Introduction and First Impressions
When I reviewed the first LIVA mini-PC from ECS one year ago I was impressed by the concept of a full Windows computer in an enclosure about the size of a can of cola, which included everything you needed to get started out of the box. The problem with that first LIVA was that it was a little underpowered for the current generation of operating systems, and with the introduction of the LIVA X the performance improved only slightly; though it was a much more polished product overall. So how does the latest LIVA - the X2 - stack up? We'll find that out here.
The first thing you're bound to notice with the X2 is the markedly different style compared to the first two. Where last year’s LIVA X had a sleek, lower-profile appearance, with the LIVA X2 we have something completely different, which I won’t judge one way or the other as this is a matter of personal taste. I do miss the angular black plastic housing from last year’s version, but the fit and finish of the X2 is very nice regardless of what you think of the rounded body and white and chrome plastic finish. (ECS also offers a LIVA “Core” barebone kit that follows the aesthetic of the LIVA X.)
So what’s new beyond the appearance? After only the most minor tweak to the SoC between the first LIVA and its followup, the LIVA X (moving a single SKU up from an Intel Bay Trail-M Celeron N2807 to the N2808), this new X2 has a completely different Intel solution under the hood with its Braswell SoC - the Intel Celeron N3050 processor, a dual-core part with 2 MB of cache and a 2.16 GHz top speed. Considering that even the <$150 Intel Compute Stick offers a quad-core CPU (the Z3735F, a Bay Trail SoC) I was a little skeptical of the dual-core option here, but we’ll just have to see how it performs.
Three generations of LIVA
Four High Powered Mini ITX Systems
Thanks to Sebastian for helping me out with some of the editorial for this piece and to Ken for doing the installation and testing on the system builds! -Ryan
Update (1/23/16): Now that that AMD Radeon R9 Nano is priced at just $499, it becomes an even better solution for these builds, dropping prices by $150 each.
While some might wonder where the new Radeon R9 Nano fits in a market that offers the AMD Fury X for the same price, the Nano is a product that defines a new category in the PC enthusiast community. It is a full-scale GPU on an impossibly small 6-inch PCB, containing the same core as the larger liquid-cooled Fury X, but requiring 100 watts less power than Fury X and cooled by a single-fan dual-slot air cooler.
The R9 Nano design screams compatibility. It has the ability to fit into virtually any enclosure (including many of the smallest mini-ITX designs), as long as the case supports a dual-slot (full height) GPU. The total board length of 6 inches is shorter than a mini-ITX motherboard, which is 6.7 inches square! Truly, the Nano has the potential to change everything when it comes to selecting a small form-factor (SFF) enclosure.
Typically, a gaming-friendly enclosure would need at minimum a ~270 mm GPU clearance, as a standard 10.5-inch reference GPU translates into 266.7 mm in length. Even very small mini-ITX enclosures have had to position components specifically to allow for these longer cards – if they wanted to be marketed as compatible with a full-size GPU solution, of course. Now with the R9 Nano, smaller and more powerful than any previous ITX-specific graphics card to date, one of the first questions we had was a pretty basic one: what enclosure should we put this R9 Nano into?
With no shortage of enclosures at our disposal to try out a build with this new card, we quickly discovered that many of them shared a design choice: room for a full-length GPU. So, what’s the advantage of the Nano’s incredibly compact size? It must be pointed out that larger (and faster) Fury X has the same MSRP, and at 7.5 inches the Fury X will fit comfortably in cases that have spacing for the necessary radiator.
Finding a Case for Nano
While even some of the tiniest mini-ITX enclosures (EVGA Hadron, NCASE M1, etc.) offer support for a 10.5-in GPU, there are several compact mini-ITX cases that don’t support a full-length graphics card due to their small footprint. While by no means a complete list, here are some of the options out there (note: there are many more mini-ITX cases that don’t support a full-height or dual-slot expansion card at all, such as slim HTPC enclosures):
|Cooler Master||Elite 110||$47.99, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-O5||$377, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q01||$59.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q03||$74.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q07||$71.98, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q30||$139.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q33||$134.99, Newegg.com|
|Rosewill||Legacy V3 Plus-B||$59.99, Newegg.com|
The list is dominated by Lian Li, who offers a number of cube-like mini-ITX enclosures that would ordinarily be out of the question for a gaming rig, unless one of the few ITX-specific cards were chosen for the build. Many other fine enclosure makers (Antec, BitFenix, Corsair, Fractal Design, SilverStone, etc.) offer mini-ITX enclosures that support full-length GPUs, as this has pretty much become a requirement for an enthusiast PC case.
Subject: Systems | October 31, 2015 - 01:56 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: x5-Z8500, windows 10, PC, mini-pc, Kangaroo, intel atom, InFocus, computer, Cherry Trail
InFocus has created what they are calling “the world’s smallest personal, powerful, portable PC”, and the Kangaroo is certainly an impressive-looking device that looks even better when you consider the $99 price tag.
The Kangaroo is looks like a 2.5-inch external hard drive, and inside the sleek housing it offers a quad-core Intel Atom (Cherry Trail) x5-z8500 processor with a nominal speed of 1.44 GHz (turbo up to 2.24 GHz), along with the usual 2 GB RAM and 32 GB eMMC storage. Add dual-band 802.11ac wireless and a built-in fingerprint reader, and this becomes a quite the full-featured mini-PC. And the best part might just be the battery, as the Kangaroo can operate for up to 4 hours of “casual use” without wall power, according to InFocus.
Here are the full specifications from InFocus:
- OS: Windows 10 - Home edition
- CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8500 Processor (2M Cache, up to 2.24 GHz)
- Graphics: Intel Processor Graphics Gen8
- Video Memory: Sharing System Memory
- Memory: 2GB LPDDR3
- Hard Drive: 32GB eMMC
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 A/C (Dual Band) / Bluetooth 4.0
- Expansion Slot microSD
- Security: Fingerprint reader
- Battery Life: 4 hours (casual use)
- Dimensions: Computing module : 80.5 x 124 x 12.9mm / Base : 80.5 x 46.9 x 12.9mm
- Weight: 200g (without adapter & power cord) / 470g (including adapter & power cord)
- Ports: (Computing module) microSD, Micro USB (charge only); (Base) USB 2.0 x 1, USB 3.0 x 1, HDMI x 1, DC-IN
- Audio: Supported through HDMI
- Cloud: OneDrive
- Power Adapter: Input: 100V-220V ~ 1A, 50-60Hz / Output: 12V/3A
- Accessories included: Software - OS Link (requires USB cable), dock, power supply, cables
There’s even more versatility available for the Kangaroo user when you add the OSLinx iOS app to the mix, essentially allowing you to use the tablet as a monitor:
“Your iPad is all you need to have to enjoy the benefits of your Kangaroo PC on the go. OSLinx Windows Monitor turns your iOS device into a primary display of your Kangaroo PC. It connects to a PC through a Lightning-to-USB cable and works with OSLinx Server installed on the Kangaroo PC. OSLinx Windows Monitor supports mouse as well as multitouch gestures.”
The Kangaroo is available now, and currently being sold on Newegg.com for that $99 MSRP.
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: Systems, Mobile | October 20, 2015 - 05:55 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Lenovo, yoga 900, convertible, 2-in-1, laptop, notebook, Intel Core i7, QHD+
Lenovo has introduced their latest Yoga convertible notebook, and this one isn’t just thinner and lighter – it’s 14.9 mm thick and weighs just 2.8 lbs – Lenovo claims that it’s the world’s thinnest Intel Core i-series laptop. And the improvements don’t stop with the external design, as Lenovo has upgraded virtually every aspect of the Yoga.
First off, 14.9 mm (0.59 inches) would be slim for a thin-and-light notebook anyway, but the Yoga’s thinness is even more impressive considering its 2-in-1 convertible design. The unique hinge mechanism is part of what allows Lenovo to keep such a slim profile, and this aspect has also been revised with a new version of the “watch band” hinge for the Yoga 900 that Lenovo says offers smoother movement than before.
So what’s new under the hood? The latest Intel 6th generation processors to start with, and here are more of the specs:
- Processor: Up to 6th Generation Intel Core i7
- Display: 13.3" QHD+ (3200 x 1800) IPS, 300 nits
- Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics
- Memory: Up to 16 GB LP-DDR3L
- Storage: Up to 512 GB Samsung SSD
- WLAN: 2x2 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
- Ports: 2x USB Type A 3.0, 1x USB Type C 3.0 with video out, 1x DC-in with USB 2.0 function, Audio Combo Jack
- Card Reader: 4-in-1 (SD, MMC, SDXC, SDHC)
- Webcam: 1MP 720p HD CMOS Camera
- Audio: JBL Stereo Speakers with Dolby DS 1.0 Home Theater Certification
- Battery: 4 Cell 66 Wh Li-Polymer, up to 9 hours battery life
- Operating System: Windows 10 Home
- Dimensions (W x D x H): 12.75" x 8.86" x 0.59" (324 x 225 x 14.9 mm)
- Weight: Starting at 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg)
In keeping with the Yoga name this laptop features a 360-degree hinge design, allowing virtually limitless possibilities for using the machine. This new Yoga also features a battery with much greater density than before – 50% more, according to Lenovo – and a revised cooling system that provides up to 30% better cooling as well as quieter performance.
The Yoga 900 starts at $1199, but the base models will differ in specs depending on where you look. Best Buy seems to have the better deal as they will offer a unit at the introductory price featuring a Core i7-6500u processor, while Lenovo’s base model has an i5-6200u for the same $1199 price. Both versions feature 8 GB of memory, and a 256 GB SSD.
Subject: Systems | October 13, 2015 - 03:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: server farm, linux, DIY
Phoronix recently built a server farm and bar, a perfect use for a basement. In building the server farm they learned quite a bit about the process of creating your own server farm as well as the costs involved. For instance their power bill has gone up somewhat, including the air conditioning they are seeing usage of 3,000 kWh a month so you might want to do some calculations before setting up your own. Take a look at how the mostly finished design worked out and if you are interested you can find a link to the original article covering the build on the last page.
"It's been just over six months since I completed construction on the large 60+ system server room where a ton of Linux benchmarking takes place just not for Phoronix.com but also the new LinuxBenchmarking.com daily performance tracking initiative and testing and development around our Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org software. Here's a look back, a few recommendations to reiterate for those aspiring to turn their cellar into a server farm, and a few things I'd do differently next time around."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- TechPowerUp 4K Gaming Build Guide @ techPowerUp
- OCUK Titan Electron Intel Core i3 Mini-ITX gaming PC @ Kitguru
- ASRock Beebox Mini PC @ techPowerUp
- Scan 3XS GW-HTX35 Workstation (w/ Quadro M6000) @ Kitguru
Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 13, 2015 - 10:23 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: ROG G752, ROG, Republic of Gamers, notebook, laptop, Intel Core i7, GTX 980M, gaming laptop, asus
ASUS has announced the Republic of Gamers ROG G752, their newest gaming notebook featuring 6th-gen Intel Core i7 mobile processors and graphics cards ranging from the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M to the GTX 980M. The notebook also features NVIDIA's G-SYNC technology for its 17.3-inch matte IPS panel across the three available versions.
ASUS is also advertising the laptop's brand new cooling system, a "3D Vapor Chamber" design:
Temperature uniformity vapor chambers are commonly found alongside high-performance, high-voltage graphics cards to increase cooling efficiency. The ROG-exclusive mobile 3D Vapor Chamber, together with the copper heat pipe, create an effective and efficient cooling system that helps improve GPU performance for smooth and stable gaming. ROG G752 is the world’s first laptop to integrate a vapor chamber into its cooling system.
The ROG G752 offers a new physical design and the new Titanium and Plasma Copper color scheme from ASUS, and in addition to the new cooling system the notebooks are equipped with a new "ergonomically-designed" keyboard that features 2.5mm key-travel distance as well as anti-ghosting with 30-key rollover.
Here are the full specifications:
- Processor: 6th-generation Intel Core i7 (Skylake) processor
- Chipset: Mobile Intel CM236
- Memory: DDR4 2133MHz (upgradable to 64GB)
- Display: ROG G752VL / ROG G752VT / ROG G752VY - 17.3in anti-glare FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS LED backlit with NVIDIA G-SYNC
- Graphics card:
- ROG G752VL - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
- ROG G52VT - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M with 3GB / 6GB GDDR5 VRAM
- ROG G752VY - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M with 4GB / 8GB GDDR5 VRAM
- ROG G752VL - 2.5in SATA 2TB (5400 rpm); 2.5in SATA 1TB (7200 rpm); M.2 PCIe X4 NVME 256GB/128GB SSD
- ROG G752VT/ ROG G752VY - 2.5in SATA 2TB (5400 rpm); 2.5in SATA 1TB (7200 rpm); M.2 PCIe X4 NVME 512GB/256GB/128GB SSD
- Optical drive: DVD Super-Multi / Blu-ray Combo / Blu-ray writer
- Camera: Built-in HD camera with array mic
- Operating system: Windows 10, Windows 10 Professional
- Size: ROG G752VL / ROG G752VT: 428 x 334 x 23 ~ 43mm; ROG G752VY: 428 x 334 x 23 ~ 53mm
- Weight: ROG G752VL / ROG G752VT: 4.06kg (with a 6-cell battery); ROG G752VY: 4.36kg (with a 8-cell battery)
Pricing and availability were not announced, but expect to see the new ROG G752 laptops in the retail channel soon.
Subject: Systems | October 9, 2015 - 06:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Skylake, LGA 1151, Intel H170, Intel H110, G11CDm G20CB, ASUS ROG, asus
ASUS has announced two new models of ROG Desktops for gamers based on Intel's new Skylake processors. Both models offer a choice of i5 or i7 processors and a gamut of video cards including and AMD R9 380 and in the case of the G11CD/CB an NVIDIA GTX 745 up to a 980 Ti while the G20CB ranges from a GT740 to a TITAN X.
The G11 is a full sized desktop, 176x440x442mm (6.9x17.3x17.4") and if you choose the CB model you will be able to have an H170 motherboard, a GTX 980Ti and up to a 512GB M.2 SSD. The CD model does not support those features and is built on an H110 motherboard. Both models off a choice between a DVD or Blu-Ray optical drive.
The ROG G20 offers more power in a slightly smaller case, 104x340x358mm (4.1x13.4x14.1") which is achieved by using an external power supply and dropping the optical drive altogether.
ASUS has managed to offer a vertically mounted TITAN X in this form factor, which is no small achievement. The ROG G20 also offers wireless connectivity in addition to a wired LAN Port, along with space for two internal drives.
All models share the familiar black and red ROG colour scheme, a nice mix of USB 3.1, 3.0 and 2.0 ports and 7.1 audio. There is no word on the pricing for either of these desktops, keep an eye out for updates as we learn more.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 9, 2015 - 06:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: water cooling, NVIDIA GTX 980, liquid cooled, i7-6820HK, gx700, gaming laptop, g-sync, ASUS ROG, asus
We already saw an announcement from ASUS (at IFA 2015) for their water-cooled Republic of Gamers GX700 gaming laptop, and now we have more details about this unique product, though some are still pending. The specifications (including the full version of the NVIDIA GTX 980) would make a great gaming desktop system, and that's kind of the idea as the performance increases substantially when the laptop is docked in its liquid-cooling base.
There are certainly questions about this concept that won't be answered until hardware in hand, but it's going to be interesting to see just how well a liquid cooling system will work in a dockable format like this.
Here are the specifications we know so far:
- CPU: Intel Core i7 6820HK
- GPU: GeForce GTX 980, 8GB GDDR5
- Display: 17.3-inch IPS FHD (1920x1080) G-SYNC / Optional 4K/UHD G-SYNC
- RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4
- Storage: Up to 1TB PCIe x4 SSD (2 x 512GB)
- Optical: Blu-ray 6x RW
- Card reader: SDXC
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
- Keyboard: Anti-ghosting keyboard with 30-key rollover; 2.5mm travel; Illuminated
- 3 x USB 3.0
- 1 x USB Type-C / Thunderbolt 3
- 1 x USB Type-C / USB 3.1
- 1 x mini-DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- Audio: 1x Headphone/mini-Optical S/PDIF, 1x Microphone input
- Webcam: 1.2MP HD camera
A look inside at the GX700 cooling system
Exact numbers on battery capacity, dimensions, and weight are not yet available, and pricing and availability have yet to be announced.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 8, 2015 - 10:05 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: dell, XPS 15, InfinityEdge, laptop, notebook, Skylake, i3-6100H, i5-6300HQ, i7-6700HQ, GTX 960M
The redesigned Dell XPS 15 is here, now a larger clone of the popular XPS 13 including the same minuscule “InfinityEdge” display and featuring optional 4K resolution.
Image credit: Engadget
The XPS 13 is among the highest-rated Windows laptops of the past year, and the preferred notebook of our own Ryan Shrout. Dell certainly had a big design win with a 13-inch screen on a laptop that would normally only house an 11.6-inch display, thanks to the razor-thin bezel surrounding the LCD panel. This InfinityEdge display makes a lot of sense for the larger XPS 15, and the newly redesigned notebook now occupies the space of a mere 14-inch notebook, while offering both FHD and UHD/4K screen resolutions.
What good would a beautiful screen be without the horsepower to drive it? For this Dell has implemented the latest 6th Generation Intel Skylake mobile processors, namely the Core i3-6100H, Core i5-6300HQ, and Core i7-6700HQ. Graphics duties are performed either by the integrated Intel HD 530 or an NVIDIA GTX 960M GPU, and 8GB of DDR4 memory comes standard with options up to 32GB available (and this is SoDIMM memory so users can upgrade later as well).
Image credit: Windows Central
- 6th Gen Intel Core i3-6100H (3M Cache, up to 2.7 GHz)
- 6th Gen Intel Core i5-6300HQ Quad-Core (6M Cache, up to 3.2 GHz)
- 6th Gen Intel Core i7-6700HQ Quad-Core (6M Cache, up to 3.5 GHz)
- Display: 15.6" FHD (1920x1080) InfinityEdge display or 15.6" UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160) InfinityEdge touch display
- RAM: 8GB, 16GB or 32GB DDR4 at 2133 MHz (32GB post-RTS) (2 x SoDIMMs)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 530; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5
- Storage: 500GB HDD + 32GB Flash or 1TB HDD + 32GB Flash
- 256GB PCIe SSD, 512GB PCIe SSD, or 1TB PCIe SSD
- Camera: Widescreen HD (720p) webcam
- Ports and Connectors: HDMI, USB 3.0 (x2), Headset Jack, SD card reader, Kensington Lock slot, Thunderbolt 3
- Dimensions: 11-17mm x 357mm x 235mm
- Weight: Non-touch, starting at 3.9 lbs; Touch, starting at 4.4 lbs
The new Dell XPS 15 is available today and prices start at $999.