Big Power, Small Size
Though the mindset that a small PC is a slow PC is fading, there are still quite a few readers out there that believe the size of your components will indicate how well they perform. That couldn't be further from the case, and this week we decided to build a small, but not tiny, PC to showcase that small can be beautiful too!
Below you will find a complete list of parts and components used in our build - but let me say right off the bat, to help alleviate as much vitriol in the comments as possible, there are quite a few ways you could build this system to either get a lower price, or higher performance, or quieter design, etc. Our selections were based on a balance of both with a nod towards expansion in a few cases.
Take a look:
|MicroATX Gaming Build|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4790K - $334
Corsair Hydro Series H80i - $87
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5 - $127|
|Memory||G.Skill Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3-2133 - $88|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW - $399|
|Storage||Samsung 250GB 850 EVO - $139
Western Digital 2TB Green - $79
|Case||Corsair Carbide Series Air 240 - $89|
|Power Supply||Seasonic Platinum 860 watt PSU - $174|
|OS||Windows 8.1 x64 - $92|
|Total Price||$1602 - Amazon Full Cart|
The starting point for this system is the Intel Core i7-4790K, the top-end Haswell processor for the Z97 chipset. In fact, the Core i7-4790K is a Devil's Canyon part, created by Intel to appease the enthusiast looking for an overclockable and high clocked quad-core part. This CPU will only lag behind the likes of the Haswell-E LGA2011 processors, but at just $340 or so, is significantly less expensive. Cooling the 4790K is Corsair's Hydro Series H80i double-thickness self contained water cooler.
For the motherboard I selected the Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5, a MicroATX motherboard that combines performance and features in a mATX form factor, perfect for our build. This board includes support for SLI and CrossFire, has audio OP-AMP support, USB ports dedicated for DACs, M.2 storage support, Killer networking and more.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 29, 2014 - 01:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: laptop, google, dell, ChromeOS, Chromebook, chrome, acer
According to DigiTimes via The Tech Report, because of course DigiTimes, we should receive 15.4-inch Chromebooks in the near future. Their sources claim that both Acer and Dell have products planned with that operating system, in that size, and will cost less then $300. The Acer system is expected in March 2015 with Dell scheduled for some time in the first half of 2015.
One part that stands out for me is the maximum price of $300. The claim is that this is a Google mandated ceiling for Chromebooks with up-to Core i3 performance. This is troubling for two reasons. First, depending on the details, it might dance around inside the minefield of price-fixing laws, although I am sure that Google is doing this in a legally. I mean, Apple has been getting away with enforcing maximum retail prices of iPods and iOS devices for around a decade and I believe console manufacturers do about the same.
Second, and more importantly, it limits the ability for manufacturers to be creative and innovative, which is the major advantage of an open ecosystem. Being a web browser-based platform, there is already constraints on what manufacturers can implement. Sure, Google is probably open to communication with their partnered hardware vendors, but it is uncomfortable none-the-less. I could use the Nexus Q as an example of an experiment but unfortunately it was neither a hit nor did it cost over $300. Sure, they could add a more powerful processor to escape that clause but it is still
These Chromebooks are expected to launch in the early half of 2015.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | December 23, 2014 - 04:07 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, Nintendo, arm, amd
The tea leaves that WCCFTech have been reading are quite scattered, but they could be right. The weaker half is pulled from an interview between Shigeru Miyamoto and the Associated Press. At the very end, the creator of many Nintendo franchises states, “While we're busy working on software for the Wii U, we have production lines that are working on ideas for what the next system might be.”
Of course they do. That is not confirmation of a new console.
Original Mario Bros. Screenshot Credit: Giant Bomb (Modified)
A bit earlier, he also states, “I think that maybe when we release the next hardware system, you can look forward to seeing Mario take on a new role or in a new game.”
This, on the other hand, sounds a little bit like they are iterating on game design ideas that will shape the next console. From what I understand, this is how Nintendo tends to work – they apparently engineer hardware around concept use cases. It could also be a mistake.
The rumor's stronger half is a statement from Devinder Kumar, the CFO of AMD.
“I will say that one [design win] is x86 and [another] is ARM, and at least one will [be] beyond gaming, right,” said Devinder Kumar, chief financial officer of AMD, at the Raymond James Financial technology conference. “But that is about as much as you going to get out me today. From the standpoint [of being] fair to [customers], it is their product, and they launch it. They are going to announce it and then […] you will find out that it is AMD’s APU that is being used in those products.”
So AMD has secured design wins from two companies, one gaming and the other is something else. Also, one design will be x86 and the other will be ARM-based. This could be an awkward co-incidence but, at the same time, there are not too many gaming companies around.
Also, if it is Nintendo, which architecture would they choose? x86 is the common instruction set amongst the PC and other two consoles, and it is easy to squeeze performance out of. On the other hand, Nintendo has been vocal about Apple and the mobile market, which could have them looking at ARM, especially if the system design is particularly abnormal. Beyond that, AMD could have offered Nintendo an absolute steal of a deal in an effort to get a high-profile customer associated with their ARM initiative.
Or, again, this could all be coincidence.
Introduction and Specifications
Several weeks ago, during an episode of the PC Perspective Podcast, we talked about a new all-in-one machine from MSI with a focus on gaming. Featuring a quad-core Intel Haswell processor and a GeForce GTX 980M GPU, the MSI AG270 2QE takes the best available hardware for mobile gaming and stuffs them into a machine with an integrated 1080p touch screen. The result is likely to be the most potent gaming AIO that you will find available; it should be more than capable of tackling modern games at the integrated panel's 1920x1080 resolution.
A gaming all-in-one is an interesting idea - a cross between the typical gaming desktop and a gaming laptop, an AIO splits the difference in a couple of interesting ways. It's more portable than a desktop and monitor combination for sure, but definitely heavier and bulkier than MSI's own GT72 for example. The AG270 offers a much larger screen (at 1080p) than any gaming notebook on its own, which improves the overall gaming experience without the need for additional hardware. While not ideal, it is totally feasible to take the AG270 with you to a neighbor's house for some LAN party action.
So what do you get with the MSI AG270 2QE, and more specifically, with the 037US kit we are reviewing today? Let's find out.
Continue reading our review of the MSI AG270 2QE-037US gaming all-in-one!!
Subject: Systems | December 15, 2014 - 03:21 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zotac, zbox, Pico PI320, Bay Trail
Just look at how tiny this new Zotac ZBox is, it makes the HDMI cable look positively huge and yet can power HDTV and even some light gaming. The current price point seems to be around $200 with deals occasionally available which certainly undercuts lower priced laptops. Inside is a quad core BayTrail Atom Z3735F, 2GB DDR3-1333 and a 32GB eMMC card for storage which runs the full verion of Windows 8. Bjorn3D managed to get this device to play Dirt 2 as well as playing back HDTV from a NAS set up as a Plex server, albeit on a wired connection as the WiFi did not perform very well at all. There were a few kinks in their testing which you can read about in the full review but overall this new ZBox performed rather well for such a tiny little system.
"Zotac is a company with lots of experience when it comes to small PC’s. We have reviewed some of them before and always come away impressed.The little PC we are testing today, and it really is little, is their smallest yet as it quite literally fits in your pocket. Even though it is small it still comes with WIndows 8 and is by all accounts a proper PC. It might not fit all users but it turns out to be a nifty little PC with several interesting use-cases."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- ECS LIVA Mini PC Kit Review @ Neoseeker
- Habey MITX-6771: Mini-ITX Board With Quad-Core J1900 Bay Trail @ Phoronix
- CyberpowerPC SYBER Gaming Windows Console Review @ Hardware Asylum
- ASRock M8 Z97 Mini-ITX SFF System @ Kitguru
Intel has leaked, either purposefully or accidentally, the upcoming Broadwell-based NUC device. In a story posted on Computerbase.de, the German website points out that Intel has updated the NUC landing page with images of hardware we haven't seen publicly yet.
This is definitely a new piece of NUC hardware and all indications are that Intel has completed development of a Broadwell-U based SFF platform. No other specifications are listed on the website but you can tell from the images (though small) that we have an M.2 slot available and a yellow USB charging port that are new. The smaller unit on the left also appears to be a bit shorter than the previous NUC designs, though it's hard to tell for sure without direct side-by-side comparisons.
Also interesting is that Intel has a support page already mentioning new NUC kit and board part numbers, though without any additional information.
It has been 14 months since Intel released the Haswell-based NUC unit and my review of the system was incredibly positive with the lone exception of the high price Intel had set. The price of the D54250WYK1 is still hovering over $340 on Amazon.com but I am hopeful that Intel will be able to drop cost even further with this Broadwell iteration.
I'm sure we'll have all the answers we need come CES next month.
Subject: Systems | December 10, 2014 - 03:03 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, mini-pc, LIVA, Intel, ECS, Bay Trail
A new, more powerful ECS mini-PC has been reported by The Tech Report, and this latest iteration of the LIVA will be known as the "X".
The LIVA X features a faster 2.25GHz dual-core CPU from its Bay Trail SoC, and maximum configurable memory has been doubled to 4GB. OS support has been revised as well, with Windows 7 supported - but only when using an mSATA SSD. The LIVA X still offers full Windows 8.1 support, along with beta Linux driver support as before.
The LIVA X also offers one more USB 2.0 port than its predecessor, along with the same 32GB or 64GB eMMC storage onboard, Gigabit Ethernet, and included 802.11 wireless N card.
The LIVA proved to be a good value when we reviewed it, though it was underpowered for some desktop tasks. Adding another 2GB of memory as well as a slightly faster CPU will make this new version a very interesting product, depending on price. The new LIVA X hasn't shown up for sale just yet in the usual places, but the product page is up on the ECS site.
Subject: Systems | December 5, 2014 - 04:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: mini-itx, quiet computing, gaming machine
After finishing up their full sized quiet gaming system Silent PC Review upped the difficulty by shrinking the system down to a Mini-ITX board. The system recommendations do have one thing in common, the quietly powerful ASUS STRIX GTX 980 but that is about the only similarity. The i5-4690K is cooled by a Silverstone Argon AR03 and powered by a fanless Seasonic X-520 PSU. Kingston HyperX Genesis DDR3-1866 has a low profile to keep it out of the way in this small build and the M.2 SSD also takes up very little room. The motherboard they chose was the ASUS Z97I-PLUS and these components are all housed in the Rosewill Legacy W1-S. They offer many alternatives for each component, catch them all in the full review.
"A quiet system in a smaller form factor is our followup to the Quiet ATX Gaming Build Guide posted in the last couple of weeks. It is another high performance rig, but still quiet enough to be just about inaudible even atop your desk. Your family will never know that you're gaming on this machine unless your sound effects are on speakers and they can see the action on your monitor."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Falcon Elite-GT1 Assassin SE @ Kitguru
- Asrock M8 Z97-600W @ Legion Hardware
- ASRock Z97 M8 Barebones PC @ techPowerUp
Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 27, 2014 - 08:53 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, IBM, power9, Volta
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been interested in a successor for their Titan Supercomputer. Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the new computer will be based on NVIDIA's Volta (GPU) and IBM's POWER9 (CPU) architectures. Its official name will be “Summit”, and it will have a little sibling, “Sierra”. Sierra, also based on Volta and POWER9, will be installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Image Credit: NVIDIA
The main feature of these supercomputers is expected to be “NVLink”, which is said to allow unified memory between CPU and GPU. This means that, if you have a workload that alternates rapidly between serial and parallel tasks, that you can save the lag in transferring memory between each switch. One example of this would be a series of for-each loops on a large data set with a bit of logic, checks, and conditional branches between. Memory management is like a lag between each chunk of work, especially across two banks of memory attached by a slow bus.
Summit and Sierra are both built by IBM, while Titan, Oak Ridge's previous supercomputer, was developed by Cray. Not much is known about the specifics of Sierra, but Summit will be about 5x-10x faster (peak computational throughput) than its predecessor at less than a fifth of the nodes. Despite the fewer nodes, it will suck down more total power (~10MW, up from Titan's ~9MW).
These two supercomputers are worth $325 million USD (combined). They are expected to go online in 2017. According to Reuters, an additional $100 million USD will go toward research into "extreme" supercomputing.
Subject: Systems | November 25, 2014 - 03:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asus, STRIX GTX 980, i5-4670K, scythe, Kotetsu, quiet computing, Z97-PRO
Silent PC Review has put together their recommendations on how you can build a powerful computer which runs very quietly. The recommended component list certainly lives up to a high powered gaming machine, a STRIX GTX 980, a 3.4GHz i5-4670 and 8GB of DDR3-1866 running on the Asus Z97-PRO. For cooling they chose an air cooler, specifically the Scythe Kotetsu as in their opinion most of the AIO watercoolers have loud fans on their radiators which defeats the purpose of this build. The enclosure of choice is the sound dampened Fractal Design Define R4 with a be quiet! Straight Power 10 600W as opposed to a passively cooled PSU as the excess heat would mean the rest of the fans would need to spin faster to dissipate it. Check out the full article for their alternative suggestions as well as the finished results of the builds.
"The first of our quiet gaming build guides for the season is an ATX tower featuring the highly efficient NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980. Join us as we plan, build, and stress test this beast, while trying to keep it quiet enough to satisfy our own high standards. A sneak preview: We managed to keep it under 20 dBA@1m under all test conditions!"
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- MSI GS30 Shadow and GamingDock Preview @ Kitguru
- ECS LIVA White Edition 64GB Mini PC Kit @ Legion Hardware
- Shuttle Barebone XH81 Review @ Madshrimps