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: 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 | January 22, 2018 - 04:03 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: itx, asrock, x299-itx/ac, Intel, SFF
ASRock's X299-ITX/ac is a decent choice to build a tiny system with, offering a wide variety of features as well as the ability to trim some of them off if you do not need them. There are two removable PCBs, one which holds the SATA ports as well as a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 header while the second carries the LAN chips, a USB hub and your M.2 slots. There may be cases in which removing one or the other makes room for other equipment in your enclosure, with the option to add them back later on. You can see how the ~$400 board performs at TechPowerUp.
"ASRock's X299-ITX/ac is that mini motherboard for Intel's X299 platform that takes all that is good and shoves it into a board smaller than a shoebox. With a triplet of M.2 ports and dual LAN chips, plus Wi-Fi, there's almost nothing missed, other than some PCIe slots, making this board an engineering feat only ASRock could accomplish."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASUS ROG Maximus X Formula @ Guru of 3D
- AORUS Z370 Gaming 7 @ Modders-Inc
- Gigabyte Z370N WIFI Mini-ITX @ Guru of 3D
- Biostar Racing Z370GT6 @ TechPowerUp
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).
Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 11, 2018 - 02:50 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: CES, CES 2018, Silverstone, PSU, power supply, 80 Plus Platinum, 1000W, 1200w, 140mm, atx, compact, SFF
SilverStone's Strider Platinum lineup now includes 1000 and 1200 watt models with a depth of only 140 mm. These are both fully modular ATX PSUs, and 80 Plus Platinum certified.
The compact 140 mm depth is popular with small form-factor builds - and sometimes a requirement for a fully modular PSU like this depending on the enclosure. The power density is obviously getting really high for 2018, and 1200W is likely the highest you will find at 140 mm.
Pricing and release dates have not been revealed just yet for either power supply.
Subject: Systems | January 8, 2018 - 09:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Tinker Board 3, tinker board, small form factor, SFF, PN40, PB40, mini PC, Chromebox 3, Chromebox, CES 2018, CES, asus
ASUS has four new small form-factor devices on display at CES, with mini-PC hardware as well as a new Chromebox 3 and Tinker Board 3. We start with the mini-PCs:
ASUS PB40 mini PC
“The ASUS PB40 mini PC offers unparalleled connectivity with up to six USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C™ ports and a flexible I/O port design with VGA/DP/COM/HDMI support. Its metallic chassis houses the latest 8th Generation Intel Pentium® Silver processor for powerful performance. The PB40 is also offered in a fanless design with Intel Celeron® processors for completely silent operation. In addition to its compact design, the PB40 supports optional stackable modules such as optical drives to provide space-saving versatility for a wide range of usage scenarios.”
ASUS PN40 mini PC
“Powered by 8th Generation Intel Pentium Silver and Celeron processors, the new ASUS PN40 mini PC features a sliding bottom case design for easy upgrades. Compact and lightweight, it measures 114 x 114 x 49mm and weighs just 1.54lbs. With a wide range of connectivity options including USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C for fast data transmission, and a changeable I/O port for VGA or COM support, the PN40 is ideal for both home entertainment and business solutions.”
Next we have the third-generation Chromebox, ASUS's Chrome OS mini-PC:
ASUS Chromebox 3
“ASUS Chromebox 3 is the latest addition to the ASUS Chromebox family and is powered by an 8th Generation Intel Core processor and DDR4-2400 memory for faster, smoother and more energy-efficient performance. It is equipped with a versatile USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port for quick data transfers, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi and Gigabit LAN for faster streaming along with DisplayPort and HDMI connectivity for 4K UHD playback of your favorite videos.”
Finally we have the new Tinker Board S, with "S" clearly meaning storage here as this new Tinker Board adds 16GB of onboard eMMC. This should make getting a project started that much easier as the previous design only offered a memory card slot, requiring a microSD card of at least 8GB.
ASUS Tinker Board S
“The new Tinker Board S features 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage, while retaining the same board size and component placement as the original Tinker Board.”
Availability for all of these products - PB40, PN40, Chromebox 3, and Tinker Board S - is expected in the first half of 2018, with pricing to be announced at launch.
Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2017 - 09:20 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, kaby lake refresh, Kaby Lake R
Zotac recently launched two new small form factor PCs under its Zbox brand – the Zbox MI660 nano and MI640 nano – powered by Intel's latest "8th Generation Core" Kaby Lake Refresh processors. Both computers utilize the same platform and have the same specifications save for the processor SKU. The Zbox MI660 nano (and MI640 nano) measure 5" x 5" x 2" (13cm x 13cm x 5.1cm) and feature an all black chassis with a flat vented top panel, round corners and sharp angled edges around the bottom. The PCs also have vents along the left, right, and bottom so no matter how it's mounted it should not have any problems getting proper airflow.
Zotac is using Kaby Lake R processors in these SFF PCs. Specifically, the MI660 is powered by a quad core (eight thread) Intel Core i7-8550U clocked at up to 4 GHz while the MI640 uses the Core i5-8250U clocked at up to 3.4 GHz (this chip is also a quad core). Both processors are 15W (configurable TDP up to 25W) 14nm+ chips that feature Intel UHD 620 graphics clocked at up to 1.1 GHz on the i5-8250U and 1.15 GHz on the i7-8550U. Zotac's new Zboxes also have two DDR4 SODIMM slots for up to 32GB of 2400 MHz memory and a single 2.5" bay for a SATA hard drive. Notably, there is no support for the ever-popular M.2 solid state drive here.
On the outside, the Zbox MI660 nano and MI640 nano feature a total of five USB 3.0 Type A ports, two USB 3.1 (presumably USB 3.1 Gen 1) Type C ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, two audio jacks, one SDXC card slot, one HDMI 2.0, and one DisplayPort 1.2 port. Zotac claims that the PCs are capable of outputting 4k60 video and the Kaby Lake R processors should support the DRM needed to stream videos at that resolution. In addition to the wired network connections, the SFF PCs also support 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 and there is a standard port on the back for an external antenna.
These little machines will likely be more popular with business users, but they may also do well as family PCs for doing homework in common areas or pulling HTPC duties in the living room as well. If you are interested in the performance of Kaby Lake R, Ken did a review of two notebooks powered by the Core i7-8550U that the MI660 uses here.
- Whose is longer, AMD's Ryzen Mobile or Intel's Kaby Lake-R?
- A Look at Intel 8th Generation Mobile Quad-Core Performance
- The Coffee Lake Story: Intel Core i7-8700K and Core i5-8400 Review
- The Intel Core i7-7700K Review - Kaby Lake and 14nm+
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 25, 2017 - 03:34 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zotac, gtx 1080 ti, SFF, water cooler
Zotac finally made its watercooled GTX 1080 Ti ArcticStorm Mini official last week. A card that was first teased at Computex, the ArcticStorm Mini is a dual slot with metal backplate and full cover water block that has been significantly shortened such that it can fit into many more cases including Micro ATX and some Mini ITX form factors. Specifically, the ArcticStorm Mini measures 212mm (8.35”) x 164mm (6.46”) and uses a custom shortened PCB that appears to be the same platform as the dual fan air cooled model.
The star of the ArcticStorm Mini is the full cover waterblock with nickel plated copper base and a tinted acrylic top cover. According to Zotac the waterblock uses 0.3mm micro channels above the GPU to improve cooling performance by moving as much heat from the GPU into the water loop as possible. There are ports for vertical or horizontal barb orientation though I would have loved to see a card that routed the water cooling in and out ports to the rear of the card rather than the side especially since this is aimed at small form factor builds. The water block can accommodate standard G1/4” fittings and Zotac includes two barbs that support 10mm ID (inner diameter) tubing in the box. A metal backplate helps prevent warping of the PCB from the water cooling which can be rather hefty.
While there is no RGB on this card, Zotac did go with an always on white LED that along with the gray and silver colors of the card itself are supposed to be color neutral and allow it to fit into more builds (as opposed to Zotac’s usual yellow and black colors). Around the front are five display outputs including: DVI-D, HDMI 2.0b, and three DisplayPort 1.4 connections.
Out of the box, the GTX 1080 Ti ArcticStorm Mini comes with a modest factory overlock that pushes the GP102’s 3,584 CUDA cores to 1506 MHz base and 1620 MHz boost. The 11GB of GDDR5X remains clocked at the stock 11 GHz, however. (For comparison, reference clocks are 1480 MHz base and 1582 MHz boost.) The graphics card is powered by two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors and enthusiasts should be able to push it quite a bit further than the out of the box clocks simply by increasing the power target as we saw in our review of the 1080 Ti, and barring any silicon lottery duds this card should be able to clock higher and have more stable clocks than our card thanks to the liquid cooler.
As is usual with these things, Zotac did not reveal exact pricing or availability, but with the full sized GTX 1080 Ti ArcticStorm already selling for $809 on Amazon and $820 over at Newegg, I would expect the little SFF brother to sell for a bit of a premium beyond that, say $840 at launch with the price going down a bit with sales later.
It would have been nice to see this be a single slot card, and giving up DVI would be worth it, but you can’t have everything (heh). I am looking forward to seeing the systems modders and enthusiasts are able to cram this card (or two) into!