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Mini-STX Build: ECS H110S-2P and SilverStone VT01 Review

Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction

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).

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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.

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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!

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Continue reading our review of a mini-STX computer build featuring ECS and SilverStone!

First we'll take a look at the specifications for the motherboard, enclosure, and cooler used for this build, courtesy of ECS and SilverStone.

Motherboard: ECS H110S-2P

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ECS H110S-2P Motherboard
CPU Supports 6th gen Intel Core family / Pentium / Celeron series processors for LGA 1151 socket
Chipset Intel H110 Express Chipset
Memory Dual-Channel DDR4 Memory architecture
2x DDR4 SO-DIMM socket
Support up to 32 GB
Expansion Slot 1x M.2 slot for SSD
1x M.2 slot for WiFi/BT
Storage Support by H110 Express Chipset
1x Serial ATAIII 6Gb/s
Audio Realtek ALC662 2-channel High Definition audio CODEC
Network Realtek 8111H Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controller
USB Support by H110 Express Chipset
4x USB 3.0 ports up to 5Gb/s (either rear I/O or front header)
2x USB 2.0 ports Up to 480 Mb/s
Rear Panel I/O 2x Audio jacks
1x RJ-45 port
1x HDMI ports
1x Display port
4x USB 3.0 ports
Connectors & Headers 1x 4-pin CPU_FAN connector
1x 4-pin SYS_FAN connector
1x Front panel audio header
1x USB 2.0 header, supports additional 2 USB ports
1x SATA III 6Gb/s connector
System BIOS AMI BIOS with 64 MB SPI Flash ROM
Multi-Language BIOS
Form Factor MINI STX Form Factor
147 mm (W) x 140 mm (H)
OS Support Windows 7 32-bit
Windows 7 64-bit
Windows 8.1 64-bit
Windows 10 64-bit
* Intel 7th Generation CPUs support Windows 10 64bit only
MSRP $79.99

Case: SilverStone Vital Series VT01

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SilverStone Vital Series VT01 Enclosure
Model No. SST-VT01S (Silver)
SST-VT01B (Black)
Material 0.8 mm SECC
Motherboard Intel Mini-STX
Internal Drive Bays 1x 2.5-inch
Front I/O Ports 1x USB 3.0
1x USB Type-C
3.5 mm Audio
3.5 mm Mic
CPU Cooler Limitation 34 mm
Dimensions 6.1 x 5.98 x 2.56 inches
(155 x 152 x 65 mm)
1.53 Liters
Weight 1.28 lbs (582 g)
VESA Mount (included) MIS-D (75 x 75 mm)
MSRP $29.99

Cooler: SilverStone NT07-115X

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SilverStone NT07-115X
Model No. SST-NT07-115X
Material Copper center, Extruded aluminum fins
Application Intel Socket LGA1150/1151/1155/1156
Cooling Fan 80mm PWM
Fan Speed 1500 - 3600 RPM
Max Air Pressure 0.8 - 2.6 mmH2O
Max Airflow 15.6 - 28.1 CFM
CPU TDP 65W
Dimensions/Weight (WxDxH) 90 x 90 x 23 mm
(3.54 x 3.54 x 0.91 inches)
180.3 grams
MSRP $19.99

Pricing and availability:

First of all, there are no listings for the ECS H110S-2P motherboard in the U.S. that I can find at this time. I would expect the board to sell for somewhere below its $80 MSRP when (or if) it is available in North America, with other Mini-STX options on the market selling for less than $85 currently.

As to SilverStone's case and cooler, these are easy to find (and quite affordable):

Next we'll take a closer look at the motherboard and case, and then move on to the build process with this ultra small form-factor system!

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February 6, 2017 | 10:45 AM - Posted by notwalle (not verified)

hi does it have tb3? oh it does does it support video through tb3?

February 6, 2017 | 11:06 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

None of the mini-STX boards on the market currently offer TB3 (that I'm aware of).

February 6, 2017 | 11:12 AM - Posted by PCPerFan (not verified)

I like this case a lot. It is cheap and well-designed. I would prefer if it was made of alu, but can't complain at this price.

I'd like to see more STX boards on the market, preferably some options with higher-end chipsets like H170 or Z270.

February 6, 2017 | 11:23 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I'm with you. And I want to see more socketed Intel CPUs with Iris graphics. The few out there are very expensive. (Still hoping a next-gen AMD APU will make it to a form-factor like this as well.)

February 6, 2017 | 03:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes AMD's Ryzen/Vega APUs with at least a single stack of HBM2(4GB or 8GB) acting like a last level cache to a larger amount of DDR4 based DRAM. AMD should really have made an amended JEDEC standard with HBM2 having a 2048 bit bus to each HBM2 stack instead of 1024(Current standard) and just gone higher with the DRAM stacks for larger memory capacities!

February 6, 2017 | 11:33 AM - Posted by Justin150 (not verified)

Not really seeing a use for this, although it is cheap

For HTPC it has a fan so a fail for me (my old i3 NUC is in a fanless case for that)

Cannot be used as a cheap NAS as not enough SATA ports

Not enough power for anything other than light gaming

Only thing I can think of is office use, use the VESA mount to hide it on back of monitor. Very neat but you can get cheaper.

February 6, 2017 | 11:47 AM - Posted by Marios (not verified)

This would be a nice little build if intel cpus had better integrated gpus. Lack of graphics upgradability is huge concern for me. I would rather put the money into mini ITX build with pci express and much higher power delivery.

February 10, 2017 | 01:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I saw a pic of an Asrock miniSTX board with an MXM slot so you could slap a notebook GPU in there

Gecube made a RX480 - a full Polaris 10 - in MXM format - but it used too much power for OEM notebook cooling solutions and they didn't make it compatible with Clevos (which are the most upgradeable and have the most robust overspecced cooling of all laptop manufacturers) so nobody bothered seeing if it worked.

February 6, 2017 | 12:19 PM - Posted by Paul A. Mitchell (not verified)

Re: Left: ECS H110S-2P (mini-STX)

There is a SODIMM socket from Lotes
that allows the sockets to be
placed much closer to each other:

http://supremelaw.org/patents/lotes/AAA-DDR-131.JPG

February 6, 2017 | 12:31 PM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

Normally I detest external power but in this scenario it makes sense. It's so small there's no room to be putting extra wires in there.

February 6, 2017 | 12:52 PM - Posted by Mobile_Dom

I'm glad I coerced Sebastian into doing the Prime95 run, very intersting results

February 6, 2017 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

:)

February 6, 2017 | 02:08 PM - Posted by Joy (not verified)

Very nice! Would love to use a setup like this to run a freeNAS server, although I would couple ASUS H110S1/CSM motherboard ($75) with Pentium G4560 3.5GHz with Hyper Threading ($65).

Any chance you could post PassMark benchmark score?

https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i5-6600K+%40+3.50GHz

February 6, 2017 | 05:02 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I didn't run PassMark, just Geekbench 4. If I have time to re-assemble the system I'll check it out (already on to another mini system).

February 6, 2017 | 02:15 PM - Posted by Geek (not verified)

How fast is M.2 slot and can you boot Windows 7 from it?

February 6, 2017 | 05:00 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I saw up to 1800 MB/s reads and 1500 MB/s writes benchmarking my Samsung SM961 NVMe SSD in the M.2 slot. I am not sure about Win7 compatibility, but I assume it is possible with a driver during installation. Seems like a murky subject when I look around for info on Windows 7 NVMe installs...

February 6, 2017 | 02:22 PM - Posted by Geek (not verified)

The rail voltages on HWMonitor are way lower than they should be. Maybe you need a better power adapter.

February 6, 2017 | 05:01 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I 100% agree. The lack of high-quality adapters specific to the form-factor is a negative at present.

February 6, 2017 | 08:10 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How does WiFi work? I didn't see any mention of sockets for antennas as part of the back IO?

February 6, 2017 | 08:52 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

There are punch-outs for a Wi-Fi antenna on the back of the case, and the board has an M.2 Wi-Fi card slot in addition to the standard PCIe SSD slot. While a lot of mini-ITX board come with Wi-Fi solutions I haven't seen mini-STX with that bundled in yet.

It would add about $34 to the total build cost to implement a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth solution, including external antennas if you used an Intel 7265 M.2 card (~$24) and an antenna kit (~$10), for example.

(I should have mentioned this in the review, and I updated it with this info).

February 6, 2017 | 09:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I noticed the info about the slots but was mainly concerned about how you'd mount the antennas. Thanks. Good review.

February 7, 2017 | 12:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Don't cheap out on the power brick.

February 9, 2017 | 12:20 PM - Posted by D1RTYD1Z619

What is that a computer for ants?

February 12, 2017 | 06:09 PM - Posted by kfh13 (not verified)

Dear viewers,
Could you suggest good thin mini ATX case with support for one 3.5 or 2.5 HDD, SFX PSU but without space for dedicated GPU?

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