Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2015 - 01:44 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: msi, cubi n, SFF, fanless, Braswell, Intel Braswell
MSI will soon add a new small form factor PC to its Cubi lineup with the fanless Cubi N. Powered by an Intel “Braswell” SoC, the Cubi N is a silent PC capable of 4K video playback that fits in the palm of your hand.
Unlike the original Cubi bare-bones (which used a Broadwell Celeron), the Cubi N is fanless and uses a heatsink and a stylized wavy mesh case design for passive heat dissipation. The mini PC measures 116mm x 112mm x 44.47mm and is all black with rounded corners. The diagonal cut is gone from this model with the power button being in the front-left top corner instead.
Before diving into the internals, MSI has included two USB 3.0 ports and a combo headphone/mic audio jack on the front panel and HDMI, VGA, RJ45, and an additional two USB 3.0 ports on the back of the Cubi N.
Not bad, but not the most extensive I/O and the VGA output is a bit of an odd choice (though at this point it should be essentially free to add).
Internally, MSI is using an Intel “Braswell” Celeron N3150 SoC with Intel HD Graphics. This SoC (6W TDP) is a four core 1.6 GHz part that can boost up to 2.08 GHz with 2MB L2 cache and HD Graphics with 12 execution units. Users can add up to 8GB of DDR3L memory along with a single mSATA SSD and one 2.5” hard drive (though this makes the PC a bit taller at 55.5mm). The Cubi N comes with an Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi card plugged into an M.2 slot.
The Cubi N will come in black or white and will be generally available as a bare-bones system. According to FanlessTech, pre-configured models will also be available including a version with a 32GB mSATA SSD, 2GB RAM, and Windows 10 Home for $249. MSI is allegedly also working on bare-bones models based around the Braswell Pentium N3700 (2.4 GHz burst) and a cheaper Celeron N3000 processors.
The fanless SFF Cubi N is not yet available for purchase, but it should be coming soon for under $400 all-in (adding storage and memory, more if you want a non-Home version of Windows).
Subject: Systems | October 28, 2015 - 05:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zotac, Magnus EN970, SFF, GTX970M, zbox
Zotac's ZBOX series has evolved from a small device that let you browse the internet and play some online games with modest requirements to the latest Magnus EN970 which is a full fledged gaming PC that is smaller than your average laptop. The small size of the Magnus limits the power of the CPU you can use, this model comes with a low power Core i5-5200U but the graphics card makes up for it. The EN970 branding implies that this has a mobile GTX 970 installed, which is technically true but if you are expecting equivalent performance to a desktop GTX 970 you are in for a bit of disappointment. The GTX970M performs more on par with a GTX 960 but calling it a 960M would not be completely accurate either; expect good performance at 1080p which is what your TV likely runs at. That is the expected use for this PC and a dead giveaway is the four HDMI out that the Magnus provides which is a connection far more common on TVs than DisplayPort is.
"Mini-PC’s usually come with a lot of compromises due to their small size. They for example rarely are fit for any serious gaming. The Zotac Magnus EN970 though is different. It still is a small mini-PC, although not as small as some of the other Zotac mini-PC’s we have reviewed, but it comes with a discrete graphics chip, a GTX960 (or more exact a variant of the GTX970M), which means it suddenly becomes a viable gaming machine for your TV."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Checklist to Build a Gaming PC @ Hardware Secrets
- TechPowerUp 120 Hz Build Guide @ techPowerUp
- Shuttle XPC Nano Barebone NC01U Review @ Madshrimps
- Beelink GTQ 4K Android Media Center @ Benchmakr Reviews
Subject: Motherboards | October 9, 2015 - 06:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, SFF, ROG, motherboard, mini-itx, Maximus VIII Impact, lga1151, asus
ASUS has announced their latest mini-ITX offering in the Republic of Gamers series, and the Maximus VIII Impact motherboard packs an outrageous number of features into one formidable little 6.7-inch square. In fact, short of the second PCIe slot afforded the larger mATX form-factor, the newest Impact board looks to be every bit as powerful as the recently released Maximus VIII Gene motherboard.
"To push performance even further, Maximus VIII Impact has a full-scale voltage-regulator module (VRM) dubbed Impact Power III vertically-mounted onto the tiny board, allowing you full access to digital power management for ultra-precise and stable overclocks with your processor and memory. ROG has also managed to squeeze in 5-Way Optimization auto-tuning and Pro Clock technology so you can get the most out of your 6th Gen. Intel processor and overclocked DDR4 memory which goes up to 4133MHz or higher."
Let’s check out the specs on this new Impact board:
- CPU: LGA1151 socket for 6th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron processors
- Chipset: Intel Z170 Express
- Memory: Dual-channel memory architecture
- 2x DIMM, max. 32GB DDR4-4133(OC) non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- PCIe Slot: 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 slot (supports x16 mode)
- Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics Processor
- HDMI 1.4b
- Intel InTru 3D/Quick Sync Video/Clear Video HD Technology/Insider
- Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac supports dual frequency band 2.4/5GHz; MU-MIMO
- Bluetooth: V4.1, 4.0LE
- USB: 2x USB 3.1 ports (1 Type-A and 1 Type-C) powered by Intel USB 3.1 controller; 6x USB 3.0 ports (2 at mid-board)
- Storage: 1x U.2 port (PCIe x4, 32Gb/s), 4x SATA 6Gb/s ports. Supports Intel Smart Response Technology
- LAN: Intel® I219-V Gigabit LAN with Anti-surge LANGuard, ROG GameFirst Technology
- HD Audio: SupremeFX Impact III
- ROG SupremeFX 2015 High Definition Audio Codec
- ESS® ES9023P DAC with Hyperstream™ Architecture
- 2Vrms Headphone Amp into 32-600 Ohms
- SupremeFX Shielding Technology
- Optical S/PDIF output at back panel
- Sonic Studio II; Sonic Radar II; Sonic SenseAmp; DTS Connect
- Fan headers: 2x 4-pin onboard; 3x 4-pin on daughter card
- Form Factor: Mini-ITX, 6.7" x 6.7" (17 cm x 17 cm)
Update, 10/11/15: The ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Impact motherboard is now available at Newegg.com for $248.99.
Subject: Motherboards | September 28, 2015 - 01:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, M.2, LGA 1151, Intel Skylake, asrock
ASRock (the Taiwan-based manufacturer currently owned by Pegatron) recently revealed its take on miniature Skylake motherboards with the Mini ITX form factor Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac.
The new SFF motherboard uses an 8-layer PCB with high quality Nichicon capacitors and the company’s Digi Power 8-phase power delivery feeding the LGA 1151 socket. The board has a red and black aesthetic with red VRM and Z170 chipset heatsinks, memory slots, and PCI-E slot adding a bit of flair to the otherwise all-black PCB and connectors. Very little space is wasted on this board save for the top edge. To the right of the CPU socket are two DDR4 memory slots (maximum 32GB at 4,000 MHz) and a single SATA Express connector. The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac further features four SATA III 6 Gbps (in addition to the two ports used for SATA Express) ports.
Expansion slots include a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, a M.2 slot with four lanes of PCI-E 3.0 mounted on the underside of the board, and a half-size Mini PCI-E slot that is used for the pre-installed 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 card
ASRock is using an Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC, a 2x2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio, and Realtek ALC1150 audio codec on this board. Keeping in line with the “Fatal1ty” theme, the board supports, using software, and adjustable USB polling rate on a certain rear port from 1 Hz up to 1,000 Hz with the default being 500 Hz.
On the back of the motherboard, it provides the following I/O options:
- 1 x PS/2
- 5 x USB 3.0
- 1 x USB 3.0 “Fatal1ty Mouse Port” (adjustable polling rate up to 1,000 Hz)
- 2 x USB 3.1 (one Type-A and one Type-C)
- Video outputs:
- 2 x HDMI (4K@60Hz)
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 3 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x Optical audio output
This board looks to be a solid base for a tiny gaming system (perhaps paired with the R9 Nano in a svelte living room friendly chassis even without going in for the Fatal1ty gamer-centric branding, if that's your thing. I am expecting this board to be priced competitively with or to come in slightly less than the Asus Mini ITX Z170 motherboard I wrote about yesterday. The audio and overclocking potential, at least in theory and bare specifications, appear to be a bit cut back on this board in comparison, but in exchange for that it's (hopefully slightly cheaper while still giving you most of the essentials. We'll have to wait for actual reviews where they are both put to the test to see for certain though!
For those curious, check out the manufacturer's page with photos and specifications as well as our previous coverage of the board from CES before we had the details on pricing and confirmation of 4K@60Hz HDMI and the Ultra M.2 slot support (and the user discussions).
Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | September 26, 2015 - 10:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qotom, fanless, Broadwell, SFF
FanlessTech found quite a few models of small form factor PCs on Amazon and, while it's not listed in the specifications, some of the manufacturer Q&A responses state that they are fanless designs. Each of these devices are built around the Broadwell Core i7-5500U, but that might not even be the best part. Each PC has 4x USB 3.0, 2x HDMI, and 2x Gigabit Lan. Dual LAN and Dual HDMI opens up quite a few possibilities for a cheap, silent PC, especially since it has a relatively high-performance processor.
Prices range from $360 to $444 for 2GB of RAM and 8GB up to 256GB of SSD storage (with several models between). A single 8GB RAM model, with a 256 GB SSD, is also available for $483. They also found one with an i3 processor, but you need to bring your own RAM, SSD, and WiFi. It does have the same port layout, four USB 3.0, two HDMI, and two gigabit LAN, but might make more sense to grab the Core i7 versions unless you already have DDR3L RAM and an SSD hanging around (or 2GB is insufficient and the 8GB model is out of your price range). At $221 USD plus these components, you probably will not be saving much to compensate for the drop in performance. You can also find some Core i5 models, too.
Quite a bit to consider, but I think that many would benefit from the thought.
Subject: Systems | September 14, 2015 - 04:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ECS, LIVA X2, SFF, Braswell, Intel
The new LIVA X2 ships with a Braswell N3050, either 2GB or 4GB of DDR3 and either 32GB or 64GB eMMC local storage. That new chip brings much better support for peripherals, such as M.2 cards of up to 1TB in size, three USB 3.0 port, HDMI and D-Sub as well as a combo audio port and even internal microphones. For connectivity, you can choose a mix of LAN cable, WiFi a/c and Bluetooth 4.0. You can see the inside of the device as well as performance results over at Mad Shrimps.
"The Braswell-equipped LIVA X2 is a much needed improvement over the original LIVA which brings more USB ports to the table, the ability to install a M.2 SSD up to 1TB for increased storage capacity while keeping a small footprint and very low power consumption (8.8W IDLE, 19.71W Full Load). Despite the new generation SoC, we have seen that its arithmetic performance is very close to the original LIVA, while the 3D one has been increased."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- ECS LIVA X2 Mini PC Review @ OCC
- Nvidia's Shield Android TV @ The Tech Report
- DinoPC Raptor Watercooled System @ Kitguru
- itGuru Complete Guide to Workstations – Part 4
- TechPowerUp $800 Build Guide
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 26, 2015 - 01:06 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SFF, micro-atx, mini-itx, SG12, Silverstone
The SilverStone SG12 is an SFF case which dreams big, built for Mini-ITX through Micro-ATX motherboards it is still large enough to fit a GPU over a foot long. Overall it is 266x210x407mm (10.5x8.3x16") in size, still small enough to fit in a living room or cart around with you thanks to the built in handle but large enough to fit high end components. Bjorn3D installed an i7-4790K on an ASUS Z97M-PLUS with a GTX 970 powered by a SilverStone SST-ST55F-G PSU which is about 40mm shorter than the majority of PSUs. For a cooler they used the SilverStone SST-ST55F-G, the 140x82x139mm size comes close to the maximum size you can fit into the case. Check out their full review here.
"Here at Bjorn3D we are no strangers to the SilverStone brand. They have been creating awesome cases, power supplies, coolers and more since 2003, and we have been fortunate enough to take a look at many of their offerings over the years. Early on in their history, they created the Sugo series of cases, a line which caters to those that wish to build a small form factor PC."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Silverstone Sugo SG12 Case Review @ Hardware Asylum
- SilverStone Sugo SG12 @ Benchmark Reviews
- Element Gaming Hyperian Micro-ATX Chassis @ eTeknix
- Cougar QBX Mini-ITX Gaming Chassis @ eTeknix
- Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX SE @ Modders-Inc
- Cooler Master MasterCase 5 @ techPowerUp
- Rosewill WolfAlloy Review Case Review @ Hardware Asylum
- Cooler Master MasterCase 5 & Pro 5 @ Kitguru
- MAINGEAR Shift @ Modders-Inc
- Thermaltake Suppressor F51 Midi Tower Review @ NikKTech
- Alphacool Custom 480mm Watercooling Kit Review @ NikKTech
- Enermax Liqmax II 240mm AIO CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- Optimized CPU Cooling with Top-Down Heatsinks @ Benchmark Reviews
- be quiet! Shadow Rock LP @ techPowerUp
- Deepcool Assassin II Review @ OCC
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 13, 2015 - 02:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: reeven, brontes, SFF
Reveen has not made a name for providing high end coolers for heavy overclockers, instead they focus on impressively short coolers for small systems. The Reeven Brontes, including the fan, is a mere 105x59x114mm (4.1x2.1x4.5") and a skinny 325g in weight. The heatsink will mount on any modern motherboard including the new LGA1151 and the PWM fan will allow you control over the speed if noise is a concern. Modders-Inc rather liked the cooler, sure it will not cool a CPU with a 140W TDP but can certainly handle low powered CPUs in SFF cases. One caveat, the 100mm may be hard to replace if it starts to have issues as it is not a common size.
"You cannot really judge how capable a CPU cooler is just by looking at it. If it well-made enough, even size can be deceptive which is good news for those who do not want the bulk of a tower style cooling solution and prefer to save some vertical space, although the question still remains."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Reeven Okeanos RC-1402 CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- Noctua NH-U9S U-Type Tower CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- Thermaltake Core X1 ITX Computer Case @ Modders-Inc
- Xigmatek LOKI II CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- D-Cooling FI-REEX Deluxe @ techPowerUp
- SilverStone Tundra Series TD03-Lite AIO CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- EK Water Blocks L360 Liquid Cooling Review, Wild Water! @ Bjorn3d
- Fractal Design Define S tower @ HardwareOverclock
- Zalman Z11 NEO Case Review: Value vs Features @ Modders-Inc
- Cooltek RM1 @ techPowerUp
- Fractal Design Node 202 Enclosure Review @ Madshrimps
Subject: Systems | August 10, 2015 - 03:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Celeron 3205U, DS57U, shuttle, SFF
Madshrimps have just wrapped up testing the Intel Celeron 3205U powered Shuttle DS57U, a SFF system which can be mounted to the back of a monitor with VESA or placed beside your monitor in the included stand. The presence of two serial ports, WOL and resume after power outage mean this little system could also be used in industrial or POS duties. It is worth noting that this system only supports 1.35V SODIMMs, make sure to choose the proper RAM to avoid disappointment. Check out the full review here; if you like the case but not the CPU there are i3, i5 and even an i7 model for you to consider.
"Shuttle has built the DS57U inside a proven chassis, which takes quite little space and succeeds to cool the internal components without the need of extra fans; one of the case laterals is acting like a huge heatsink and in this case it only remains warm even when the system is stressed to the max."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Wired2Fire Diablo Reactor Gaming PC @ Kitguru
- ZOTAC ZBOX Nano CI540 Plus Review @ Bjorn3d
- OCUK Evolution Wrath System @ Kitguru
- KitGuru Complete Guide to PC Workstations - Part 3
Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2015 - 04:21 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z3735F, ubuntu 14.04, SFF, linux, Intel, compute stick
Intel is giving Linux some love with a new Compute Stick equipped with Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS coming out this week for $110. This new model comes with less RAM and intrernal storage along with a $40 price cut versus the previous Compute Stick (which comes with Windows 8.1 With Bing).
On the outside, the new Linux-equipped Compute Stick (STCK1A8LFC) is identical to the existing SKU (read our review here) with its flash drive form factor, Intel logo, and small vents along the top and sides. Ports on the Intel STCK1A8LFC include one HDMI, one Micro USB port for power, one Micro SD card slot for storage, and a single full size USB 2.0 port for peripherals.
The Compute Stick is powered by an Intel Z3735F processor that is actively cooled by a tiny fan. This chip is a 22nm Bay Trail part with four CPU cores and Intel HD Graphics. The CPU has a base clock of 1.33 GHz and a maximum turbo clockspeed of 1.83 GHz. This SoC is paired with 1GB of DDR3L memory and 8GB of internal flash eMMC storage. There is also an 802.11b/g/n wireless radio with Bluetooth. The table below compares these specifications to the alternative Compute Stick with Windows.
|Compute Stick (Ubuntu)||Compute Stick (Windows)|
|RAM||1 GB||2 GB|
|Storage||8 GB||32 GB|
The STCK1A8LFC with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS will be available later this week from all the usual online retailers with an MSRP of $110.
It would have been nice to keep the 2GB of RAM even if Intel could not cut the price as much. There is always Micro SD for more stoage, but the 1GB of RAM is going to be somewhat limiting even for a Linux OS which typically can be made to run much leaner than Windows. It is nice to see Linux getting a design win and being bundled with the portable PC. If you need more RAM from your Compute Stick, you will need to buy the more expensive Windows version – at $150 – and install Linux yourself, however.