Subject: Motherboards | February 8, 2017 - 10:15 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFF, PCI-E 3.0, MXM, motherboard, mobile gpu, mini-stx, H110-STX-MXM, asrock
ASRock has announced a new mini-STX motherboard with an interesting twist, as the H110-STX MXM motherboard offers support for current MXM (version 3.0b, up to 120W) mobile graphics cards.
Like the ECS H110 motherboard featured in our recent Mini-STX build, the ASRock H110-STX MXM is based on the LGA1151 socket (though CPU TDP was not in the source post), offers a pair a DDR SODIMM slots for up to 32GB of DDR4 notebook memory. Storage support is excellent with dual SATA ports and M.2 SSD support. Importantly, this ASRock board uses PCI Express 3.0 on both the MXM (PCIe 3.0 x16) and M.2 (PCIe 3.0 x4) slots. Display output capability is excellent as well, quoting the TechPowerUp post:
"Display connectivity includes one HDMI port that's wired to the CPU's onboard graphics, a second HDMI port wired to the MXM slot, a full-size DisplayPort wired to the MXM, and a Thunderbolt port with mini-DisplayPort wiring to the MXM."
There are some roadblocks to building up a gaming system with this motherboard, not the least of which is cost. Consider that compatible MXM 3.0b options (with a recent GPU) are hundreds of dollars from a place like Eurocom (a GTX 980M is around $800, for example). Naturally, if you had a damaged gaming notebook with a usable MXM GPU, this board might be a nice option for re-purposing that graphics card. Cooling for the MXM card is another issue, however, though harvesting an MXM card from a notebook could potentially allow implementing the existing thermal solution from the laptop.
Look closely and you will see a Z270 product name in this ASRock photo
Update: We now have full specifications from ASRock's product page, which include:
- Socket LGA1151 for Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron (Kabylake)
- Supports MXM Graphics Card (Type-B , Up to 120W)
- Supports DDR4 2400MHz, 2 x SO-DIMM, up to 32GB system memory
- 1 x HDMI (4K@60Hz), 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x Mini-DisplayPort
- 3x USB3.0 Type-A, 1x Thunderbolt 3 with USB 3.1 Type-C
- 1x M.2 (Key E), 2x M.2 (Key M)
- 1x Intel i219V Gigabit LAN
- DC 19V / 220W power input
Of note, the chipset is listed as Z270, though the product name and primary motherboard photo suggest H110. The H110-STX MXM is part of ASRocks industrial motherboard offerings (with signage and gaming the mentioned applications), and includes a 220W power supply. Pricing and availability were not mentioned.
Mini-STX is the newest, smallest PC form-factor that accepts a socketed CPU, and in this review we'll be taking a look at a complete mini-STX build that will occupy just 1.53 liters of space. With a total size of just 6.1 x 5.98 x 2.56 inches, the SilverStone VT01 case offers a very small footprint, and the ECS H110S-2P motherboard accepts Intel desktop CPUs up to 65W (though I may have ignored this specification).
PS3 controller for scale. (And becuase it's the best controller ever.)
The Smallest Form-Factor
The world of small form-factor PC hardware is divided between tiny kit solutions such as the Intel NUC (and the host of mini-PCs from various manufacturers), and the mini-ITX form-factor for system builders. The advantage of mini-ITX is its ability to host standard components, such as desktop-class processors and full-length graphics cards. However, mini-ITX requires a significantly larger enclosure than a mini-PC, and the "thin mini-ITX" standard has been something of a bridge between the two, essentially halving the height requirement of mini-ITX. Now, an even smaller standard has emerged, and it almost makes mini-ITX look big in comparison.
Left: ECS H110S-2P (mini-STX) / Right: EVGA Z170 Stinger (mini-ITX)
Mini-STX had been teased for a couple of years (I wrote my first news post about it in January of 2015), and was originally an Intel concept called "5x5"; though the motherboard is actually about 5.8 x 5.5 inches (147 x 140 mm). At CES 2016 I was able to preview a SilverStone enclosure design for these systems, and ECS is one of the manufacturers producing mini-STX motherboards with an Intel H110-based board introduced this past summer. We saw some shipping products for the newest form-factor in 2016, and both companies were kind enough to send along a sample of these micro-sized components for a build. With the parts on hand it is now time to assemble my first mini-STX system, and of course I'll cover the process - and results - right here!
Subject: Systems | January 31, 2017 - 03:24 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming desktop, SFF, gtx 1060, i7-7700, msi, Trident 3
MSI's Trident 3 PC comes complete with Windows 10 Home, a DS4200 keyboard and a DS B1 gaming mouse. The actual system is a mere 346.25x232.47x71.83mm (13.6x9.2x2.8") and hides a shrunken GTX 1060, a Core i7-7700, two 8GB sticks of DDR4-2400 and in the system that TechPowerUp reviewed, a 256GB Kingston SATA M.2 SSD and a 1TB Toshiba HDD. It is easy to use for VR, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C and Type-A ports as well as HDMI on the front panel. MSI did need to make some sacrifices to squeeze these components in, the system does not support overclocking nor XMP profiles. The performance at 1080p is respectable for a fully configured system and it starts at $899, with upgrades available.
"MSI's Trident 3 is a compact SFF system that can provide a console-like gaming experience. Equipped with an Intel Core i7-7700, a custom mITX MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB GAMING, 16 GB of RAM, an M.2 SSD and a mechanical HDD for storage duties, it is small yet extremely capable."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Gladiator SuperNova (i5 Kaby Lake) @ Kitguru
- ASRock DeskMini 110 Mini-PC @ Hardware Secrets
- DinoPC Raptor 2 (Kaby Lake 7700K 5GHz) @ Kitguru
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 17, 2017 - 10:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, pascal, low profile, GTX 1050 Ti, gtx 1050, gigabyte
Cooler Master's MasterLiquid Maker 92 is a unique liquid CPU cooler that fits all of its parts into one cluster atop the processor, and does it with a clever, hinged construction that allows it to be switched from an upright to a horizontal position at will. While the Maker 92 only occupies about as much space as a large tower air cooler in its upright position, the ability to fold it down provides both enhanced clearance and the option of directing airflow down to help cool motherboard components. But the big question for this cooler is just how effective can a closed-loop system be when it’s this compact? We’re about to find out!
Let's get part out if the way right off the bat: specialty small form-factor products generally don't offer competitive price/performance numbers, and critics are quick to point to this aspect of SFF computing. The small form-factor side of enthusiast PC building is a pretty small niche, and a product like the Maker 92 might not be for you; but what is important to consider when looking at a specialty product like this is the performance for its size, as designs of the most compact cooling components typically sacrifice something in this regard given their reduced surface area, smaller fan diameter, etc.
Most SFF solutions for processor cooling are of the air variety, with liquid being an option if a given enclosure supports your AiO (or custom loop) cooling of choice. Ultra low-profile CPU air coolers are popular for slim builds, and a product like the Maker 92 isn’t going to replace one of these if your enclosure of choice has a very low profile. Any system using a standard height PCI Express graphics card will work, though that top fan may have to come off depending on the case - which of course will affect cooling performance (in theory, anyway). But enough speculation! Let’s take a close look at this cooler and test out the fit and cooling prowess in both orientations.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 7, 2017 - 10:38 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vpro, SFF, kaby lake, iot, Intel, compute stick
Intel announced the Compute Card today, a modular small form factor compute system for smart appliances, home automation, industrial applications, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
The Compute Card is a full PC in a card slightly longer than credit card at 95 x 55 x 5mm with an Intel SoC, memory, storage, wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), and standardized I/O built in. The compute card is designed the fit into an internal or external slot where it locks into place. According to Intel, the idea is to standardize the compute aspect of these smart devices so that manufacturers can reduce time to market and design costs as well as make them easier to repair. Manufacturers would design their devices with a slot for an Intel Compute Card and then choose a card that meets their performance and price requirements as the brains of the smart device whether that is your toaster, virtual assistant, IoT gateway, or security system. Outside of the home, Intel wants to sell cards to makers of digital signage, kiosks, and industrial control systems for machinery and factories.
One of the first things that came to mind for me was its usage in smart TVs and that may happen but the hope of an upgrade-able model where I could just slap a new Compute Card in to get new features and better performance I fear will never happen if only because while that model would be good for Intel the TV manufacturers that want to sell you new TVs every year would never go for it heh.
Unfortunately, Intel has not released full specifications on the Compute Card, only saying that they would utilize 7th Generation Core vPro processors. Looking around on their website, I would make an educated guess that Intel plans to use the 4.5 watt "7th Generation Intel® Core™ vPro™ Processors" intended for mobile devices. These chips range from 1.1 GHz to 1.3 GHz and are two core / four thread processors paired with Intel HD Graphics (515, 615, or 630). There are also 15W vPro processors with faster clockspeeds but they may not do well in such a small form factor where there is not guaranteed cooling. Still, even the lower power models should offer up quite a bit of computing power for connected devices that do basic tasks.
Intel expects to release its Compute Cards in mid-2017 and has partnered with Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Sharp as well as regional partners Seneca, DTx, InFocus, tabletkiosk, and Pasuntech. I notice that Samsung is missing from this list but would be a good partner to have if only because of their appliance line. The chip giant is said to be expanding that partner list though so we may yet see more appliance and home automation manufacturers pop up on there. I think that standardizing the brains of IoT is a good plan and smart on Intel's part but I am a bit skeptical whether or not it will catch on and how well it will be adopted in the targeted markets.
What are your thoughts on Intel's Compute Card?
Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2017 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vivomini, SFF, CES 2017, CES, asus
ASUS has just announced three mini PCs at CES. Each of them run Intel’s Kaby Lake processors, but they otherwise differ from one in terms of specifications, such as the number of drives, how they are connected, and so forth. Prices range from $275 up to $799, although that comparison ignores who each specific product targets, so read on for more detail below.
The UN65U make up the cheapest units of the product stack, ranging from $275 to $449 USD and available in Q1 2017. Interestingly, it also allows for up-to 512GB of SSD to be connected through M.2 via PCIe Express, and that can be expanded upon with up to 1TB of 2.5-inch HDD. The design is based on their “spun metal” pattern, common for their laptops and smartphones, which I, personally, like the look of. The device can output 4K UHD via the integrated GPU, and it comes with 802.11ac WiFi built-in. ASUS has suggested using this machine as either a home theatre PC or as a small business terminal.
The VM65 ups the graphics performance a little, including an NVIDIA GeForce 930M with Optimus technology. It apparently doesn’t have support for M.2 hard drives, but it can mount two, 2.5-inch drives, either SSD or HDD. It also has built-in WiFi and three USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports. It is expected to cost $549 USD and it also ships in Q1 2017.
The VC66 apparently goes back to integrated graphics, but allows both M.2 and two 2.5-inch drives, either SSD or HDD, and they can be joined with built-in RAID. It also has quite a few connectivity options: DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. It seems like they’re aiming this at businesses primarily, though, especially with the ability to remotely update its BIOS. Prices range from $499 to $799, and it ships in February 2017.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | January 3, 2017 - 10:48 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: VR, small form factor, SFF, PC, gaming, desktop, CES 2017, CES, asus
ASUS has announced a compact, VR-ready desktop called the VivoPC X, and this small form-factor PC contains a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and discrete NVIDIA graphics.
“VivoPC X is powered by a 7th Generation Intel Core processor with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10 series graphics, and is fully compatible with the latest VR headsets. Its compact 5-liter chassis can be placed anywhere in the home, and has extensive connectivity features including four USB 3.1 Gen 1 and two USB 2.0 ports for VR peripherals and controllers. VivoPC X is designed for general consumers who are looking for a VR-ready PC that meets the hardware demands of VR tasks and entertainment.”
A look at the cooling system within the VivoPC X
Here are the specifications from ASUS:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-7300HQ
- Chipset: Intel HM175
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
- Memory: 8GB DDR4 2133MHz
- Up to 2TB SATA hard drive (7200RPM)
- 512GB M.2 SATA SSD
- 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x 3-in-1 audio jack
- 1 x RJ45 LAN (Gigabit)
- 2 x HDMI
- 1 x DisplayPort
- Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
- Operating system: Windows 10
- Power supply: 230W adapter
- Size: 2.99 x 10.23 x 11.02 inches
The console-sized VivoPC X will be available in March with an MSRP of $799.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Shows and Expos | December 30, 2016 - 04:09 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zotac, ZBOX C, zbox, SFF, GTX 1080 Mini, external gpu, CES 2017
Zotac have hinted at three new products they will be showing off at CES this year. The first is an updated ZBOX family which will feature Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for new monitors, high bandwidth external storage or perhaps even an external GPU. It will be powered by a Kaby Lake processor and will be passively cooled, offering great performance in small and silent form factor.
The second offering will be an enclosure for an external GPU, offering 16x PCIe 3.0 bandwidth thanks to the TB3 connection to your machine. It also provides three USB 3.0 ports and a Quick Charge 3.0 USB port for your mobile devices. Inside is a 400W PSU which can be used to power your system
Last up is a tiny version of a GTX 1080, which doesn't skimp on the power. It has a base clock of 1620 MHz and Boost of 1759 MHz, with a full 8GB of memory running at 5GHz. The PR does not give the measurements of the card but as you can see below it is about half again as long as the PCI slot it plugs into and remains a two slot card.
HONG KONG – December 30, 2016 – ZOTAC International, a global manufacturer of innovation, is pleased to bring 10 years of design excellence to CES 2017 and showcase innovative VR and commercial solutions. A strong lineup including ZOTAC’s first Thunderbolt 3 Mini PC and External VGA box will be on show at One-Story Sky Villa, Palms Casino Resort. “We believe the future of computing should be flexible,” says Tony Wong, CEO, ZOTAC International. “Our next generation of computing products enables users to get the best of mobile and stationary experience.”
New Productivity Levels with new Mini PCs
The next generation of high speed and versatile connection has arrived on ZOTAC Mini PCs with next generation Intel Kaby Lake processors and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Thunderbolt 3 delivers more transfer speed, more charging power and more compatible protocols. Richer display colors, lightning data transfer speed and a wide range of expansions become available with this new protocol.
The new ZBOX Mini PCs also introduce greater productive functionality with Intel vPRO and UNITE features. UNITE is introduced for the first time in ZOTAC Mini PCs, enabling it to become a platform for secure conference connections. Furthermore, it retains the functions of Intel vPRO and AMT, providing the convenience of deep repairs and maintenance through a remote connection. Intel Kaby Lake processors and GeForce GTX graphics are paired for the first time to make gaming Mini PCs more powerful and even more power efficient.
Unlock Potential Performance with External Graphics Dock
The external graphics dock enables a device equipped with Thunderbolt 3 port to greatly enhance its graphical processing capabilities and expand its functionalities. The ZOTAC external graphics dock (tentative) comes with a PCIE 3.0 slot , 3 standard USB 3.0 ports and 1 Quick Charge 3.0 enabled USB 3.0 port. This enables users to take advantage of the latest in battery technology in their supported devices such as smartphones and tablets.
“Our goal is to turn low power and ultra-portable Windows devices such as notebooks and mini PCs into performance racecars,” says Danny Wong, Director of Product Management, ZOTAC International. “The external graphics dock enables any device equipped with Thunderbolt 3 ports to take full advantage of the transfer speed and bandwidth, potentially becoming exponentially more powerful.”
The external graphics dock also serves as a power source with a 400W power supply, meaning it can directly power a connected mini PC or supported system. Only a single Thunderbolt 3 type-C cable connection is needed for both power and data transfer on supported devices. All these features allow the dock to become a literal powerhouse for any notebooks or mini PCs. See it in action at ZOTAC’s suite.
Explore New Territories with VR GO
As the VR GO hits the shelves, there is no better time to demonstrate what VR GO does that makes the difference.
The ZOTAC VR GO is designed for a truly mobile VR experience. From hardware to comfort, every detail is considered. VR GO provides powerful yet efficient performance with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics and Intel Core i7 processor. Hardware and thermal design enable marathon playtime with comfort and minimal noise.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | December 30, 2016 - 02:47 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ECS, LIVA, LIVA Z, LIVA XE, LIVA ZE, LIVA Z PLUS, SFF, CES 2017
At CES 2017 we will be looking at a host of new SFF systems from ECS, the LIVA Z Mini PC, LIVA ZE Mini PC and LIVA Z Plus. The LIVA XE will be the smallest of the bunch at 1156x83x51mm and a Braswell CPU to allow up to three USB 3.0 ports. The LIVA Z below is a bit more interesting, with an Apollo Lake processor which will allow it to support 4K playback as well as a built in microphone so you can yell at Cortana to change the channel instead of having to do it yourself.
The LIVA ZE is the workhorse of the bunch, with four Com Port configurations for industrial use as well as an M.2 interface for a current generation SSD as well as a place to fit a 2.5" drive. The LIVA Z Plus is the flagship, it will contain a Core i7 processor and support up to 16GB of DDR4 in a dual channel configuration. This will be powerful enough for gamers and still small enough to fit anywhere.
Keep an eye out on the front page for updates once CES goes into full swing.
【Taipei, Taiwan】ECS is popular in the world with its fine texture appearance and is highly praised and loved in the market with its rich multimedia specifications since「LIVA」came into the market. CES 2017 is about to be developed, and ECS praises itself as the leading brand in mini PC and introduces a new generation of LIVA Z family, which can provide a series of all-round more diversified choice for mini PC enthusiasts.
We are constantly striving for perfection all the time and in pursuit of perfection in innovation, efficiency and product design. At the same time, we spare no effort to provide the best experience for consumers with superior quality and excellent performance. A new generation of LIVA Z family series products will appear at Las Vegas Venetian exhibition from January 4th to January 7th(West America time).
The display products of ECS include LIVA Z Mini PC, LIVA ZE Mini PC, LIVA Z Plus and Mini PC. Among them, LIVA Z Plus Mini PC will be displayed in Exhibition Hall Live Demo, showing Intel 7th generation Kaby Lake latest performance and emphasizing the rich use situation.
We will display dual screens that display both HDMI and DisplayPort independent monitors, with extra monitors allowing you to have more space for multitasking. At the same time, it presents the seamless connection of life style. The built in 802.11ac is three times faster than the old version of the Wi-Fi standard networking speed. You can easily share the network and provide peripherals device for network roaming through mobile hotspot function. It is compatible with any Bluetooth device and realizes wireless entertainment free life with Bluetooth 4.0. LIVA Z Plus minicomputer is equipped with the latest Intel graphics technology and makes the family entertainment and games step into a new realm. The exhibition will also show the popular game LOL(League of Legends) by using high-resolution settings smooth screen. You can enjoy the lifelike photos and there will be no distortion of the situation.
LIVA XE: Mini PC is evolved with high speed, equipped with a new generation USB 3.0 transmission interface.
LIVA XE adopts the exquisite and light design with the size of only 1156 x 83 x 51 mm. The volume is more or less the same with your palm. It empties the valuable desktop space for you. Apart from the LIVA X series features of quietness, fair price and energy conservation, it is equipped with a new generation of Intel Braswell processor, so that the original 1 set USB 3.0 interface is changed into 3 sets. The product design specifications and configuration become flexible. Users will no longer feel USB 3.0 is inadequate for use. Thus it provides a more comprehensive use experience for consumers.
LIVA Z : Being silent and multi-functional, it is the best choice for daily home computing.
The brand new LIVA Z mini PC can meet all of your home computing demand. Equipped with the latest 14 nanometer Intel Apollo Lake quad-core processor, it owns rich I/O connection ability and 4K/UHD ultra HD display support and is the perfect choice of the home entertainment center. LIVA Z passes through the built-in digital microphone, and support Windows10. With the perfect combination of hardware and software, it can have remote control of Windows 10 Cortana voice secretary and enjoy efficient and convenient performance no matter in work or entertainment. It is undoubtedly the most ideal solution in home entertainment center. In addition, it is characterized by quietness and energy-conservation, so that you can enjoy music and movies without interference of noise while running your computer.
LIVA ZE：The smart dual storage design and can support Com port(RS 232) communication port.
LIVA Z family series product LIVA ZE mini PC modular dual storage design supports the M.2 interface SSD and 2.5 inch HDD hard disk, which allows consumers to choose SSD with quick access and support large capacity 2.5 inch hard disk storage. In particular, the LIVA ZE is built with 4 Com Port configurations with external industrial applications that provide users with better access to data and connection options for space, productivity and industrial use.
LIVA Z Plus：The Powerful mini PC with Intel Kaby Lake SoC and blazing-fast DDR4 RAM
In the 2017 CES exhibition, ECS will display LIVA Z plus mini PC Live Demo, equipped with brand new Intel the seventh generation of Intel® Core™ processor with two built-in DDR4 SO-DIMM slots. The single slot can support 8GB capacity at most and support 16GB DDR4 RAM maximum. At the same time, it can support Intel dual -channel technology. The performance of the latest Intel Kaby Lake processor is about 11% higher than the previous generation. At the same time, data transmission speed by DDR4 RAM is twice faster than DDR3 RAM. Compared to the previous generation of Skylake display core, in CES field, ECS will display LIVA Z Plus equipped with Kaby Lake and its graphics performance has about 20% efficiency improvement. Meanwhile, with 4K video in HEVC 10-bit and VP9 format, it can present smooth 4K UHD visual effect and fluent game screen, and can be applied in a variety of usage situations, thus making LIVA Z Plus minicomputer become the best and first choice both for work computing and home entertainment center.