A Console-Size Mini-ITX Option
Examining the lower limits of enclosure volume has become something of a cottage industry in the last few years, with crowdfunded projects such as the NCASE M1 and the DAN Cases A4-SFX providing backers with custom designs that attempt to reduce the mini-ITX computer case concept to its absolute minimum size. The Sentry 2.0 differs in a few ways from those previous efforts, most obviously in that it is not a “shoebox” design, opting instead for a narrow game console-style layout. It is also a steel enclosure rather than the all-aluminum designs from DAN Cases and NCASE (both produced by Lian Li), making it quite a bit heavier while promising a more rugged construction.
“Sentry is the world's first truly console-sized gaming PC chassis. It houses powerful components within a volume below 7 litres, which over the decades has been considered the optimal size for all media appliances residing in front of a TV. Sentry 2.0 is an evolution of Sentry, bringing more features and more performance in the same sub-7 litre package.”
The Sentry 2.0 is the follow up to the crowdfunded original Sentry case, both of which are game console-sized mini-ITX enclosures that are designed to house standard components within the limits of a 6.9-liter total volume. Unusually we are reviewing this case during its crowdfunding campaign - though it has actually been fully funded at this point and you can check out the page on Indigogo here. Pricing is similar to what we have seen from other crowdfunded cases, and while $260 might seem high (especially for a steel case rather than aluminum) there has been quite a bit of thought packed into the Sentry 2.0 design.
In addition to supporting mini-ITX motherboards the Sentry 2.0 makes use of SFX form-factor power supplies and can support a full-length graphics card if you are air-cooling the CPU (the extra space beyond an ITX-sized GPU could then support a 120mm radiator and slim fan). It’s a pretty straightforward internal layout, so without further preamble let’s check out the design and then move on to the build I came up with for this pre-production Sentry 2.0, which DR ZĄBER was kind enough to send to us.
First, however, a look at the specifications:
- Main body dimensions (WxDxH): 340 x 310 x 66mm, 6.9L
- Motherboard format: Mini-ITX
- Power supply support: SFX 100mm (SFX-L not supported)
- Expansion slots: 2, full height, ATX reference PCB width
- Main drive installation mounts:
- 1 x 2.5" partially above motherboard
- 1 x 2.5" next to SFX power supply
- Secondary drive installation mounts:
- 2 x 3.5" inside VGA bay
- Memory Compatibility:
- Standard profile DIMM modules
- Max 31.4mm tall pcb/34mm with heatspreaders
- Tall modules will obstruct 2.5" drive bracket
- VGA Card Compatibility:
- Full Length GPU for use without AIO Liquid Cooling or 3.5" HDDs
- ITX-sized GPU for use with AIO Liquid Cooling or single 3.5" HDD
- CPU cooler support:
- CPU Socket far from PCI-E Slot:
- Max height of 47mm (standard intel box cooler height)
- 120mm All-In-One Liquid Cooler, radiator + fan max height of 50mm
- CPU Socket near the PCI-E Slot:
- Max height of 47mm and primary 2.5" mount obstructed
- Max height of 37mm and primary 2.5" mount available
- CPU Socket far from PCI-E Slot:
- Front ports: 2 x USB 3.0
- PCI-E 16X Riser: high-quality shielded 50mm ribbon
- Material: 1mm galvanized steel with structural powder coating
- Security: Kensington slot
Pricing and Availability: $260, Indigogo campaign
Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 3, 2019 - 08:38 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFF, sentry, enclosure, DR ZĄBER, crowdfunding, case
DR ZĄBER launched the crowdfunding campaign for the Sentry 2.0 on April 1, and the campaign on indigogo is well under way. Version 1.1 of the Sentry was successfully funded in 2017, and three days into this Sentry 2.0 campaign over a third of the $260,000 goal has already been reached.
What exactly is this new case from the Małopolska, Poland-based company?
"Sentry 2.0 is an evolution of Sentry, a 7L console-sized PC chassis that was crowdfunded in 2017, quickly reaching over 1000% of its campaign goal. Sentry 2.0 brings many improvements based on feedback from backers and sff enthusiasts community over original Sentry delivered in 2017.
Sentry 2.0 is a PC case highly anticipated by the small form factor PC enthusiasts, developed and improved upon original Sentry with community support, and was covered by leading PC hardware youtube channels such as LinusTechTips, Bitwit or Paul's Hardware.”
We are happy to report that a Sentry 2.0 has found its way to our secret enclosure testing facility, and a review is coming soon here at PC Perspective.
The ECS Liva series are well deserving of the moniker small form factor, as they are generally a bit larger than a deck of poker cards or two. The newest Q2 is no exception, at 70x70x33.4mm (2.75x2.75x1.3") it could theoretically fit in your pocket, though like your phone, that is probably not the best place for it. This new model upgrades the APU to a dual core Celeron N4000 with HD Graphics 600, 4GB of LPDDR4-2400 and 32 GB of eMMC flash for local storage.
TechPowerUp put the wee box through a variety of tests, including streaming video from various sources as that is what the Liva Q2 is most likely to be used for and it performed admirably, though the 4GB is a bit of a problem when using Chrome.
"ECS has upgraded the LIVA Q line with the new Q2. This ultra-tiny system really is a fully functional PC that will fit into your pocket. This latest release features not only a faster processor but also HDMI 2.0, which makes it the perfect HTPC that can also handle daily tasks and light workloads."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- AWD-IT CR8 NZXT PUBG H700 System @ Kitguru
- The Smallest Ryzen Yet: Asrock DeskMini A300 @ Techspot
- ASRock Phantom Gaming Alliance System Build (8700K + RX 580) @ TechPowerUp
- The Ars Technica System Guide, Winter 2019: The one about the servers
Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 8, 2019 - 04:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: modular psu, corsair, SFX, SF450, 450W, SFF
SFX PSUs are great for small form factor builds, at 4" long it will fit into those smaller systems and in the case of this SF450 from Corsair, the 17" long cables allow you to cleanly route them through the chassis. This is an updated model, you can find the previously released SF450 still on the market and unfortunately for the 2018 model, it is about $30 cheaper.
Is there anything to the updated model which justifies the increase in price? Check out [H]ard|OCP's full review for the answer.
"The Corsair SF450 SFX is, as you might have guessed from the "SFX" part number, a computer PSU built specifically with small form factor systems in mind. Corsair promises high power density along with "low noise," which are two qualities that many SFF builders are likely looking for. It also brings has Platinum level efficiency and is fully modular."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- NZXT E Series 650 W @ TechPowerUp
- be quiet! Pure Power 11 700W L11-CM-700W Power Supply Unit Review @ NikKTech
- Cooler Master MWE Gold 750 @ Overclockers Club
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
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
Subject: Cases and Cooling | November 16, 2018 - 04:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Silverstone, lucid LD01, tempered glass, SFF
The Lucid LD01 from Silverstone is designed for small form factor builds as the largest motherboard it can fit is microATX. That small size does not preclude decent cooling, you can install a pair of 120/140mm fans at the front and top, as well as additional single 120/140mm fans at the bottom and the rear, or similar sized slim radiators. TechPowerUp liked the look of the tempered glass outside as well as the many included features such as the GPU bracket but they would have like the USB-C plug to support USB 3.1 Gen 2.
"The Lucid LD01 from Silverstone tries to ditch the plastic and move to a mix relying heavily on steel and tempered glass for an understated high quality look and feel. It clearly caters to those who'd like to transcend the classic use of steel and plastic panels and want simple but effective, functional designs and features. "
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- AeroCool Quartz Pro Full Tower Review @ NikKTech
- Raijintek ORCUS 240 Liquid CPU Cooler @ Kitguru
- Scythe Ninja 5 @ TechPowerUp
- Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | October 19, 2018 - 04:40 PM | Ken Addison
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.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 4, 2018 - 11:27 PM | Tim Verry
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.
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.
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!
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.