Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and First Impressions

The LIVA family of mini PCs has been refreshed regularly since its introduction in 2014, and the LIVA Z represents a change to sleek industrial design as well as the expected updates to the internal hardware.

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The LIVA Z we have for review today is powered by an Intel Apollo Lake SoC, and the product family includes SKUs with both Celeron and Pentium processors. Our review unit is the entry-level model with a Celeron N3350 processor, 4GB memory, and 32GB storage. Memory and storage support are improved compared to past LIVAs, as this is really more of a mini-PC kit like an Intel NUC, as the LIVA Z includes an M.2 slot (SATA 6.0 Gbps) for storage expansion, and a pair of SODIMM slots support up to 8 GB of DDR3L memory (a single 4GB SODIMM is installed by default).

The LIVA Z is a very small device, just a bit bigger than your typical set-top streaming box, and like all LIVAs it is fanless; making it totally silent in operation. This is important for many people in applications such as media consumption in a living room, and like previous LIVA models the Z includes a VESA mount for installation on the back of a TV or monitor. So how does it perform? We will find out!

Continue reading our review of the ECS LIVA Z fanless mini PC!

Computex 2017: ZOTAC Introduces the MEK Mini-ITX Gaming PC

Subject: Systems | May 30, 2017 - 02:18 AM |
Tagged: zotac, PC, mini-itx, MEK, kaby lake, Intel Core i7, GTX 1080 Mini, GTX 1080, gaming, computex 2017, computex, computer

ZOTAC has introduces a new gaming brand at Computex, and along with it their first gaming PC. Have no fear, however, this gaming machine is quite compact from the mini-PC maker, as it is built around a mini-ITX motherboard and compact GPU.

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"ZOTAC Gaming’s first gaming product, MEK Gaming PC, debuts at Computex Taipei. Built for gaming enthusiasts, it is powered by a ZOTAC GeForce® GTX 1080 Mini, 7th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 processor and a low-profile CPU Cooler to deliver overwhelming performance for high-end gaming and premium entertainment. With a futuristic design, MEK marks the beginning of gaming products for a new brand, ZOTAC Gaming, focused on gaming products fit for all who Live to Game."

The GPU might be based on a smaller than the average PCB, but you are getting a full NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 courtesy of ZOTAC's own GTX 1080 Mini graphics card, which is just 8.3 inches long (and "the world's smallest GeForce GTX 1080," according to ZOTAC).

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Other than the above quoted 7th-gen Intel Core i7 processor we don't have much information on the specifications for the upcoming MEK Gaming PC, but the images of the enclosure paint a promising picture for small form-factor gaming enthusiasts as it appears to be quite compact.

Source: ZOTAC

HP's Latest Omen Desktop Puts a Gaming System in a Cube

Subject: Systems | August 17, 2016 - 04:25 PM |
Tagged: PC, Omen 900, Omen, hp, gaming, desktop, cube, computer

HP has introduced a new pre-built gaming desktop, and while the Omen series has existed for a while the new Omen offers a very different chassis design.

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This Omen isn't just cube-like, it's actually a cube (Image credit: HP)

Inside the specifications look like the typical pre-built gaming rig, with processors up to an Intel Core i7 6700K and graphics options including AMD's Radeon RX 480 and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080. Configurations on HP's online store start at $1799 for a version with a GTX 960, a 1TB spinning hard drive, and a single 8GB DIMM. (Curiously, though reported as the "Omen X", the current listing is for an "Omen 900".)

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A look inside an AMD Crossfire configuration (Image credit: HP via The Verge)

HP is certainly no stranger to unusual chassis designs, as those who remember the Blackbird 002 (which Ryan stood on - and reviewed - here) and subsequent Firebird 803 systems will know. The Verge is reporting that HP will offer the chassis as a standalone product for $599, itself an unusual move for the company.

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(Image credit: HP)

The new Omen desktop goes on sale officially starting tomorrow.

Source: The Verge

Kangaroo is a Pocket-Sized Battery-Powered Windows 10 PC

Subject: Systems | October 31, 2015 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: x5-Z8500, windows 10, PC, mini-pc, Kangaroo, intel atom, InFocus, computer, Cherry Trail

InFocus has created what they are calling “the world’s smallest personal, powerful, portable PC”, and the Kangaroo is certainly an impressive-looking device that looks even better when you consider the $99 price tag.

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The Kangaroo is looks like a 2.5-inch external hard drive, and inside the sleek housing it offers a quad-core Intel Atom (Cherry Trail) x5-z8500 processor with a nominal speed of 1.44 GHz (turbo up to 2.24 GHz), along with the usual 2 GB RAM and 32 GB eMMC storage. Add dual-band 802.11ac wireless and a built-in fingerprint reader, and this becomes a quite the full-featured mini-PC. And the best part might just be the battery, as the Kangaroo can operate for up to 4 hours of “casual use” without wall power, according to InFocus.

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Here are the full specifications from InFocus:

  • OS: Windows 10 - Home edition
  • CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8500 Processor (2M Cache, up to 2.24 GHz)
  • Graphics: Intel Processor Graphics Gen8
  • Video Memory: Sharing System Memory
  • Memory: 2GB LPDDR3
  • Hard Drive: 32GB eMMC
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 A/C (Dual Band) / Bluetooth 4.0
  • Expansion Slot microSD
  • Security: Fingerprint reader
  • Battery Life: 4 hours (casual use)
  • Dimensions: Computing module : 80.5 x 124 x 12.9mm / Base : 80.5 x 46.9 x 12.9mm
  • Weight: 200g (without adapter & power cord) / 470g (including adapter & power cord)
  • Ports: (Computing module) microSD, Micro USB (charge only); (Base) USB 2.0 x 1, USB 3.0 x 1, HDMI x 1, DC-IN
  • Audio: Supported through HDMI
  • Cloud: OneDrive
  • Power Adapter: Input: 100V-220V ~ 1A, 50-60Hz / Output: 12V/3A
  • Accessories included: Software - OS Link (requires USB cable), dock, power supply, cables

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There’s even more versatility available for the Kangaroo user when you add the OSLinx iOS app to the mix, essentially allowing you to use the tablet as a monitor:

“Your iPad is all you need to have to enjoy the benefits of your Kangaroo PC on the go. OSLinx Windows Monitor turns your iOS device into a primary display of your Kangaroo PC. It connects to a PC through a Lightning-to-USB cable and works with OSLinx Server installed on the Kangaroo PC. OSLinx Windows Monitor supports mouse as well as multitouch gestures.”

The Kangaroo is available now, and currently being sold on Newegg.com for that $99 MSRP.

Source: InFocus

SolidRun Launches CuBox Pro Miniature Desktop Computer

Subject: Systems | January 9, 2013 - 10:36 AM |
Tagged: ubuntu, solidrun, linux, desktop, cubox pro, cubox, computer

Israeli-startup SolidRun is launching an updated model of its CuBox mini PC called the CuBox Pro. The small desktop computer measures 2 x 2 x 2-inches and weighs a mere 91 grams. The CuBox Pro is not only small in size, it also sips a mere 3 watts at full load. It comes pre-loaded with Ubuntu Linux, but the CuBox Pro can be loaded with alternative operating systems by way of a microSD card. The hardware is nothing spectacular on the performance front, but it is capable of 1080p HD video playback. Interestingly, Youtube user rabeeh3000 reported that the CuBox Pro draws less than 2.5 Watts while playing a HD movie in XBMC.

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Speaking of hardware, the CuBox Pro is powered by a Marvell ARMADA 510 SoC clocked at 800 MHz. It is supported by 2GB of DDR3 memory, and internal storage is handled by a microSD card slot.

Rear IO on the CuBox Pro includes two USB 2.0 ports, one HDMI video output, one eSATA connector, one Gigabit Ethernet port, DC power jack, and a single S/PDIF audio output on the side of the case. Further, the CuBox Pro has an infrared receiver, which will enable remotes to be used with media center software.

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The CuBox Pro is slated to be available sometime in January for $159. Alternatively, the original CuBox with 1GB of DDR3 is available for $139. Admittedly, it is a bit pricey considering there are cheaper options like the Raspberry Pi but you are getting a complete OEM system (whereas you would have to add an SD card, USB infrared receiver, and case to the price of the Pi).

You can find more information abou the CuBox computer on the SolidRun website

Source: Venture Beat

Hardkernel Launching Quad Core ODROID-X Android Computer

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2012 - 08:53 AM |
Tagged: SFF, Samsung, linux, hardkernel, Exynos 4, computer, arm

If you are an Android developer and have been itching to get your hands on some high end, quad core hardware, than Korean company HardKernel may have just what you’re looking for. The new ODROID-X is an Android developer board (meaning it comes as just a single board computer sans case or accessories. For $129 plus shipping and customs fees, you can have a 90 x 94mm PCB with a Samsung Exynos 4412 ARM Cortex-A9 quad core at 1.4 GHz (1MB cache), Mali 400 GPU, 1GB RAM, and runs on a 5V, 2A power adapter.

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IO for the ODROID-X includes headphone and microphone jacks, six USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 Ethernet, SDHC card slot, 50-pin GPIO connector, UART serial connector, MIPI-CAM camera connector, HDMI, and a power jack. In other words, it is extremely expandable. It is capable of outputting 1080p video over HDMI when using the H.264 video codec thanks to dedicated hardware acceleration. Hardkernel will happily sell you accessories but you would likely be better off buying it from a local retailer or online shop that is in-country to avoid the extra shipping and customs fees. The power jack and other ports are standard, so there aren’t any worries there. Android 4.0 ICS is reportedly available for download, though no word yet on when the newly announced Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" OS build will be up on the site.

Thanks to the Samsung Exynos 4, you definitely have more oomph than the 700 MHz ARMv7 in the Raspberry Pi, though this board isn’t nearly as small (and costs about four times as much). If you need the extra horsepower, this may be worth considering at this price but be sure figure out the import taxes and shipping for your location to figure out what it will really cost you to get your hands on. Read more about the ODROID-X's specifications over at the Hardkernel website.

Source: Ars Technica

Raspberry Pi Computers Pass EMC Compliance Testing

Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 8, 2012 - 08:38 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, pcb, emc test, computer, compliance testing, arm

The highly anticipated Raspberry Pi ARM computer has run into several launch hiccups, the most recent being that the distributors -- RS and Farnell -- refused to sell and ship the devices without the Raspberry Pi passing the proper electromagnetic interference testing. While such certification is not required for Arduino or Beagle Boards, the companies stated that because the Raspberry Pi was (more) likely to be used as a final consumer product (and not a development board) it needed to obtain and pass EMC testing to ensure that it would not interfere with (or be interfered by) other electronic devices.

According to a recent blog post by the charity behind the ARM powered Linux computer, the Raspberry Pi has passed the EMC compliance testing with flying colors -- after a few hiccups with a network hub used to test the Raspberry Pi while it was being hit with an EM field were sorted out.

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The team has been working out of Panasonic’s facility in South Wales to test the Raspberry Pi. Due to having the lab area for a whole week, they managed to knock out consumer product inference testing for several other countries as well. Mainly, the Raspberry Pi is now compliant with the UK CE requirements, the United States’ FCC, Australia’s CTick, and Canada’s Technical Acceptance Certificate (TAC).

Assuming the paper work is properly filed and RS and Farnell accept the certifications, the Raspberry Pi units should begin winging their way to customers shortly. Are you still waiting on your Raspberry Pi, and if so have you decided what you intend to use it for yet?

If you are interested in the Raspberry Pi, be sure to check out some of our other coverage of the little ARM computer!

Apple Sitting On Pile Of Cash, Will Pay Out Dividends

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2012 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: finance, computer, apple

Apple inc, the popular consumer electronics and computer company behind such brushed aluminum products as the MacBook and iPad is currently sitting on a huge pile of cash. Specifically, they have $97.6 billion dollars on hand in cash and securities (!). Allegedly, former CEO Steve Jobs maintained these liquid assets in the event that they needed to buy out a company to make any problems go away.

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Apparently, current CEO Tim Cook has other ideas about what to do with the company's money, including giving a small portion of it back to shareholders in the form of dividends. In light of this announcement, the company expects their stock price a grow over the long term. After generating $31 billion in cash last year (September to September), and on track to rake in even more profits this year Tim Cook does not foresee a dividend having any negative impact on their liquid assets. The quarterly dividend in question is set to be $2.65 per share stating July 1, 2012.

Apple is further instituting a $10 billion share buyback program that is reportedly being implemented to offset shares issues to employees. The buyback program will last for three years and begins on September 30, 2012.

After the release of the iPad 3 new iPad (sigh) and positive reaction to dividend announcement, their stock price is rising and they are still sitting on quite the pile of money even with the new dividend!

Source: PhysOrg

Raspberry Pi Linux Computer Launches, Pre-Orders Sold Out

Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 29, 2012 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, mobile, linux, hdmi, computer

The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced yesterday that their little Linux computer would be launching in the early hours of the morning today. Instead of the original plan of Raspberry Pi handling the pre-orders and shipping them from the UK, they ended up partnering with RS Components and Premier Farnell to handle all their orders and distribute them to customers. The non profit foundation states that this move will save customers money on shipping as the two companies have distribution centers worldwide and they will be able to get more boards out because they will be able to sell enough boards to meet demand.

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Today, RS and Farnell were offering up the Model B Raspberry Pi boards for pre-order, and the first 5,000 orders from each company will receive their Raspberry Pi boards from the initial 10,000 unit batch. Surprisingly, the two companies' servers were getting hit extremely hard earlier today and it was almost impossible to not see at least a couple error pages requiring a painfully long refresh. According to the article, the Raspberry Pi computer sold out "within hours." Even though the initial batch of boards is spoken for, customers can continue to pre-order boards that will be delivered as soon as the next batch has finished production. Those unlucky enough to miss the first 10,000 aren't completely out of luck; however, as it is rumored that production of more boards should be getting underway and have an estimated delivery date a bit more than a month away. How true that is, remains to be seen however.

Personally, I managed to snag one of the first Raspberry Pi boards from Farnell Export, but it was an order fraught with error pages and being uncertain just how many I ordered as the confirm order page kept error-ing out. Luckily, I received an email from them confirming my order of a single Raspberry Pi and am now eagerly waiting for it to arrive. The last estimated delivery figure I received puts it about a month out, however.

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In another bit of good news, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is still planning to release the cheaper Model A board later this year, and they managed to up the RAM to a full 256 MB of RAM which is twice the original 128 MB of RAM they planned.  This update to the Model A means that the Model B is now only differentiated by the addition of two USB ports and an Ethernet port.

Did you manage to snag a Raspberry Pi this morning?  From how hard the servers were getting hit last night, I'm starting to think that the Raspberry Pi Linux computer may be more popular than actual pie!  If you are still interested in pre-ordering a Raspberry Pi, RS Components and Premier Farnell have you covered.

Source: Maximum PC

NZXT Launching New Switch 810 Full Tower Computer Case

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 17, 2012 - 04:34 PM |
Tagged: nzxt, full tower, computer, chassis, case, atx

NZXT, a computer case manufacturer that has been around since 2004, is today launching a new full tower computer case with the Switch 810 chassis. The new full tower case includes several features aimed at enthusiasts along with a 2 year warranty and choice of two colors (white or black). NZXT founder Johnny Hou seems confident in the case by stating that the new chassis "offers enthusiasts an array of advanced features intuitively implemented into one of the most unique designs we've ever created."

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The full tower case supports EATX motherboards with up to nine expansion slots and 375 millimeters of space for large, modern graphics cards when the front fan is removed. The motherboard tray further supports plenty of cable routing holes and a CPU back plate cut out. Further, the interior of the can can hold four 5.25" drives, six 3.5" drives, and up to 10 120mm or 140mm fans. The front, bottom, and drive bay area of the case houses two fans each. Meanwhile, the top of the case houses three cases and the rear holds one fan. Constructed of steel and plastic, the case weighs in at 9.1 Kg or about 20 lbs.

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As you can see from the outside of the case, the Switch 810 chassis supports four 5.25" drives, audio and microphone connectors, two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, and a card reader. Also, a filter for the bottom intake can be removed from the front of the case. Some of the touted features of the new case include the ability to easily install water cooling and the new "hybrid fins" that allow users to close the fins to reduce dust and quiet the computer or open the fins along the top to maximize airflow. Tool-less drive bays, an acrylic side window, and a white LED that can be switched on or off are also features of the Switch 810 case.

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The NZXT switch is available now for $169.99 USD. More information and photos of the case can be found here. What do you think of the new case, are you impressed with the "hybrid design?"

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The proposed airflow diagram for the new NZXT case.

Source: NZXT