
Keep in mind that the lowest tier liquid cooled GPU at launch will be the MSI GTX 970 (~$340). Users could get these prices down a bit with some smart shopping and component selection along with the optional $99 upgrade kit for other GPU options. It is also worth considering that the Bulldog is being positioned as a 4K gaming machine. If you were willing to start off with a 1080p setup, you could get buy with a cheaper graphics card and upgrade later along with your TV when 4K televisions are cheaper and more widespread.
At its core, $400 for the Bulldog kit (case, quality power supply, high end motherboard, and closed loop CPU cooler) is a decent value that just might entice some console gamers to explore the world of PC gaming (and to never leave following their first Steam sale heh)! It is a big commitment for sure at that price, but it looks like Corsair is using quality components and while there is surely the usual the small form factor part price premium (especially cases), it is far from obnoxious.
What do you think about the bulldog? Is it more bark than bite or is it a console killer?
Subject: Systems | July 21, 2014 - 03:53 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: shuttle, htpc, SFF, DS81, barebones
The Shuttle DS81 ships with an H81 motherboard, an external 90 W power adapter and the 190 x 165 x 43mm case of course. That means you have your choice of installed Linux or Windows and any combination of 65W or lower Haswell processor, memory and storage device to add to the ~$200 enclosure. For outputs it provides HDMI and two DisplayPorts which means it can theoretically support 4K video, a pair of both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports and two LAN ports as WiFi is optional. While it has only headphone out for audio, the onboard codec is capable of outputting digital sound through DP or HDMI which would be the preference of many users. Check out MadShrimps full review here.
"The Slim PC chassis from been reincarnated in the shape of the DS81 which supports the latest Haswell processors with a TDP up to 65W and supports 4K video output thanks to the DirectX 11.1 IGP. The DS81 chassis features a 1.3-liter slim design with a thickness of only 43mm, so it is suitable for many commercial applications; a VESA mount is also included as a bundle in order to mount the device behind the monitor."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Shuttle Fanless Slim-PC DS437T @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte BRIX Pro Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Amazon Fire TV: A Nice Device For Internet Video Streaming @ Phoronix
- Amazon Fire TV vs Google Chromecast @ The Inquirer
Subject: Systems | November 7, 2012 - 05:04 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zotac, zbox ad06, zbox, SFF, htpc, barebones, APU, amd
Zotac has updated its small form factor ZBOX AD06 PC with a new AMD Accelerated Processing Unit that features a faster GPU portion and a dual core Zacate CPU that Zotac claims offers up to a 10% boost in performance versus the previous ZBOX.
On the outside, the ZBOX AD06 is approximately the size of a Mini-ITX motherboard, comes with a bundled VESA75/100 mount (to attach it to the back of your monitor), and features a number of ports. Internally, the ZBOX AD06 features an AMD E2-1800 APU with two CPU cores at 1.7GHz and a Radeon HD 7340 GPU. The “Plus” version bundles in 2GB of DDR3 memory and a 320GB hard drive, otherwise it is very much a bare-bones system that allows you to add your own storage.
External ports and connectivity options include:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1 x SD card reader
- 2 x analog audio jacks
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x S/PDIF optical audio output
- 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.0
The Zotac AD06 also features a bundled media center remote that will work with Windows Media Center or XBMC. And thanks to the more powerful APU, it should work well as a low-cost home theater PC. Unfortuantely, there is no word on pricing or when the AD06 or AD06 Plus will be available for purchase.
You can find the full press release below.