Watch Ken and Allyn (eventually) build the Geeek A50 ITX chassis

Subject: General Tech | October 19, 2018 - 04:40 PM |
Tagged: sffpc, SFF, itx, i7-8086k, geeek, b350-i, a50

Apropos of nothing, we decided to turn the studio cameras on this Friday morning and livestream our assembly of the Geeek A50 Mini ITX chassis for an upcoming review.

Join us as we build, and rebuild the chassis from in all of it's aluminum extrusion and acrylic panel glory while answering questions from the chat room along the way. Just try not to be too frustrated when we obviously are messing it all up.

Source: Geeek

EVGA Launches SuperNOVA GM SFX Power Supplies

Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 4, 2018 - 11:27 PM |
Tagged: evga, EVGA SuperNOVA, SFX, SFX PSU, SFF

EVGA has launched a new line of small form factor power supplies under the SuperNOVA GM series. The new power supplies are available now in 450W, 550W, and 650W models all of which are rated at 80 PLUS Gold efficiency ratings with all Japanese capacitors and built in safety technologies for OCP, OVP, OTP, OPP< SCP, and UVP protections.

EVGA SuperNOVA GM SFX PSU.jpg

The single rail (up to 54.1A on the 12V rail) power supplies utilize Active PFC (power factor correction) and DC-to-DC conversion for the 3.3V and 5V supplies. EVGA’s SuperNOVA GM PSUs are all fully modular and support SLI with two 8-pin PCI-E connections on the 450W PSU and four 8-pin PCI-E power connectors on the 550W and 650W models. A single 92mm double ball bearing fan keeps the small form factor power supply cool while the Auto ECO mode keeps fan noise at a minimum with the fan spinning down completely up to 30% load, then ramping to ~18 dBA up to around 70% load and then ramping up to 37 dBA at 100% load (for the 650W power supply).

EVGA’s SuperNOVA GM SFX power supplies come with a 7+2 year warranty (7 year base warranty plus an additional two years for a limited time according to EVGA). The GM power supplies come with a AC power cable, PSU tester, and SFX-to-ATX adapter bracket.

The power supplies are available now for $109.99 for the 450W model, $119.99 for the 550W PSU, and $129.99 for the 650W power supply. Looking around online, pricing seems to be in line with the competition at these wattages, at least when considering the premium for the SFX small form factor designs.

Source: EVGA

Introduction and Case Exterior

Corsair's new Crystal Series 280X RGB enclosure brings tempered glass and lighting effects down to the size of the company's previous micro-ATX Carbide Air 240 case (reviewed here back in 2014), creating a high-end take on this compact dual-chamber design. Beyond the stylish appearance an important question presents itself: can the Crystal 280X RGB offer sufficient airflow for good cooling with all of those glass panels? We will find out!

DSC_0728.jpg

There is no more pervasive trend in the world of PC hardware than RGB lighting, and with the Crystal Series of enclosures Corsair adds the one component you will need to see as much of that colorful lighting as possible: glass, glass, and more glass. Yes, no fewer than three panels of the tinted, tempered glass variety adorn the 280X RGB, with the side, front, and top of the case covered - or, with the front and top, partially covered. About a third of the front is a solid panel, as is a third of the top, and this serves to help illustrate from the exterior that we are actually looking at a dual-chamber design.

Not so 'micro' ATX?

There are those who feel that an enclosure's internal volume must be low to qualify as "small form-factor", and that can certainly be argued; consider this design (like that of the Air 240), then, a compact take on the larger cube-like dual-chamber case that started with the Carbide Series Air 540 which we reviewed way back in 2013. As you will see, the ease with which a clean-looking build can be completed in such a case, and the ample storage and fan support, help mitigate the size. This case is wide for its height, though the rear chamber allows for the easy installation of a full-size ATX power supply, simultaneous installation of two standard hard drives and another three SSDs, and plenty of room for cable management.

DSC_0732.jpg

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Crystal Series 280X case!

Sapphire Shows Off New 5x5 Ryzen V1000 Platform for Embedded Systems

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2018 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: SoC, SFF, sapphire, ryzen v1000, ryzen embedded, ryzen, APU, amd

Sapphire Technologies is now partnering with AMD to offer up a new small(ish) 5"x5" form factor system for embedded applications featuring AMD's Ryzen Embedded V1000 SoC APUs. The Sapphire FS-FP5V is a 5.8"x5.5" motherboard that pairs the V1000 SoC with Zen CPU cores and Vega GPU with dual channel DDR4 3200 MHz SODIMM memory slots, two M.2 slots, a single SATA 3 port, dual Ethernet, and four DisplayPort outputs supporting up to four 4K displays.

Sapphire 5x5 Ryzen V1000.jpg

The 5x5 motherboard uses a V1000 APU that is soldered to the board though the website does not specify which model Sapphire is using. The V1000 series includes APUs ranging from 12W to 54W with up to four (Zen) cores / 8 threads, a Vega-based GPU with up to 11 CUs, 2MB L2 cache, and 4MB shared L3 cache. The SoC further has AMD's PSP security processor and support for dual 10GbE though Sapphire's board only uses two Gigabit NICs (Realtek RTL8111G). Realtek chips are also used for the four channel audio solution (ALC262). The M.2 2280 can operate in PCI-E 3.0 x4 or SATA modes while the smaller M.2 2242 slot uses PCI-E x1 and can accommodate Wi-Fi cards or smaller SSDs. The FS-FP5V board also features serial RS232 and GPIO support and the motherboard is powered by a single 19V DC input.

Rear I/O includes two USB 2.0 ports (there's also one on the front), one USB 3.1 Type-C, four DisplayPort outputs, two RJ-45 GbE jacks, and a single audio output.

Sapphire plans to sell its new 5x5 board to system integrators as well as directly through their website. A video from AMD shows off the board as well as examples from Sapphire partners of SFF cases and 2x2 display walls. The new platform is aimed at video gaming systems (think casinos, arcades, and video gambling machines in bars), digital signage, large display walls, point of sale systems, and medical imaging (high resolution display outputs for medical scanning and diagnostics devices). There is no word on pricing or availability, but if you are interested there is a form you can fill out to get more information. It is nice to see AMD getting some design wins in the SFF space even if its not in consumer products yet (it's time for an AMD NUC competitor).

Update: Tom's Hardware managed to get their hands on some pricing details which show Sapphire will offer four models that vary by Ryzen Embedded processor used including:

  • Ryzen Embedded V1202B (2 core / 4 thread + Vega 3)  for $325
  • Ryzen Embedded V1605B (4 core / 8 thread + Vega 8) for $340
  • Ryzen Embedded V1756B (4 core / 8 thread + Vega 8) for $390
  • Ryzen Embedded V1807B (4 core / 8 thread + Vega 11) for $450

The first two options are 12W to 25W TDP SoCs while the latter two are 35W to 54W processors. The V1202B is clocked at 2 GHz base and up to 3.6 GHz. Moving up to the V1605B gets two more cores at an every so slightly higher 2.06 GHz base and moves from Vega 3 to Vega 8 graphics (though still at the same 1,100 MHz clockspeeds). Stepping up to the V1756B gets a processor with a much higher 3.25 GHz base but hte same maximum boost and graphics as the V1605B. Finally, moving to the flagship V1807B SoC gets an APU clocked at 3.35 GHz base and 3.8 GHz boost with Vega 11 graphics clocked at 1,300 MHz. The boards will reportedly be available later this year (relatively soon) while the UDOO Bolt will be available next year at similar price points. In all the Sapphire board seems like a decent deal for setting up a homelab or media box (though I wish the storage situation was better) while the UDOO Bolt board is aimed more at developers and makers with the inclusion of Aruino pinouts and eMMC storage (The UDOO appears to top out at the V1605B chip as well.)

(End of Update.)

Also read:

Source: AMD

Thermaltake Launches Engine 17 Cooler for SFF Systems

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 26, 2018 - 03:12 AM |
Tagged: thermaltake, SFF, LGA 1151, lga 1150, Intel

Following the release of the Engine 27 two years ago, Thermaltake is taking another stab at the Sandia Labs and CoolChip Technologies inspired air bearing metallic fan heatsink with the tiny Engine 17 cooler which, at a mere 17mm tall, is suitable for even the smallest SFF systems. The Engine 17 CPU cooler is compatible with the newer Intel 115x sockets (LGA 1150, 1151, 1155, and 1156). Measuring 95.1mm x 95.1mm x 17mm, the heatsink features a round nickel plated copper base that contacts the CPU IHS. A metallic PWM fan (9 CFM) with 40 blades spins at at 1,500 to 2,500 RPM while a thin layer of air acts as both a bearing and a heat exchange layer. A ring of 119 angled stationary fins surround the fan and help with cooling.

Thermaltake Engine 17 SFF 1U Cooler.jpg

The Engine 17 cooler has a notably small footprint with the entire cooler staying well within the bounds of the socket mounting holes and barely covering the VRMs in Thermaltake's demo images. There is definitely no need to worry about RAM compatibility with this cooler. The downside, of course, is that the size limits the processors it can cool. Thermaltake claims that the smaller Engine 17 cooler can cool up to 35W TDP processors and while it may not win any temperature feats, it should at least be fairly quiet (it is rated at 11 to 23 dBA). It would enable a very thin SFF system with an AMD Ryzen 5 2400GE or Ryzen 3 2200GE or Intel Coffee Lake T-series e.g. i7-8700T) CPU. Such a system could be used as a quiet and discreet home theater PC or game streaming endpoint or (as Thermaltake is playing up) in a 1U server for low power servers and networking devices.

The Thermaltake Engine 17 will be available soon though exact dates and pricing are still to be determined. It will likely be a bit less than the larger $47 Engine 27 cooler though.

Also read:

Source: Thermaltake

Computex 2018: Zotac's ZBOX Pico PI225 Still Tiny, Now Available

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2018 - 05:22 PM |
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.

zbox-pi225_image03.png

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?

Also read:

Source: Zotac

Computex 2018: PowerColor Makes the RX Vega 56 Nano Edition Official

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 8, 2018 - 08:22 AM |
Tagged: Vega Nano, SFF, RX Vega 56, powercolor, mini ITX, computex 2018, computex, amd

PowerColor’s new small form factor RX Vega 56 based graphics card was shown off at Computex 2018 and finally made the card official with more information provided on it following the rumors and official teaser last month. The PowerColor RX Vega 56 Nano Edition is the spiritual successor to AMD’s Fiji XT-based R9 Nano from 2015 and features an AMD RX Vega 56 GPU with 8GB HBM2 memory in a short dual slot graphics card measuring 170mm x 95mm x 38mm. In fact, PowerColor’s RX Vega 56 Nano Edition has a PCB that is only 5mm longer (according to TechPowerUp) than AMD’s previous Nano card and including the cooler is less than 2 cm longer.

PowerColor RX Vega 56 Nano Edition Mini ITX.png

PowerColor’s new SFF graphics card is a dual slot design with a single 80mm fan and dense aluminum heatsink covered by a black plastic shroud providing cooling. The card is powered by  8-pin and 6-pin power connectors and the card offers three DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.0b display outputs.

The RX Vega 56 GPU features 56 CUs (compute units) with 3,584 shader processors and 224 texture units. PowerColor has kept the GPU at reference clockspeeds of 1,156 MHz base and up to 1,471 MHz boost. The 8GB of HBM2 memory is stock clocked at 800 MHz and connects to the GPU via a 2048-bit bus.

The PowerColor RX Vega 56 Nano Edition will reportedly be available shortly with a $449 MSRP. The new small form factor Nano Edition card offers an interesting proposition for gamers wanting to build in Mini ITX systems. So long as PowerColor can get the card out at close to MSRP and performance is still there without too much thermal limitations I think there is a definite niche market for it. (Note that the R9 Nano debuted at $650 MSRP!)

Also read:

Source: PowerColor

SilverStone Launches SFF Nightjar NJ450-SXL Fanless Power Supply

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | May 22, 2018 - 07:10 PM |
Tagged: SilverStone 450W, Silverstone, SFX-L, SFF, Fanless Power Supply, 80 Plus Platinum PSU

SilverStone recently took the wraps off of a new fanless power supply for small form factor (SFX-L) systems. The Nightjar NJ450-SXL is a 450W PSU that conforms to the 80 PLUS Platinum specification where it can hit up to 92% efficiency at 100% load. The power supply, which SilverStone claims is the first SFX-L fanless PSU, features an extruded aluminum outer shell with aluminum fins running front to back on the top, bottom, left, and right sides. It measures 130mm x 63.5mm x 125mm and weighs 1.52 kg (3.35 pounds).

SilverStone NightJar NJ450-SXL Fanless PSU.jpg

The SFF PSU features a single +12V rail rated at 37.5A and is compatible with a single high end or dual mid-range GPU setup. It further features support for over current, over power, over voltage, and short circuit protection as well as active power factor correction (PFC) for cleaner AC input and more efficient power distribution to the components powered by the PSU.

The fully modular Nightjar NJ450-SXL features flat black cables that are fairly short (most of the cables are under a foot so no putting this bad boy in an E-ATX case!) to make cable management as easy as possible especially when it comes to airflow and shoving (I mean, uhm, organizing) them behind the motherboard tray to make the build look cleaner.

Notably, there are no vents on this power supply. Even so, SilverStone rates the PSU at operating temperatures of 0°C to 40°C while maintaining 100% load and 24/7 operation.

SilverStone SFX-L Fanless PSU.png

As far as supported connectors, the Nightjar NJ450-SXL features support for:

  • 1 x 24-pin ATX
  • 1 x 8-pin EPS
  • 4 x 8-pin PCI-E
  • 8 x SATA
  • 3 x 4-pin peripheral (think Molex style)
  • 1 x 4-pin floppy

SilverStone rates its new PSU at 100,000 hours MTBF at 25°C. It is not clear from its website what the pricing, availability, or warranty length will be (warranty is at least 1 year but it may be longer and the warranty page for the extended year(s) eligible products just hasn’t been updated). I am curious how this PSU will perform especially in a cramped SFF system. SilverStone claims that is silent at 0dBA, and hopefully the reviews can corroborate that. It looks like a good fanless option on paper, but I have a feeling it’s going to come at a premium price point!

Source: SilverStone

Linux Mint Launching SFF MintBox Mini 2 and Mini 2 Pro PCs Running Linux Mint 19

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2018 - 10:34 PM |
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.

MintBox Mini 2 SFF Fanless PC.png

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.

Linux Mint 19 MintBox Mini 2 Rear IO.png

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.

Also read:

Source: Fanless Tech

Airtop2 Inferno: Compact Fanless Gaming PC Featuring a Core i7-7700K and GTX 1080

Subject: Systems | February 14, 2018 - 01:49 PM |
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.

inferno_teaser.jpg

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.

Inferno_Front_Back.png

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.

Airtop2-exploded-1.jpg

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.

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Unigine-Heaven-Benchmark-4_0-C.png

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.

Source: Compulab