Introduction, Specifications, and Design
The LIVA Z2 is another in the line of fanless mini systems from ECS, and this one offers up to an Intel Gemini Lake Pentium N5000 processor, which is the configuration of our review unit. The N5000 is a 4-core, non-HyperThreaded part with a 6W TDP (4.8W SDP). The system can support up to 8GB of DDR4L SO-DIMM memory across two slots, and eMMC storage comes onboard in capacities of either 32GB or 64GB.
The first thing you might notice about the Z2 is that it is quite a bit taller than the previous LIVA designs we've seen, with the LIVA Z and Z Plus about half of the height of this new Z2. The added height allows for an optional 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD to be installed, which can be used either in place of or in addition to the onboard eMMC storage (there are no M.2 slots available).
- Intel Pentium N5000
- Intel Celeron N4100
- Intel Celeron N4000
- Memory: 2x SO-DIMM, Up to 8GB DDR4
- eMMC 32GB/64GB
- Support 1x 2.5” SATA HDD
- Audio: 1x Combo Jack, 1x Digital Mic
- LAN: 1x Gigabit LAN
- 3x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A Ports
- 1x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C Port
- 2x USB 2.0 Ports
- Video Output:
- 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x HDMI 1.4
- Wireless: Intel WiFi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.2
- Dimensions: 132 x 118 x 56.4 mm
- VESA: Supports 75mm / 100mm
- Power Adapter: Input AC 100-240V, Output DC 19V / 3.42A
- OS Support: Windows 10 64-bit
- 1x Power adapter
- 1x VESA Bracket
- 6x VESA Mount Screws
- 2x HDD Screws(Optional)
- Quick Guide & Driver DVD
Pricing and Availability: $200 - $250 MSRP ($250 as reviewed); USA availability TBD
Introduction, Specifications, and Design
Azulle's Inspire Barebone Mini PC offers a range of processor options and is, in all but the Intel Core i7 variant, a fanless system. The Inspire supports up to 32GB of DDR4 across two SoDIMMs, and supports both 2.5-inch SATA and M.2 storage. We had a chance to test out a Core i5-powered variant, and we'll explore both the design and performance in this review.
As this is a barebone system, the Inspire - like Intel NUC computers - requires users to supply memory and storage, leaving only the processor to be selected when you order. Four Intel platform options are available, with Apollo Lake ($169.99), Core i3 ($269.99), Core i5 ($334.99), and Core i7 ($449.99) CPUs. Our review unit is equipped with an Intel Core i5-7200U, which is the $334.99 configuration, and Azulle sent over NVMe storage and DDR4 memory to make this a complete system.
Specifications from Azulle:
- Intel Apollo Lake J4205
- Intel Kaby Lake i3-7100U
- Intel Kaby Lake i5-7200U
- Intel Kaby Lake i7-7500U
- RAM: Up to 32 GB DDR4
- Storage: MMC Optonal, SSD supported
- M.2. Slot: x1
- SATA: x1
- GPU: Intel® HD Graphics 620
- Wi-Fi: 2.4g/5.0g Dual-Band
- Ethernet: 1x Gigabit
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0
- DisplayPort: x1 Port, 4K @ 60 FPS
- HDMI: x1 Port, 4K @ 60 FPS
- USB: x3 3.0 Port, x1 Type-C
- SD Card Slot: x1
- IR: IR Control
- Audio Output: 3.5 mm Jack
- BIOS: Wake On LAN/ PXE/Auto Power
- Power Supply: 12V/3A
- Dimensions: 4.9 in x 4.9 in x 1.9 inches
Pricing and Availability:
- Inspire Mini PC Barebone - Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7200U: $334.99, Amazon
Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2018 - 05:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, fanless, computex 2018, computex
First spotted at last year’s Computex, Zotac’s smallest ZBOX PC made an appearance again this year - and this time around it is actually available for sale and with detailed specifications available.
The ZBOX Pico PI225 is a miniature computer approximately the size of a 2.5” SSD (it is a hair thicker though) measuring 95.4mm x 63mm x 8mm (3.76”x2.58”x0.31”) powered by a passively cooled dual core Intel processor. The all black PC features two USB Type-C ports, one micro USB port for power, and a micro SDXC card reader around the edges.the USB Type-C ports support USB 3.0 and DisplayPort with one display output adapter included in the box to drive a HDMI display. Speaking of displays, the PI225 can reportedly drive a single display at up to 4k@30Hz.
Internally the ZBOX PC is powered by a dual core Intel Celeron N3350 clocked at 1.1 GHz, Intel HD Graphics 500, 4GB LPDDR3 memory, and 32GB eMMC storage. While it would have been nice to see a refresh at this year’s Computex to Gemini Lake or something this older Intel SoC is based on the Apollo Lake architecture. Also note that it comes with Windows 10 Home x64 pre-installed so most of that 32GB internal storage will not be available out of the box. Further, the mini PC has an internal antenna and radios for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2.
This small form factor PC is aimed at digital signage and kiosks, but at a current price of $179 including a valid Windows license it is within reach of consumers as well. The passively cooled PC could be useful as Plex endpoints for media streaming or a very cheap portable, and silent audio recording PC (don’t expect any fancy audio editing on this dual core heh but it may be just enough to work with your usb mixer and other accessories and record onto a SDXC card. I’m sure there are plenty of other possible uses for such a small PC that is a full x86-64 PC alternative to single board computers like the Raspberry Pi, odroids, et al.
What are your thoughts on Zotac’s Zbox Pico?
Introduction and Design
Azulle might not be a familiar name unless you have been browsing for mini PCs lately, as the company offers various small form-factor computers and accessories on Amazon.
Today we will take a close look at their Intel Apollo Lake-powered Byte3 mini PC which starts at $179.99 (and goes up to $337.99 depending on configuration), and provides another fanless solution to this category. Does our $199.99 quad-core version, which includes Windows 10 Pro, stand out? Read on to find out!
- Processor: Quad-core Intel Apollo Lake N3450
- RAM: 4 GB / 8 GB
- Storage: eMMC 32 GB / 2.5" SSD or M.2 SSD Supported
- M.2 Slot: AHCI (SATA)
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 500
- Wi-Fi: Dual-Band 2.4 GHz / 5.0 GHz
- Ethernet: 1 Gigabit
- Bluetooth: 4.0
- Display Output: 1x HDMI (4K @60Hz), 1x VGA
- USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 / 1x USB 2.0 / 1x USB Type-C
- SD Slot: Up to 256 GB
- BIOS: Wake on LAN / PXE / BIO Reset
- IR: IR Control
- Audio Output: 3.5 mm jack
- OS Support: Windows 10 Pro / Ubuntu Linux
- Power Supply: 12V
- Dimensions: 5.6 x 4 x 1.5 inches
Thanks to Azulle for providing the Byte3 for our review!
- Azulle Byte3 Mini PC (N3450/4GB/32GB/Win 10 Pro): $199.99 - Amazon.com
We'll start with a quick look inside the box:
The Byte3 has a small, rectangular form-factor of some 5.6 inches wide and 4 inches deep, with a height of 1.5 inches.
Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2018 - 10:34 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, linux mint, linux, j3455, Intel, fanless, atom, apollo lake
The Linux Mint development team recently announced the MintBox Mini 2 and MintBox Mini 2 Pro small form factor PCs which will ship with Linux Mint 19 this summer. The tiny passively cooled computers are based on Compulab’s Fitlet2 SFF barebones PC and comes in two flavors: the base Mini 2 with Intel Celeron J3455, 4GB DDR3L, and 64GB SATA SSD and the Mini 2 Pro with J3455 processor, 8GB RAM, and 120GB solid state drive. The MintBox Mini 2 PCs measure 4.4” x 3.3” x 1.3” and weighs approximately 12 ounces.
The SFF systems come in all black and feature a row of fins along the top of the case to assist in passively cooling the processor and other components (there is a heat transfer plate above the M.2 slot as well). The fins are larger than the previous MinitBox Mini and Compulab is rating the updated hardware at an improved temperature range of -40°C to 85°C. Enthusiasts will further be able to tweak the thermal throttle and thermal shutoff safeties.
The front of the MintBox Mini 2 features a Mint logo, two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks, a micro SD card slot, and two LEDs that are controlled by GPIO and can be user-programed. There are two WI-Fi antenna ports on the right side and around back there are two USB 2.0 ports, one HDMI 1.4, one mini DisplayPort 1.2, a proprietary COM port, power input jack, and two Intel i211 powered Gigabit Ethernet ports.
While the previous generation devices were AMD based, the MintBox Mini 2 and Mini 2 Pro are based around an Intel Celeron J3455 which is a 14nm Apollo Lake desktop processor with 10W TDP that features four cores clocked at 1.5 GHz base and up to 2.3 GHz boost with 2MB cache and HD Graphics 500. While the systems come configured with RAM and storage, users can swap that out for up to 16 GB of DDR3L (there is only one SO-DIMM slot) and a single SSD drive in the M.2 2260 slot (SATA 6 Gbps based). Wireless has been refreshed on the new models to include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 which is a nice upgrade over the 802.11n wireless on the MintBox Mini and the 802.11ac+BT4.0 on the Mini Pro.
Users can extend the functionality and add additional external I/O or even a 2.5” drive with FACET expansion cards (the 2.5” drive option also requires a different bottom cover that makes the PC taller). For example, there are FACET cards that can add an additional two Gigabit Ethernet ports with the ports coming out the left side of the PC or Power Over Ethernet (PoE) support which is reportedly in the works with a PoE FACET card slated for availability by the time the MintBox Mini 2 launches in June.
The compact and fan-less PC seems perfect for a router or IoT gateway as well as a handy tool for penetration testers and IT admins to troubleshoot and monitor networks. Its intended purpose is as a lower cost silent desktop or thin client for home users and Linux Mint fans.
The MintBox Mini 2 and MintBox Mini 2 Pro will be available in June pre-loaded with Linux Mint 19 for $299 and $349 respectively. The MintBox Mini 2 is based on the barebones Fitlet2 PC ($176) which comes sans memory or storage, so they do not seem like a bad deal especially considering a part of that premium you are paying for the MintBox is in the support and validation of compatibility with the Linux OS.
If you are curious about the state of the project and the hardware, the Mint developers have been answering questions and running benchmarks for people using an alpha build of the Mint OS in the comments section of this blog post.
- Linux-Powered SFF MintBox 2 Coming Soon for $600
- Fanless MintBox PC Receives Price Cut, Makes It More-Competitive Intel NUC Alternative
- Small form factor hardware comes pre-loaded with Linux Mint
Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards | March 8, 2018 - 02:55 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: passive cooling, mini ITX, j4005i-c, Intel, gemini lake, fanless, asus
Asus is launching a new Mini ITX motherboard packing a passively-cooled Intel Celeron J4005 "Gemini Lake" SoC. The aptly-named Asus Prime J4005I-C is aimed at embedded systems such as point of sale machines, low end networked storage, kiosks, and industrial control and monitoring systems and features "5x Protection II" technology which includes extended validation and compatibility/QVL testing, overcurrent and overvoltage protection, network port surge protection, and ESD resistance. The board also features a EUFI BIOS with AI Suite.
The motherboard features an Intel Celeron J4005 processor with two cores (2.0 GHz base and 2.7 GHz boost), 4MB cache, Intel UHD 600 graphics, and a 10W TDP. The SoC is passively cooled by a copper colored aluminum heatsink. The processor supports up to 8GB of 2400 MHz RAM and the motherboard has two DDR4 DIMM slots. Storage is handled by two SATA 6 Gbps ports and one M.2 slot (PCI-E x2) for SSDs. Further, the Prime J4005I-C has an E-key M.2 slot for WLAN and Bluetooth modules (PCI-E x2 or USB mode) along with headers for USB 2.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1, LVDS, and legacy LPT and COM ports.
Rear I/O includes two PS/2, two USB 2.0, one Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8111H), two USB 3.1 Gen 1, one HDMI, one D-SUB, one RS232, and three audio ports (Realtek ALC887-UD2).
The motherboard does not appear to be for sale yet in the US, but Fanless Tech notes that is is listed for around 80 euros overseas (~$100 USD). More Gemini Lake options are always good, and Asus now has one with PCI-E M.2 support though I see this board being more popular with commercial/industrial sectors than enthusiasts unless it goes on sale.
Subject: Systems | February 14, 2018 - 01:49 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, silent, SFF, nvidia, mini PC, Intel, Inferno, GTX 1080, gaming, fanless, core i7 7700k, compulab, Airtop2
Compulab, maker of mini systems such as the fitlet and Airtop is bringing the compact, fanless concept to a powerful gaming system - with no less than an Intel Core i7-7700K and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080. The catch? Is is not yet available, pending an upcoming Kickstarter campaign beginning February 24.
The teaser image of the upcoming Airtop2 Inferno fanless gaming system
The Airtop2 is already available for purchase in a fanless workstation version, built-to-order with up to an Intel Xeon E3-1275 v6 and NVIDIA Quadro P4000 (starting at $2575 for that configuration before adding memory/storage), and this new "Inferno" version of the Airtop2 promises to be very interesting to silent computing enthusiasts.
Front and rear views of the Inferno system
A fanless gaming system with high-end components is only going to be as effective as its cooling system, and here Compulab has a lot of experience on the industrial/embedded side of things.
Exploded view of the standard Airtop2 design (no images of the Airtop2 Inferno interior available yet)
Compulab lists these specs for the Airtop2 Inferno (along with the teaser, "and a little more..."):
- Unlocked Intel Core-i7 7700K
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
- Up to 64 GB DDR4 2400 RAM
- 2x NVMe + 4x 2.5″ SSD / HDD
- 2x USB 3.1 + 7x USB 3.0 | dual LAN | front (and back) audio
Compulab has also provided some benchmark results to demonstrate how effective their fanless implementation of these components is, with results using 3DMark and Unigine Heaven available on the Inferno product page.
The company has set up a Q&A page for the Airtop2 Inferno, but pricing/availability info will probably have to wait until February 24th when the Kickstarter campaign is active.
Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2018 - 12:44 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: simply nuc, nuc, Dawson Canyon, 8th generation core, Intel, fanless, SFF
Intel partner Simply NUC has announced its new commercial NUC lineup powered by Kaby Lake R vPro processors. The lineup includes the NUC7i7DNKE thin chassis, NUC7i7DNHE with tall chassis and 2.5" drive support, the board-only NUC7i7DNBE, and NUC7i7DNFE which features a fanless design.
The company's new Dawson Canyon NUCs are all based on the same 4" x 4" motherboard platform and the Intel Core i7 8650U vPro processor. Save for the taller model, the small form factor PCs share the same external I/O including four USB 3.0 ports, two HDMI 2.0 (4k@60Hz) video outputs, and an Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet port. Specifically, networking is handled by an Intel i219-LM Ethernet controller and Intel 8265 802.11ac wireless (2x2 at up to 867 Mbps) + Bluetooth 4.2. The wireless module comes pre-installed in all except the board only SKU where it is optional. At a minimum the Simply NUC PCs (except board only) come with a 4GB SODIMM for RAM and a 128GB M.2 SATA solid state drive. Before OS or any other upgrades, the NUC with active cooling chassis systems start at 709.95. Pricing for the board only NUC7i7DNBE and fanless NUC7i7DNFE has not yet been released but I would expect the board only SKU to go for around $550 and the fanless model to come in around $750.
Users can add their own hardware or configure them from Simply NUC with up to 32 GB of RAM, 2TB of NVMe PCI-E storage (for a more than pretty penny!), and an additional 2TB of 2.5" SATA hard drive storage on the NUC7i7DNHE model.
The Core i7 8650U used in these Dawson Canyon NUCs is a quad core Kaby Lake R processor with a 15W TDP that runs at a base clockspeed of 1.9 GHz and can boost to up to 4.2 GHz. It supports Intel's vPro and AMT management technologies, has 8MB of cache, and features Intel UHD Graphics 620 running at up to 1.15 GHz.
The Dawson Canyon NUCs are available for pre-order now and are expected to ship as soon as March 2018 (though the Simply NUC website lists April 6th at time of publication). I am interested to see the fan-less model, but these machines seem very much targeted at the business and industrial markets rather than home PCs so expect to pay a premium for the small form factor if you are interested in them.
Subject: Motherboards | January 22, 2018 - 11:24 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, gemini lake, fanless, asrock
Not ready to let Gigabyte have all the fun, ASRock has announced two new Mini ITX motherboards of its own that come pre-loaded with quad core Intel Gemini Lake processors cooled using fanless heatsinks. The ASRock J4105-ITX and J4105B-ITX measure 6.7" x 6.7" and sport a "sapphire black" PCB constructed of a high-density glass fabric that is allegedly more resistant to humidity and helps to prevent electrical shorts. The boards use all solid capacitors and have voltage spike protections for board components. The J4105-ITX may be of more interest to home users while the J4105B-ITX variant is aimed at industrial and commercial setups since it downgrades the audio outputs but adds more USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports and adds legacy connections for serial (COM), parallel (Printer port), and D-Sub outputs to the rear I/O.
The new Gemini Lake motherboards have a soldered-on Gemini Lake processor cooled by a black heatsink in the top left corner. Two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots sit to the right and beneath the processor (up to 8GB 2400 MHz). The J4105-ITX has a Key E M.2 slot for 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth modules, a single PCI-E 2.0 x1 slot, four SATA 6.0 Gbps ports for storage, and headers for a CPU fan, one chassis fan, one USB 3.1 Gen 1, and two USB 2.0 headers (3 ports max). The four SATA ports are comprised of two from the Intel chip and two from an ASMedia ASM1061 chip. On the other hand, the J4105B-ITX does not have a M.2 slot, has a physical PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot (electrically x2), and only two SATA 6.0 Gbps ports. Both boards appear to use the same networking chipset for Gigabit Ethernet with the Realtek RTL8111H. Audio chipsets are a bit different with the J4105-ITX using the Realtek ALC892 and the J4105B-ITX using a slightly cut down Realtek ALC887 chipset.
Rear I/O is as follows:
|2 x PS/2||1 x PS/2|
|1 x D-Sub (VGA)||1 x D-Sub|
|1 x DVI-D||1 x COM|
|1 x HDMI||1 x Printer Port|
|2 x USB 3.1 (5Gbps)||3 x USB 3.1 (5Gbps)|
|2 x USB 2.0||1 x USB 2.0|
|1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)||1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)|
|6 x Audio (5 x 3.5mm + 1 x S/PDIF||3 x Audio (3 x 3.5mm)|
The Gemini Lake processor used is the Intel Celeron J4105 which is a quad core part (no Hyperthreading) with Intel UHD 600 graphics, 4MB cache, and clockspeeds from a base of 1.5 GHz to a maximum turbo of 2.5 GHz. The UHD 600 GPU reportedly has 12 EUs (execution units) and a max frequency of 750 MHz and supports 4K60 video output, multiple displays, and hardware acceleration of HVEC H.265 10-bit (and 8-bit), H.264 AVC, VP8, VP9 8 and 10-bit video codecs.
This new processor is based on the Goldmont+ architecture which is a bit more efficient and features higher clocks than Apollo Lake along with more L2 cache. You won't be gaming on these things (at least not locally; you should look for APUs or the Intel+Vega Kaby Lake-G CPU for that in this SFF space), but if you need small and silent low power PC for a streaming box, or office work this might fit the bill. I think the biggest market for these particular boards will be small businesses, kiosks, signage, and industrial control and monitoring systems though as they may be a bit too bare bones for enthusiasts to tinker with or home users to get the most out of them (e.g. only one GbE port, 8GB of RAM max, and somewhat limited USB 3.1 ports).
ASRock has not yet announced pricing or availability.
What are your thoughts on these low power SFF boards?
- GIGABYTE Announces Gemini Lake Motherboards with Intel Pentium Silver Processors
- Details on Intel's Gemini Lake SoC Leak: A Refined Apollo Lake Coming Soon
Subject: Motherboards, Processors | January 19, 2018 - 01:39 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form-factor, SFF, pentium, motherboard, mini ITX, Intel Pentium Silver, Intel, integrated CPU, gigabyte, gemini lake, fanless, embedded, celeron
GIGABYTE has announced motherboards for the new Gemini Lake platform featuring built-in Intel Pentium Silver and Intel Celeron processors. These fanless J/N series motherboards also offer the company's trademark "Ultra Durable" components and customizable performance settings.
As to the Gemini Lake platform, here are some of the details as reported by CNXSoft at last month's CPU launch:
"The models include two Pentium Silver quad core processor with N5000 for mobile, J5005 for desktop, and four Celeron dual/quad core processors with N4000 & N4100 for mobile, and Celeron J4005 & J4105 for desktop.
All processors share the same 4MB cache which will help with performance improvement, and dual channel DDR4-2400, LPDDR4-2400 memory. Pentium processors come with Intel UHD Graphics 605 clocked up to 750/800 MHz, and Celeron processors are instead equipped with UHD Graphics 600 up to 650/750 MHz which the exactly frequency depending on model."
Image credit: CNXSoft
"[our] newest J/N series motherboards utilize a fanless cooling solution and the built-in Intel Gemini Lake processors make them perfect for compact, mainstream builds. The motherboards support HDMI 2.0 4K at 21:9 resolution for high definition video quality. Integrated PCIe Gen2 x2 M.2 slots supporting high speed NVMe SSD allows for fast data transfer speeds. The board's native Intel WIFI via the M.2 Connector along with an independently sold Intel CNVi wireless networking solution can make way for impressive wireless connectivity exceeding 1 gigabit per second, traditionally found in wired connections. Additionally, its support for M.2 SATA SSD, UDIMM DDR4 modules rated for 2400MHz, and noise free configurations makes it a perfect option for school, business, and home usage."
Pricing and availability were not specified in the press release (full PR after the break).