Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 26, 2015 - 05:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, nuc, Intel, fanless, Cherry Trail, Braswell, asrock
Earlier this month, ASRock showed off a tiny fanless computer it is calling the Beebox. Powered by an Intel Braswell SoC, the new small form factor Beebox offers up a decent selection of I/O ports and general desktop performance while sipping power. The Beebox is approximately the size of Intel's NUC measuring 118.5mm x 110mm x 46mm x (4.67" x 4.33" x 1.81" -- WxDxH) and will come in three color options: black, gold, and white.
This compact PC has a fairly extensive set of ports on tap. The front panel includes a headphone jack, infrared port, one standard USB 3.0 port, and a USB 3.0 Type-C port which supports 5V/3A charging. The rear panel hosts the power jack, two HDMI outputs, one DisplayPort output, two USB 3.0 ports, a Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock slot. Not bad for a small form factor PC.
ASRock will be offering the Beebox in three configuration options including a barebones kit, a version with 32 GB internal storage, 2 GB of RAM, and Windows 10, and a Beebox SKU with 128 GB of internal storage and 4 GB of RAM (and no OS pre-installed). Each of the SKUs are powered by the same Intel Celeron N3000 Braswell SoC. From there, users can add a single 2.5" SATA drive and a Mini PCI-E card (although this slot is occupied by the included 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless module). The system uses two DDR3L SO-DIMMs and supports a maximum of 8 GB DDR3L at 1600 MHz.
The aspect that made the Beebox stand out to me was the inclusion of the Braswell-based Celeron N3000 processor. This 4W 14nm part features two Airmont CPU cores clocked at 1.04 GHz base and 2.08 GHz turbo paired with 2MB L2 cache and a Gen 8 Intel GPU clocked at up to 600 MHz. This is a desktop variant of the Cherry Trail chips being used in tablets, but it is the lowest TDP Braswell chip currently at a mere 4 watts. ASRock likely went with this chip to ensure they could passively cool it and still keep temperatures in check. As FanlessTech notes, the chassis ASRock is using leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to heat dissipation compared to other fanless cases on the market.
We will have to wait for reviews to see how well the Beebox and its Braswell processor perform, but so long as ASRock is able to keep thermals in check, the little PC should offer acceptable performance for general desktop tasks (browsing the internet, checking email, watching streaming videos, etc). Cherry Trail (and keep in mind Braswell is a higher power chip based on the same architectures) is promising noticeable improvements to graphics and at least slight improvements to CPU performance. According to ASRock, the Beebox is going to be priced aggressively at "very low" price points which should make it a good compromise between older Bay Trail-D systems and newer (and more expensive) Broadwell and Haswell systems.
The Beebox is slated for late June availability, with exact pricing to be announced at that time.
Some familiar scenery
If you thought that Intel was going to slow down on its iteration in the SFF (small form factor) system design, you were sadly mistaken. It was February when Intel first sent us a NUC based on Broadwell, an iterative upgrade over a couple of generations for this very small platform, 4" x 4", that showed proved to be interesting from a technology stand point but didn't shift expectations of the puck-sized PC business.
Today we are looking at yet another NUC, also using a Broadwell processor, though this time the CPU is running quite a bit faster, with Intel Iris 6100 graphics and a noticeably higher TDP. The Core i7-5557U is still a dual-core / HyperThreaded processor but it increases base and Turbo clocks by wide margins, offering as much as 35% better CPU performance and mainstream gaming performance boosts in the same range. This doesn't mean the NUC 5i7RYH will overtake your custom built desktop but it does make it a lot more palatable for everyday PC users.
Oh, and we have an NVMe PCI Express SSD inside this beast as well. (Waaaaaa??)
Subject: Cases and Cooling | May 4, 2015 - 08:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Silverstone, SFF, Argon Series, AR06
If the Silverstone Argon Series AR05 was a little too small for you and your SFF system needs something with a little more cooling power you can check out the AR06. At 105x92x58mm it is a little taller than the AR05 and at 263g naked it is a little heavier. [H]ard|OCP tested it on a 4770K overclocked to 4.4GHz and it could keep it at a temperature of 88.5C, a little warm but very impressive for such a little cooler. Even more impressive is that the MSRP for the AR06 is the same as the AR05. Check out their full review right here.
"Many enthusiasts are opting for smaller footprint cases now days, and SilverStone comes to us with its higher performance low profile cooler that measures in at just 52mm tall. It has double the heatpipes of the last SilverStone cooler we reviewed and services a host of CPU sockets for both AMD and Intel."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 BW Rev.A CPU Cooler Review @ NikKTech
- Noctua NH-D9L Review @ OCC
- Thermaltake Core V21 @ Kitgru
- Fractal Design Define S Full-Tower @ eTeknix
- Raidmax Viper GX II Mid Tower Case Review @ Neoseeker
- Bitfenix AEGIS midi tower in red @ HardwareOverclock
Subject: Cases and Cooling | May 4, 2015 - 01:33 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xigmatek, SFF case, SFF, nebula c, mini ITX
Looking for a cute and cuddly case? Xigmatek may have you covered with its latest Mini ITX-friendly Nebula C chassis which will soon be available in pink, purple, yellow, lime, and emerald colors.
Measuring 305 mm (H) x 260 mm (W) x 260mm (D) or roughly 12" x 10" x 10", the Nebula C has a SECC Steel frame paired with an ABS plastic exterior. There is a power button nestled in the top right corner, front I/O (two USB 3.0 and two audio ports) on the right side, and a triangular orange cutout in the bottom left corner for aesthetic reasons. Apart from that, the Nebula C is smooth plastic with little in the way of vents, logos, or other garnishments. Cooling is handled by a large passive mesh vent on the bottom of the case and a single 120mm fan on the rear panel. There is space for regular ATX power supplies, two expansion slots, and external water cooling radiators by way of two rubber grommets.
Internally, the Nebula C can hold a standard Mini ITX motherboard, a CPU heatsink up to 80mm tall, a full height graphics card up to 230mm in length, one 3.5" drive bay and one 2.5" bay. Using an adapter, you can fit a maximum of three 2.5" drives in this system. The support for ATX power supplies is nice to see as there are many more options in this space as well as better quality parts with lower noise at similar price points ( you would have to spend more money to get these features in a small form factor PSU where available).
Judging from Bit-Tech's review of the glossy white Nebula C, the case looks very easy to work with and the ability to remove all three side panels should make it easy to get at just about every bit of hardware without needing to take anything out of the case. They do note that cable management is a pain, and that a modular power supply is recommended. Since the motherboard is mounted on the bottom with the drive bays and PSU mounted above that, I can see how it could easy start to look like a rats nest in there if you don't plan ahead on this part of the build process. In all, it may be a worthy small form factor case if you have less than $100 and want something with a bit of color.
The refreshed Nebula C cases in pink, purple, lime, emerald, an yellow will be available soon. There is no official word on pricing or availability, but expect them to go for around $80 USD (if the glossy white version is any indication).
Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 3, 2015 - 08:27 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: z97, xeon e5-2699v3, X99, tiki-z, tiki, SFF, liquid cooling, Haswell-E, falcon northwest, core i7-5960x
Falcon Northwest recently upped the hardware ante on its small form factor Tiki PC. Previously limited to Z97-based hardware, the company is now offering Tiki PCs with X99 motherboards. Even better, the Tiki can be configured with Intel’s Haswell-E Core i7-5000 or Haswell-EP Xeon chips such as the Core i7-5960X or Xeon E5-2699V3.
The updated Tiki maintains the same steel and aluminum case measuring 13” x 4” x 13” (HxWxD) with customizable paint work and a removable solid aluminum or granite base as its predecessors (e.g. Tiki-Z). External I/O options include the latest USB 3.1, eSATA, and Dual Intel Gigabit LAN ports. Internally, the Tiki has space for an Intel Z97 or X99 motherboard with a liquid cooled processor, up to 32GB of DDR4 (or 16GB DDR3 with Z97) memory, a dedicated graphics card up to an NVIDIA GTX TITAN X or Quadro and ample storage space in the form of four 2.5” drives or one 3.5” and two 2.5” drives.
All this hardware amounts to an impressive amount performance in general – much less a small form factor system. At the upper echelon, the Xeon E5-2699V3 offers 18 cores (36 threads with HT) clocked at up to 3.6 GHz paired with 45MB of L3 cache. Paired with a Quadro card like the M6000, that is one powerful workstation!
The updated Tiki is aimed at gamers and workstation builds doing intensive workloads like CAD, 3D animation, and video production.
The downside to this stylish powerhouse is, of course, pricing – the Tiki is far from cheap and the boutique premium is quite evident here. Available now, the updated Tiki starts at $1,860 for a base level Z97 system with quad core CPU or $2,492 for an eight core X99-based system. Fully loaded, the Tiki tops $10,000.
It is definitely an extremely niche product, but the engineering and styling is impressive all the same!
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 29, 2015 - 12:15 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: cirrus7, SFF, nuc, broadwell-u, fanless
Next month, German manufacturer Cirrus7 will begin shipping its new Nimbini system. The Nimbini is an even smaller variant of the company’s small form factor Nimbus PC. This time, Cirrus7 has managed to pack a Intel NUC system into a fanless case with multiple layers of stacked laser cut aluminum panels that double as a heatsink for the internals. Even better, the Nimbini supports Intel’s Rock Canyon and Maple Canyon NUC boards, and supports Broadwell-U processors up to the 28W Core i7 models with Iris Graphics (e.g. the two core, four thread, Core i7-5557U with Iris Graphics 6100).
The Nimbini will come as a complete system (150 x 150 x 87mm) preloaded with Windows or Ubuntu Linux operating systems or as a barebones DIY kit – which at upwards of 90 pieces (per FanlessTech) is not for the faint-of-heart! This case can be customized to add different covers and to vary the thickness of the case by adding or removing layers. The standard configuration leaves room for a 2.5” drive in addition to the usual M.2 SSD used with NUCs. If you aren’t using that second storage drive, you can make the case thinner or expand it for maximum cooling. While also aesthetically pleasing, the best part about the aluminum construction is that it is a fanless design which is perfect for a HTPC (home theater PC) or audio engineering setup. Cirrus7 claims to support up to 28W processor TDPs without any fans.
Rear IO for the Intel Maple Canyon NUC installed in the layered Nimbini chassis.
Cirrus7 will being taking pre-orders in May. Among others, both the Rock Canyon (with its IR receiver and accompanying case window) and Maple Canyon internal hardware (NUC boards) with dual DisplayPort outputs will be on offer. Pricing has not yet been announced, but it looks promising if you are looking for a premium silent SFF PC.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 16, 2015 - 06:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Silverstone, SFF, Argon Series, AR05
In March Morry looked at the Silverstone Argon AR01, an inexpensive cooler for moderately powerful CPUs. [H]ard|OCP has just wrapped up a review of the AR05 which resembles that cooler, rotated 90 degrees to fit in extremely small cases. It is 104x92x36.7mm, yes 36.7mm tall, with a 92mm fan for cooling. As you should expect a cooler this small is not the most powerful cooler available but from [H]'s testing you can see that it is a significant improvement over the stock fan. If you are looking to cool a SFF system then this is a review you need to read.
"Trying to fit a lot of air cooling into a smaller footprint computer case can certainly be an obstacle in your build process. With mini-ITX and micro-ATX systems gaining popularity, and chassis footprints shrinking, huge tower coolers are not an option. How well does SilverStone's AR-05 cooler perform with its minuscule 37mm height profile?"
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Raijintek Triton CPU Water Cooler @ Benchmark Reviews
- Cooler Master Nepton 240M AIO Liquid Cooler Review @ Neoseeker
- Fractal Design Define R5 tower @ HardwareOverclock
- In-Win 904 Plus Chassis @ Kitguru
- AeroCool GT-A Chassis @ Kitguru
- Lian-Li DK-01 Aluminium Desk Chassis @ eTeknix
- Thermaltake Core X9 Review @ OCC
Subject: Motherboards | April 15, 2015 - 07:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: z97, SFF, gigabyte, GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5
You could argue that the Z97 chipset is not the freshest but for serious gamers that are on a budget and for whom space is at a premium the $130 Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-GAMING 5 is a smart choice. Four memory slots which support up to DDR3-3100, four PCI-e slots, an M.2 PCIe slot and even a SATA Express port mean you can support newer technology without breaking the bank, especially if you plan incremental upgrades. It also has onboard Realtek ALC1150 7.1 surround sound with support for the Creative X-Fi MB3 and a swapable TI Burr Brown OPA2134 OP-AMP along with S/PDIF out also make this a good board for a fledgling sound artist. Check out the full review at Modders Inc; you don't have to be big nor expensive to provide a long list of features.
"Long are the days of the SUPER TOWER chassis being the king of the gamers den, in the past few years the SFF (Small Form Factor) has taken over the market. This is not only due to the compact size of mATX and ITX but that both form factors are continuing to squeeze performance into every bit of their tiny …"
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASRock Fatal1ty X99X Killer, The Thriller With The Killer @ Bjorn3d
- Gigabyte Z97X-SLI Motherboard Review @ OCIA
- ASUS X99-A Motherboard Review @HiTech Legion
- ASUS X99-A @ eTeknix
- MSI 970 GAMING AMD AM3+ Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 8, 2015 - 06:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: thin mini itx, SFF case, SFF, mini ITX, fanless, akasa
Akasa recently introduced two new fanless Mini ITX cases under its Euler brand. The new Euler T and Euler M are all aluminum enclosures that cool up to 35W processors passively using an aluminium heatsink and the case’s own surface area to dissipate heat.
Both cases are black with a brushed metal texture and “diamond edge” finish around the front panel. The top and sides of the small form factor cases use a fin array design that benefits the passive cooling feature. Front IO includes a circular power button and two USB 3.0 ports.
The Akasa Euler T chassis. The Euler M (not pictured) is slightly larger).
The Euler T represents a refinement of the existing Euler S chassis with support for three 2.5” drives. The case measures 245 x 215.5 x 68.5mm. It is built with Thin Mini ITX motherboards in mind. It can be paired with an optional external power supply up to 150W.
Akasa’s Euler M case is deeper measuring 245 x 274.5 x 68.5mm. The case supports regular sized desktop memory modules and Mini ITX motherboards. Thanks to its larger size, it supports four 2.5” drive bays. The Euler M has an internal DC-to-DC power adapter and can be paired with an optional external 80W power supply.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 5, 2015 - 04:24 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: shuttle, SFF, fanless, core i7-5500u, Broadwell
The Shuttle DS57U is a new small form factor fanless PC packing Intel’s latest Broadwell processor. The Shuttle 1.3L chassis (7.9" x 6.5" x 1.5") is all black and sits vetically on raised feet. Vents run along the top of the case and the vertical design along with a large heatsink lets them offer a fanless design.
External I/O includes:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 2 x RS232
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- 2 x Analog audio
- 1 x SD card reader
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet (Intel i211 and i218LM)
The PC can be attached to the back of a monitor stand or to the wall using its VESA mounting holes.
Internally, the Shuttle DS57U comes with up to an Intel Core i7 5500U processor which is a 15W dual core part with Hyper Threading clocked at 2.4GHz base and 3GHz max turbo, 4MB cache, and Intel 5500 graphics clocked at up to 950MHz. It is a barebones PC which means that users have to add their own storage, memory, and operating system. Users can add two laptop DDR3 SODIMMs (16GB max), a single 2.5” drive, and a two Mini PCI-e devices (an 802.11n wireless module comes pre-installed in the half-height slot).
The Shuttle DS57U would make for a silent home PC, media server, or an extremely overpowered home router (heh). Its feature set also makes the DS57U suited for commercial and industrial applications. The fanless Broadwell PC is available now in Europe for 192 euros (approximately $220 USD). There is no word on when it will hit this side of the pond, but its introduction is a promising start to other fanless Broadwell systems hitting the market.