Subject: Motherboards | October 20, 2017 - 12:25 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: X370-I Gaming, strix, small form factor, SFF, ryzen, motherboard, mITX, mini-itx, gaming, B350-I Gaming, amd, AM4
While Intel users have long enjoyed the option of a premium ASUS ROG mini-ITX experience, AMD Ryzen owners are now on equal footing with the annoucement of a pair of mITX gaming boards with premium features. ASUS has apparently been working on these for a while now, and they think they will be worth the wait.
"Mini-ITX boards are among the most difficult to produce. Their diminutive 6.7” x 6.7” dimensions leave little real estate for slots and ports, let alone the extra features that make ROG unique. We’re not willing to compromise your experience for a compact footprint, so it takes some time and creativity to make everything fit. But it’s worth the effort, because our new Strix X370-I Gaming and Strix B350-I Gaming motherboards for Socket AM4 raise the bar for small-form-factor Ryzen builds. They match the cutting-edge features of their full-sized siblings, including liquid-ready cooling and addressable RGB lighting, and they combine an M.2 SSD heatsink and amped-up audio on an innovative riser card."
The motherboards both feature a 6-phase VRM design, which ASUS says is the same as their full-sized AM4 motherboards, with memory support of up to DDR4-3600. One-click overclocking is provided via the ASUS "5-Way Optimization technology", which can calibrate fan curves in addition to tuning CPU speeds. Speaking of fans, there are three PWM fan headers, one of which is configured by default for a liquid cooling pump.
An interesting design choice was made in the interest of space, as the sound card (S1220A codec) and an M.2 slot (PCIe Gen 3 x4) are part of a shared riser card:
"The Republic of Gamers has a history of working around Mini-ITX limitations by building up with additional circuit boards. Our Maximus Impact series made room for upgraded audio with a dedicated riser, and the Strix X370-I and B350-I Gaming go one step further with an M.2 Audio Combo card that contains both SupremeFX sound and M.2 storage. This small PCB is sandwiched between isolated heatsinks for an M.2 drive and the platform chipset, ensuring effective cooling without taking up too much space."
ASUS Aura Sync RGB lighting effects are on board, as is an 802.11ac Wi-Fi solution with 2x2 antenna and integrated Bluetooth. Connectivity includes a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports and four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, Gigabit LAN, and multi-channel audio on the rear panel, with 4x SATA ports, dual M.2 slots (one on the rear as well as the riser card), and headers for both USB 3.0 and 2.0 onboard.
The ASUS ROG Strix X370-I and B350-I Gaming motherboards will "be available starting late-October in the United States with pricing to be released in the coming weeks" according to ASUS.
Subject: Systems | October 3, 2017 - 05:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zotac, zbox, Magnus EN1080K, GeForce GTX 1080, i7-7700, SFF, water cooler
The newest Zbox from Zotac is also the most powerful one they have made, which does make it a bit of a different beast than other Zotac SFF products. With an i7-7700 paired with a GTX 1080, along with 16GB of DDR4-2400 and a WD Black 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD the Magnus offers more power than you find in many a mid-range system. The heat produced in the tight confines of the system, 8.9x8x5" (23 x 20 x 13cm), is handled by a custom built watercooling system which cools both the CPU and GPU. This does make the system significantly larger than previous Zbox products and it is much more power hungry, with two power adapters required to run it. The Tech Report loved the performance but did encounter some significant issues with the Zbox, which they overcame with quick and effective support from Zotac. Check this one out for the impressive build design as well as it's impressive gaming abilities.
"Zotac's Zbox Magnus EN1080K pairs Intel's Core i7-7700 CPU with a GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card in an impressively dense liquid-cooled package. We ran some of our favorite games on this system to see how it stacks up in the small-form-factor pantheon."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Return To The Asus Tinker Board: Have Six Months Changed Anything? @ Hack a Day
- Upgrade My PC Please! Ep 5: Dem Tings Wit Graphics @ Techspot
- Pairing CPUs and GPUs: PC Upgrades and Bottlenecking @ Techspot
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 13, 2017 - 07:29 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, nuc, kaby lake, Intel
Following last year’s Baby Canyon NUC kits, Intel is launching its Dawson Canyon NUCs powered by 15W Kaby Lake processors. Despite Dawson Canyon sounding more dramatic than Baby Canyon (which sounds more like a creek), the new NUCs are lower powered and ditch Iris Graphics and USB 3.1 Type C.
Specifically, Intel is launching six new models that will come in three flavors: barebones board, slim case kit, and a taller kit with room for a 2.5” drive. Each type of NUC kit will come with either a Core i3 or Core i5 processor. Dawson Canyon further supports Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) and Optane memory.
Processor options include the Core i3 7100U (2.4 GHz) and Core i5 7300U (2.6 GHz base, 3.5 GHz boost) which are both dual core processors with HyperThreading, 3 MB cache, Intel HD Graphics 620 GPUs, and 15W TDPs.
Internal I/O includes two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots, two M.2 slots (one full length (80mm) and one 30mm slot for Wi-Fi adapters such as the included Intel 8265 with is included in the kits with cases but not the bare board kits.), one SATA port, and headers for serial, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 ports.
External I/O consists of four USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and two HDMI outputs (one protected UHD).
Dawson Canyon NUCs will be available towards the end of the year (Q4’17) with pricing yet to be released. For the fanless, ahem, fans Fanless Tech reports that Simply NUC will be offering NUCs with custom fanless cases. These are likely to be cheaper than Baby Canyon and be popular with businesses wanting monitor mounted thin clients or low power workstations for office users that just need to run productivity applications.
Introduction and Design
The ECS LIVA Z Plus is a mini-PC with far more capable processors than the non-Plus variants of the current LIVA family, and we have for review a version with the top-end Intel Core i5-7300U CPU option, along with a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM. These specs position the LIVA Z Plus against similarly-powered Intel NUC mini-PCs, and the LIVA has the advantage of being ready to go out of the box (just add an OS).
We recently took a look at the entry-level ECS LIVA mini-PC, which is a fanless device equipped with a low-power Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3350 in its base configuration (as reviewed). The performance was merely 'okay' for most desktop computing, and that entry-level LIVA Z was more of a need-specific choice, useful for some applications such as a DIY router as it includes dual NICs in addition to the wireless networking on board. But I kept wishing I had more CPU power the entire time I was testing out the base LIVA Z, and the Plus version seemed like the perfect solution. There is just one catch: it isn't fanless. (Gasp!) Was this an issue? Was it even audible? How were thermals with a 15W Intel Core i5 processor inside such a small enclosure, even it is was being actively cooled? Read on to find out!
First, a look at the specs from ECS:
- Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7300U SOC
- Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7200U SOC
- Intel Kaby Lake Core i3-7100U SOC
- Intel Kaby Lake Celeron 3965U SOC
- DDR4 Up to 32GB
- 2x SO-DIMM Memory Slots
- Storage Support: 1x M.2 2242 SSD (SATA / PCIE)
- Audio: 1x Combo Jack, 1x Digital Mic
- LAN: 2x Gigabit LAN (1x Intel LAN)
- 3x USB 3.1 Gen1 Ports
- 1x USB 3.0 Type-C port
- Video Output:
- 1x HDMI Port (HDMI 1.4)
- 1x mDP Port
- Wireless: Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0
- PCB Size: 115 x 111 mm
- Dimension: 117 x 128 x 33 mm
- VESA Support: 75 mm / 100 mm (bracket included)
- Adapter: Input AC 100-240V, Output DC 19V / 3.42A
- OS Support: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Windows 10
- 1x Power adapter
- 1x VESA Bracket
- 6x VESA Mount Screws
- Quick Guide & Driver DVD
- ECS LIVA Z Plus: $489 MSRP
Package contents are identical to that of the non-Plus LIVA, as we are presented with the LIVA Z Plus, power adapter, and VESA mount.
The LIVA Z Plus is externally identical to the LIVA Z, with the same complement of three USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, and 3.5 mm audio jack on the front, and dual NICs, HDMI 1.4, and mini DisplayPort on the back.
The side panels are also identical to the passively-cooled LIVA Z, with vented sides that in this case allow for intake and exhaust for the small internal fan.
If you think this LIVA Z Plus looks like the standard LIVA Z, you're right. Externally, the two are identical:
Next we'll take a look inside and then see how it performed with a few benchmarks.
Subject: Motherboards | June 28, 2017 - 01:44 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: gigabyte, mini ITX, b350, amd, AM4, raven ridge, SFF, ryzen
Gigabyte is joining the small form factor Ryzen motherboard market with its new GA-AB350N-Gaming WIFI. The new Mini ITX motherboard sports AMD’s AM4 socket and B350 chipset and supports Ryzen “Summit Ridge” CPUs, Bristol Ridge APUs (7th Gen/Excavator), and future Zen-based Raven Ridge APUs. The board packs a fair bit of hardware into the Mini ITX form factor and is aimed squarely at gamers and enthusiasts.
The AB350N-Gaming WIFI has an interesting design in that some of the headers and connectors are flipped versus where they are traditionally located. The chipset sits to the left of CPU socket above the 6-phase VRMs and PowIRStage digital ICs. Four SATA 6Gbps ports and a USB 3.0 header occupy the top edge of the board. Two DDR4 dual channel memory slots are aligned on the right edge and support (overclocked) frequencies up to 3200 MHz depending on the processor used. The Intel wireless NIC, Realtek Gigabit Ethernet, and Realtek ALC1220 audio chips have been placed in the space between the AM4 socket and the single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot. There is also a single M.2 (PCI-E 3.0 x4 32Gbps) slot on the underside of the motherboard. Gigabyte has also integrated “RGB Fusion” technology with two on board RGB LED lighting zones and two RGBW headers for off board lighting strips as well as high end audio capacitors and headphone amplifier. Smart Fan 5 technology allegedly is capable of automatically differentiating between fans and water pumps connected to the two fan headers and will automatically provide the correct PWM signal based on fan curves the user can customize in the UEFI BIOS. The motherboard is powered by a 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS and while it does not have a very beefy power phase setup it should be plenty for most overclocks (especially with Ryzen not wanting to go much past 4 GHz (easily) anyway).
Rear I/O includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 2 x Antenna (Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi + BT 4.2)
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps)
- 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps)
- 6 x Audio (5 x analog, 1 x S/PDIF)
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x HDMI 1.4
- 1 x Realtek GbE
Gigabyte has an interesting SFF motherboard with the GA-AB350N-Gaming WIFI and I am interested in seeing the reviews. More Mini ITX options for Ryzen and other Zen-based systems is a good thing, and moving the power phases to the left may end up helping overclocking and cooling in smaller cases with tower coolers.
Unfortunately, Gigabyte has not yet revealed pricing or availability. Looking around online at its competition, i would guess it would be around $85 though.
- Biostar's ITX Ryzen motherboard in action; the X370GTN
- BIOSTAR Shows Mini-ITX AM4 Motherboard for AMD Ryzen
- ASRock's Fatal1ty X370 Gaming-ITX/ac Mini ITX Motherboard for Ryzen Coming Soon
- The AMD Ryzen 7 1800X Review: Now and Zen
- The Ryzen 5 Review: 1600X and 1500X Take on Core i5
Subject: Motherboards | June 19, 2017 - 01:41 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: itx, ryzen, biostar, Racing X370GTN, SFF
Barely the size of a Threadripper CPU, the Racing X370GTN ITX motherboard is a decent platform to build a Ryzen powered SFF system on. Biostar kept the design fairly simple, to keep the costs down on this motherboard but don't worry, they did include RGB headers for 5050 RGB LED light strips and you can set up your personalized light show using the Racing GT utility. Even with the compact design, Hardware Canucks were able to fully populate the two DIMM slots even with a Prolimatech Mega Shadow cooler installed, they did discover that users of AiO watercoolers will have to ensure to rotate the cooler to ensure the tubing does not block the closer DIMM however. The M.2 slot has been relocated to the back of the motherboard due to the size constraints of the board which did not impact performance. Pop by to take a look at this ~$110 motherboard if you are in the market for an ITX Ryzen system.
"ITX motherboards have finally arrived for AMD's Ryzen and in this first review we look at Biostar's brand new Racing X370GTN. Can its diminutive size belie its true performance?"
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero @ Bjorn3D
- ASUS ROG Rampage V Edition 10 Review @ OCC
- ASUS MAXIMUS IX FORMULA @ techPowerUp
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 14, 2017 - 08:42 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zotac, gtx 1080 ti, factory overclocked, gp102, SFF
Zotac recently unveiled a slimmed down GTX 1080 Ti graphics card that uses a dual slot and dual fan cooler with a short PCB. The aptly named Zotac GTX 1080 Ti Mini measures 8.3” (211mm) long and will be the smallest GTX 1080 Ti on the market. Despite the miniaturization, Zotac is still offering a decent factory overclock on the Pascal GPU (but not the memory) with a boost clock of 1620 MHz versus the reference boost clock of 1582.
Zotac uses two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors to drive the card with its GTX 1080 Ti GPU (3584 CUDA cores) and 11GB of GDDR5X memory clocked at 11 GHz. The slimmed down graphics card features a metal backplate, dual shrouded fans, and a heatsink with aluminum fins and five 6mm heat pipes. The card has three DisplayPort 1.4 ports, one HDMI 2.0b port, and one DL-DVI output with the card supporting up to four simultaneous displays.
The Zotac GTX 1080 Ti Mini should enable quite a bit of horsepower in small form factor systems. The graphics card is model number ZT-P10810G-10P and Zotac has it listed on its website. Unfortunately, Zotac is not yet talking pricing or availability for the shortened card.
It appears that overclocking is not out of the question, but I am curious just how far it could be pushed especially in a small case with tight quarters and less airflow.
Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2017 - 07:02 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vpro, SFF, sbc, modular computer, Intel, computex, compute card
Launched earlier this year at CES, Intel’s credit card sized Compute Cards will begin shipping in August. Intel and its partners used Computex to show off the Compute Card itself along with prototype and concept devices based around the new platform.
techtechtech opened up the Core M3-7Y30 equipped Compute Card at Computex.
As a quick refresher, the Compute Card is a full PC in a small card shaped form factor measuring 95mm x 55mm x 5mm that features an Intel SoC, DDR3 RAM, solid state storage, wireless connectivity, and standardized I/O (one USB-C and a proprietary Intel connector sit side by side on one edge of the card). The small cards are designed to slot into devices that will use the Compute Card as their brains for smart home automation, appliances, industrial applications, smart whiteboards, and consumer products such as tablets, notebooks, and smart TVs.
At its Computex press events, Intel revealed details on specifications. The initial launch will include four Compute Card SKUs with two lower end and two higher end models. All four of the cards are equipped with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and either 64GB of eMMC or 128GB SSD storage. The two lower end SKUs use Intel Wireless-AC 7265 while the more expensive models have Intel Wireless-AC 8265 (both are 2x2 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2). Processor options from top to bottom include the 7th generation Intel i5-7Y57, Core m3-7Y30, Pentium N4200, and Celeron N3450. Enterprise customers will appreciate the TPM support and security features. Reportedly, the Compute Cards will start at $199 for the low-end model and go up to $499+ for the higher end cards.
Intel partners Dell, HP, and Lenovo were reportedly not ready to show off any devices but will launch Compute Card compatible devices at some point. ECS, Foxconn, LG Display, NexDock, Sharp, and others did have prototype devices at Computex and have announced their support for the platform. The Compute Card concept devices shown off include tablets, laptops, All In Ones, digital signage, kiosks, and a monitor stand dock that lets the user add their own monitor and have an AIO powered by a Compute Card. Other uses include ATMs, smart whiteboards, mini PCs for desktop and HTCP uses, and docks that would allow business user sand students to have a single PC with storage that they could take anywhere and get work done. Students could plug their Compute Card into a laptop shell, computer lab PC, whiteboard for presentations, their home dock, and other devices..
(My opinions follow:)
It is an interesting concept that has been tried before with smartphones (and Samsung is currently trying with its S8 and docks) but never really caught on. The promise and idea of being able to easily upgrade a smart TV, computer, smart appliance, home security system, ect without having to replace the entire unit (just upgrading the brains) is a great one, but thus far has not really gained traction. Similarly, the idea of a single PC that you carry everywhere in your pocket and use whatever display you have handy has been promised before but never delivered. Perhaps Intel can drive this modular PC idea home and we could finally see it come to fruition. Unexpectedly absent from the list of partners is Asus and Samsung. Samsung I can understand since they are trying to do their own thing with the S8 but I was a bit surprised to see Asus was not out front with a Compute Card support as they were Intel's partner with its Zenfone and they seem like a company with a good balance of R&D and manufacturing power but nimble enough to test out new markets. The other big PC guys (Dell, HP, and Lenovo) aren't ready with their devices yet either though so I guess we will just have to see what happens in terms of support and adoption. The other thing that could hold the Compute Card back is that Intel will reportedly allow manufacturer lock-in where devices and Compute Cards can be made to only work with hardware from the same manufacturer. Restricting interoperability might hurt the platform, but it might aslo creat less confusion for consumers with the onus being on each manufacturer to actually support an upgrade path I guess.
What are your thoughts on the Compute Card?
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?
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.
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!