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October 09, 2014
The "Restomod TV"

April 09, 2014
Steam: Now an OS, a (Mini-ITX based) Machine, and a Controller

April 09, 2013
Installing NAS4Free

February 28, 2013
Building an XBMC 12 Home Theatre PC

May 22, 2012
VIA launches Neo-ITX with $49 APC Android PC

June 07, 2011
Thin Mini-ITX on display at Computex

April 07, 2011
Commodore USA reanimates the C64

January 25, 2011
XBMC Guide updated to version 10.0

August 06, 2010
Building a Green PC

February 15, 2010
Building an ION powered HTPC with XBMC

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The "Restomod TV" reinvents an 80s CRT Television as a Mini-ITX powered OpenELEC Media Center
October 09, 2014

James Nethercoat's Restomod TV

James Nethercoat picked up a Bang & Olufsen 7702 and replaced its guts with a Mini-ITX board running OpenELEC. The "Restomod TV" repurposes the original power button and remote receiver with modern equivalents.

James Nethercoat's Restomod TV

Read how James performed this feat here:

James Nethercoat's "Restomod TV"

m Permalink | mini-link

Steam: Now an OS, a (Mini-ITX based) Machine, and a Controller
April 09, 2014

Not content with building Steam, the world's most successful games delivery platform, Valve have released the first beta of SteamOS – a "free operating system designed for the TV and the living room".

SteamOS is effectively their own strain of Debian Linux bundled with graphics drivers and a Steam client capable of downloading and playing a growing range of games.

Valve are well positioned to create an entirely new gaming platform for big screen devices – their Steam client has been in existence for over 10 years, has 40+ million registered users and over a million users in-game at any point.

SteamOS adds playable game streaming from another Steam client and the obligatory streaming media services to the mix.

Valve do not intend to build their own hardware, instead leaving it to 3rd party manufacturers and retailers to produce their own Steam Machines (aka Steam Boxes) running SteamOS..

The hardware specification is not fixed - meaning a Steam Machine could be just powerful enough to stream games from a Windows or Mac running Steam, or be much more powerful and be the primary games machine in a household.

In December 2013, Valve built a limited run of 300 Steam Machine prototypes. iFixit have a tear down - rather sensibly Valve decided to utilise the Mini-ITX form factor.

The minimum specifications according to the official SteamOS FAQ are very achievable with current Mini-ITX hardware:

  • Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor
  • 4GB or more memory
  • 500GB or larger disk
  • NVIDIA/AMD/Intel graphics card
  • UEFI boot support
  • USB port for installation

A modern Mini-ITX board and any half-decent graphics card in a mid-sized desktop chassis meets these, but we expect the industry to adapt slightly and refine for the living room experience.

Almost all early Steam Machine prototypes have been Mini-ITX based, combining a range of powerful Mini-ITX boards with a graphics card.

A new Mini-ITX based console style chassis design pattern has already started to emerge: such chassis have a low profile FlexATX or SFX PSU to power a full sized graphics card whilst maintaining the pizza box shape. The graphics card is usually connected offset to the board through a PCI-Express riser card or ribbon cable, giving a case with an average volume of around 10 litres.

These console designs carve a new niche somewhere between the smallest Mini-ITX cases (around 2.5 litres) and full size traditional PC cases (20 litres and above).

Additionally, “Mini-ITX sized” graphics cards are already beginning to hit the market, packing the functionality of full-sized cards into the 17cm depth of a Mini-ITX motherboard, potentially shrinking case designs further.

To take the place of (or next to) a traditional console in front of the TV, a Steam Machine needs one final piece of the puzzle – a standardised controller.

Valve's Steam Controller will be available for purchase separately and is a dual high resolution trackpad device with haptic feedback so precise it can play audio waveforms through the trackpad itself. A centralised touch-screen was originally planned but has been replaced by regular buttons.

Consoles are by necessity feature-locked on release. The hardware in an Xbox One or PS4 is already technically obsolete. With a Steam Machine we can simply upgrade the hardware for a better experience. We'll be first in line for 4K Gaming with one of these machines.

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Installing NAS4Free
April 09, 2013

Installing NAS4Free

With so many of our memories and purchases existing only in the digital realm, having a reliable method of storing them is essential. We've written a guide to help you to install NAS4Free - free software which provides several methods of protecting your data by mirroring it across multiple disks.

NAS4Free is very scalable product supporting both UFS and ZFS, meaning it is a great choice for Mini-ITX systems - which can vary from low power consumption Atoms up to powerful Core i7 and Xeon based systems.

Installing NAS4Free

m Permalink | mini-link

Building an XBMC 12 Home Theatre PC with a Mini-ITX motherboard
February 28, 2013

Building an XBMC 12 Home Theatre PC with a Mini-ITX motherboard

We are long time fans of XBMC here at Mini-ITX.com. OpenELEC is a distribution of XBMC (currently at version 12) with a streamlined installation and update process, making it even easier to utilise the graphics acceleration of ION and Fusion based Mini-ITX systems to make a very slick Home Theatre PC.

Here's how to do it.

Building an XBMC 12 Home Theatre PC with a Mini-ITX motherboard

m Permalink | mini-link

VIA launches Neo-ITX with $49 APC Android PC
May 22, 2012

APC 8750

VIA today announced the APC 8750 Android PC system, a small footprint low power consumption motherboard with a $49 price point.

Comparisons will inevitably be made with the Raspberry Pi.

However the APC 8750 looks to have a less painful out of the box experience, with Android OS and applications pre-loaded on NAND Flash, a form-factor compatible with PC cases and a wider selection of ports fitted to just one side of the motherboard.

The APC 8750 runs a custom build of Android 2.3 with a selection of pre-installed apps including a browser, all pre-loaded on 2GB of NAND Flash memory. A microSD Slot allows further expansion.

The Neo-ITX Form Factor used by the APC measures 170 x 85mm and is exactly 1/2 the area of the 170 x 170mm Mini-ITX form factor. Neo-ITX boards will fit into any Mini-ITX chassis (perhaps with the addition of a couple of plastic standoffs at the rear for stability).

The APC 8750 is powered by a Wondermedia WM8750 SoC running at 800MHz which supports H264 decoding for 720p video playback. Power consumption is just 4W idle and 13.5W under peak load.

Full Specifications of the APC 8750: Operating System: Android 2.3; Processor: VIA 800MHz Processor (Wondermedia WM8750); Memory: 512MB DDR3 RAM, 2GB NAND Flash; Graphics: Built-in 2D/3D, resolution up to 720p; Ports: HDMI, VGA, 4x USB 2.0, 3.5mm Mic In, 3.5mm Audio Out, microSD slot, 10/100 Ethernet; Power: 15W AC Adapter; Size: 170mm x 85mm (Neo-ITX form factor).

APC Website

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Thin Mini-ITX on display at Computex
June 07, 2011

Intel DH61AG

Intel demonstrated a new variant of the Mini-ITX form factor at Computex in Taiwan last week.

They are calling the form factor "Thin Mini-ITX".

Thin Mini-ITX Markets

Intel demonstrated AIO (All In One) machines and thin consumer style chassis on the show floor but they also see room for a low profile board in VESA mounted machines, ATMs, casino gaming machines and plenty of other vertical markets.

Thin Mini-ITX Chassis

The main characteristics of Thin Mini-ITX are: Mini-ITX (170 x 170mm) motherboard size; 20mm maximum height; 25mm high I/O shield; up to 65W TDP desktop CPU support; internal display connectors; SODIMM memory and an external power supply.

Thin Mini-ITX AIO Layout

Low-profile Mini-ITX motherboards already exist using lower power consumption processors soldered directly to the board. Intel's specification for Thin Mini-ITX allows motherboards to define 'keep-out' areas outside of the traditional Mini-ITX motherboard square to fit custom CPU cooling solutions. Intel demonstrated a Socket 1155 motherboard with a heat-pipe and externally mounted heatsink connected to a side-blower fan.

Thin Mini-ITX and Heatsink

Thin Mini-ITX-Based All-in-One Desktops at Intel.com

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Commodore USA reanimates the C64
April 07, 2011

Commodore USA reanimates the C64

Nearly 30 years ago Commodore Business Machines released what was to become the most popular home computer ever made - the CBM 64. It had a CPU that ran at 1MHz, just 64K of RAM and ran programs loaded over several minutes from cassette tape. To people of a certain age it was for a while the most desirable object ever created by mankind.

Commodore USA are giving us the chance to re-live these moments again with their all-new Commodore 64. Under the hood courtesy of a standard Mini-ITX motherboard is an Intel Atom dual core processor running 1,800 times faster than the original, paired with an NVidia ION 2 GPU.

DocLorren of course stuffed an early VIA Mini-ITX motherboard into an original C64 chassis for our very own website way back in 2003. We're saying nothing.

New Commodore 64 at Commodore USA

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XBMC Guide updated to version 10.0
January 25, 2011

Building an ION powered HTPC with XBMC

We have updated our guide to building an ION-powered HTPC using XBMC to version 10.0. As an added bonus we have included a new module with instructions to enable 24fps playback for you lucky people with 1080p/24fps tellies.

Building an ION powered HTPC with XBMC

m Permalink | mini-link

Building a Green PC
August 06, 2010

Christopher Barnatt sent us this excellent video demonstrating how to build a silent and fanless PC that consumes under 20W. Click to see just how easy it is. Then check out his website ExplainingComputers.com for more great guides.

m Permalink | mini-link

Building an ION powered HTPC with XBMC
February 15, 2010

We are long time fans of XBMC here at Mini-ITX.com. Version 9.11 makes it extremely easy to utilise the graphics acceleration of ION based Mini-ITX systems to make a very slick Home Theatre PC.

Here's how to do it.

Building an ION powered HTPC with XBMC

m Permalink | mini-link

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