Introduction: A Hybrid Approach
The Hex 2.0 from Phononic is not your typical CPU cooler. It functions as both a thermoelectric cooler (TEC) - which you may also know as a Peltier cooler - and as a standard heatsink/fan, depending on CPU load. It offers a small footprint for placement in all but the lowest-profile systems, yet it boasts cooling potential beyond other coolers of its size. Yes, it is expensive, but this is a far more complex device than a standard air or even all-in-one liquid cooler - and obviously much smaller than even the most compact AiO liquid coolers.
“The HEX 2.0 combines a proprietary state-of-the-art high performance thermoelectric module with an innovative heat exchanger. The small form factor CPU cooler pioneers a new category of cooling technology. The compact design comfortably fits in small chassis, including mini-ITX cases, while delivering cooling capacity beyond that of much larger coolers.”
Even though it does not always need to function as such, the Hex 2.0 is a thermoelectric cooling device, and that alone makes it interesting from a PC hardware enthusiast point of view (at least mine, anyway). The 'active-passive' approach taken by Phononic with the Hex 2.0 allows for greater performance potential that would otherwise be possible from a smaller TEC device, though our testing will of course reveal how effective it is in actual use.
HEX 2.0 features an Active-Passive design (Credit: Phononic)
The goal for the HEX 2.0 CPU cooler was to provide similar cooling performance to all-in-one (AIO) liquid coolers or the very largest fan-heat sinks in a package that could fit into the smallest PC form factors (like miniITX). The active-passive design is what makes this possible. By splitting the CPU heat into two paths, as shown in Figure 1 (Ed. the above image), the thermoelectric device can be sized at an optimal point where it can provide the most benefit for lowering CPU temperature without having to be large enough to pump the entire CPU thermal load. We also designed electronic controls to turn off the thermoelectric heat pump at times of low CPU load, making for an energy efficient cooler that provides adequate cooling with zero power draw at low CPU loads. However, when the CPU is stressed and the CPU heat load increases, the electronic controls energize the thermoelectric heat pump, lowering the temperature of the passive base plate and the CPU itself. The active-passive design has one further benefit – when used in conjunction with the electronic controls, this design virtually eliminates the risk of condensation for the HEX 2.0.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 16, 2017 - 09:34 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFX, SFF, Portal, mini-itx, enclosure, case, bitfenix, aluminum
BitFenix has announced the Portal, which is one of the more interesting-looking chassis designs to hit the market in recent memory. Available in both black and white, and with or without a top-mounted window to show off your GPU (thanks to the inverted motherboard layout), the Portal is a sleek mini-ITX enclosure with a smooth, rounded aluminum exterior that is certainly a departure from typical case designs.
One of the design concepts made possible by SFX power supplies is a slimming down of the standard tower concept, which leaving component layout identical. In the case of this mini-ITX mini tower case from BitFenix, you might at first think you are looking at a larger case, but that PSU opening is in fact SFX, and the case is just wide enough to accommodate a standard PCIe graphics card.
A smaller mini-ITX case is often more challenging to work in, but here BitFenix has a clever solution with their dual-frame design:
"Designed for ITX Motherboards, the striking key component of the interior is the Dual Frame Design for easy access and quick installation. The inner chamber, equipped with enough space for high-end components, slides into the housing via a ball bearing runner design."
The external housing slimply slides off to reveal a standard chassis frame, allowing for easy component installation. Beyond the requirements of mini-ITX motherboard and SFX power supply, the Portal allows for CPU coolers of up to 125 mm, and full size graphics cards up to 300 mm long.
- Chassis Type: ITX Chassis
- Colors: Black | White
- Materials: Aluminum | SECC Steel | ABS | Transparent acrylic
- Motherboard: Mini-ITX
- CPU Cooler: Up to 125mm height
- Graphic Card Length: Up to 300mm
- Power Supply: SFX Form Factor
- Storage Capacity: 3.5" HDD x2, 2.5" HDD 1+2
- Cooling Capacity: Front 120mm x1 (included), rear 80mm x1 (included)
- Radiator Capacity: (Front) Up to 120mm x1
- Front I/O ports: USB 3.0 x2 | HD Audio Mic & Headphone
- Dimensions (with stand): (WxHxD) 247 x 395 x 411 mm (9.72 x 15.55 x 16.18 inches)
- Weight: 5.81 kg (12.81 lbs)
Cooling is another area that has received BitFenix's attention, as they have implemented what they call their "intelligent cooling solution" with the Portal:
"To cool the built-in hardware, the portal is equipped with air inlets at all four corners and the bottom of the housing. The air-permeable inner chamber is further equipped with included 120mm intake and 80mm exhaust fan, for a stable airflow for basic Office and Home Theater PCs."
The BitFenix Portal is available now for $139.99 with your choice of color and window option (product pages already up on Newegg.com).
Subject: Motherboards | March 4, 2017 - 11:32 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: X370GTN, x370, small form factor, SFF, ryzen, racing, motherboard, mITX, mini-itx, B350GTN, b350, amd, AM4
The first images of a mini-ITX AM4 motherboard are here, courtesy of BIOSTAR (via ComputerBase). Part of their second-generation RACING-series of gaming motherboards, BIOSTAR is now the first company to show an AMD Ryzen-capable mini-ITX option with their X370GTN.
Image credit: ComputerBase
There had been mention of an upcoming mITX board for AMD Ryzen CPUs from BIOSTAR, with a (rather low-key) mention of such a product in a recent company press release (“the exciting new RACING X370GTN in the mini-ITX form factor will also be available”), and these images from the company's RACING event are now circulating along with the specs of two different mITX offerings.
Image credit: ComputerBase
There will in fact be two mini-ITX motherboards, with both X370 (shown) and the lower-end B350 chipsets (with the RACING B350GTN). ComputerBase provided slides with specifications (via Zolkorn, Thai language) who covered the BIOSTAR event:
BIOSTAR has not announced availability or pricing of their mini-ITX Ryzen boards yet, but given the pent-up demand for mini-ITX solutions for enthusiast AMD processors (with AM3 conspicuously absent from mITX), this is great news for small form-factor enthusiasts.
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: Cases and Cooling | January 17, 2017 - 06:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ST45SF, small form factor, Silverstone, SFX PSU, PSU, 80 Plus Bronze
You may remember Lee's review of Silverstone's SFX PSUs back in November, but in case you do not you should revisit his review as well as this one recently posted by [H]ard|OCP. The SFX PSU form factor for SFF cases is more of a mouthful than it is a physical object for at 125x63.5x100mm it is wider than it is deep. That tiny package does hold a decent amount of power as it can provide the full 450W it is capable of to the 12V rail at 37.5 amps, more than enough power for even higher end GPUs put onto a mATX board. Not only did it pass [H]'s torture test, it is also very competitively priced.
"SilverStone is back today with one of its "smaller is better" computer power supplies that can be used in SFX form factor systems but also comes with a mounting bracket that makes it ATX friendly out of the box. This PSU is bringing quality and value, which is a great thing in the PSU world and not often seen from the big brand names."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- SilverStone SST-ST45SF 450W SFX Power Supply Unit Review @ NikKTech
- SilverStone Strider Platinum ST1000-PT @ [H]ard|OCP
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!
Introduction and Features
SilverStone has been busy this year expanding their power supply lineup. With a continued focus on smaller physical size and support for enthusiasts in the small form factor arena, SilverStone now offers seven power supplies in the SFX Series, ranging in output capacity from 300W to 700W. Earlier this year we looked at the SX700-LPT, which sits at high end of the SFX Series. In this review we are going to look at the two entry level models, the new ST30SF (V2.0) and the ST45SF (V3.0).
Both of the SilverStone SFX power supplies were designed for mainstream use in small form factor cases but they can also be used in place of a standard ATX power supply (in small enclosures) with the included adapter bracket. As entry level units they forgo some features like modular cables, Platinum or Gold efficiency certification, and fan-less operation. However, in addition to their compact size, the ST30SF and ST45SF incorporate a quiet 92mm fan (instead of the 80mm fans used in previous models), fixed cables, and come with 80 Plus Bronze efficiency certification.
SilverStone ST30SF & ST45SF PSU Key Features:
• Small Form Factor (SFX) design (63x125x100mm HxWxD)
• 300W or 450W continuous power output rated for 24/7 operation
• Very quiet with 92mm cooling fan
• 80 Plus Bronze certified for high efficiency
• Powerful single +12V rail operation
• Fixed cables
• Active power factor correction
• MSRP: ST30SF - $$49.99 USD
• MSRP: ST45SF - $69.99 USD
• 3-Year warranty
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 24, 2016 - 06:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SX700-LPT, small form factor, SFX, 80 Plus Platinum, modular psu
Do you recall the new long playing version of the SFX PSU form factor; specifically Lee's review of the SilverStone SFX-L 700W PSU? Perhaps you have forgotten about the new form factor of PSU that offers similar cooling to a full ATX PSU but takes up a lot less room. Not to fret, [H]ard|OCP is here to remind you with a fresh review of the PSU. Their tests revealed the same strengths as Lee's, perhaps not outstanding but certainly a very good choice for a PSU. They did dock more points for the lack of an included adapter for ATX mounting, they are available but it does seem worth mentioning SilverStone's oversight.
"SilverStone has a new take on small form factor power supplies it is calling "SFX-L." This new form factor extends the standard SFX size by 30mm allowing SilverStone to install a quieter 120mm fan than the usual higher speed and noisier 80mm and 92mm fans. How does all this work out?"
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Seasonic Prime 650W Titanium @ Kitguru
- Cougar LX Series 600 W @ techPowerUp
- Seasonic Prime 850W Titanium @ Kitguru
- Cooler Master MasterWatt Maker 1200 @ Kitguru
Introduction and Features
SFX form factor cases and power supplies continue grow in popularity and in market share. As one of the original manufacturers of SFX power supplies, Silverstone Technology Co. is meeting demand with new products; continuing to raise the bar in the SFX power supply arena with the introduction of their new SX700-LPT unit.
(SX=SFX Form Factor, 700=700W, L=Lengthened, PT=Platinum certified)
SilverStone has a long-standing reputation for providing a full line of high quality enclosures, power supplies, cooling components, and accessories for PC enthusiasts. With a continued focus on smaller physical size and support for small form-factor enthusiasts, SilverStone added the new SX700-LPT to their SFX form factor series. There are now seven power supplies in the SFX Series, ranging in output capacity from 300W to 700W. The SX700-LPT is the second SFX unit to feature a lengthened chassis. The SX700-LPT enclosure is 30mm (1.2”) longer than a standard SFX chassis, which allows using a quieter 120mm cooling fan rather than the typical 80mm fan used in most SFX power supplies.
The new SX700-LPT power supply was designed for small form factor cases but it can also be used in place of a standard ATX power supply (in small cases) with an optional mounting bracket. In addition to its small size, the SX700-LPT features high efficiency (80 Plus Platinum certified), all modular flat ribbon-style cables, and provides up to 700W of continuous DC output (750W peak). The SX700-LPT also operates in semi-fanless mode and incorporates a very quiet 120mm cooling fan.
SilverStone SX700-LPT PSU Key Features:
• Small Form Factor (SFX-L) design
• 700W continuous power output rated for 24/7 operation
• Very quiet with semi-fanless operation
• 120mm cooling fan optimized for low noise
• 80 Plus Platinum certified for high efficiency
• Powerful single +12V rail with 58.4A capacity
• All-modular, flat ribbon-style cables
• High quality construction with all Japanese capacitors
• Strict ±3% voltage regulation and low AC ripple and noise
• Support for high-end GPUs with four PCI-E 8/6-pin connectors
• Safety Protections: OCP, OVP, UVP, SCP, OTP, and OPP