Intel introduce 5x5 boards: Socket CPUs supported up to 65W TDP, Smaller than Mini-ITX, Larger than NUC|
September 02, 2015
Intel have introduced a new motherboard form factor targetted at manufacturers of miniature systems which measures approximately 2/3 of the size of 170 x 170mm Mini-ITX boards, with the ability to add up to a 65W TDP socket CPU.
The approximation has spread to the 5x5 name - the boards more accurately measure 140 x 147mm, or 5.5 x 5.8 inches.
We'll let this slide as the 5x5 board shown at IDF 2015 has some interesting features.
The socket itself looks to have a narrow mounting pattern meaning custom heatsink solutions will be required. Intel are pushing manufacturers to use copper to reduce temperatures. The most powerful 65W TDP processors will sit in taller chassis due to the increased cooling requirements.
Much like NUC PCs, chassis designs across manufacturers will share similarities as Intel have strictly defined the position of all components on the boards, with connectors positioned on both the front and the rear. Power is provided by an external AC Adapter.
The example board appears to have a DC input, (HDMI?) Graphics outputs and Ethernet on the rear, with a headphone output and USB on the front of the board. There is a single SATA socket for chassis variants supporting 2.5in HDD or SSDs, together with an M.2 SATA socket for solid state storage mounted directly to the board. The 2x SODIMM slots suggest at least 16GB will be supported.
Further coverage at Ars Technica
AMD's Project Quantum showcases their R9 Fury in an incredible custom Mini-ITX chassis
August 27, 2015
AMD demonstrated their Project Quantum at E3 this year as a showcase for their shiny new R9 Fury GPU.
Project Quantum is a proof of concept created for AMD by the Mixer Design Group in Texas. PCWorld snagged and dissected unit #5 of around 12 units, revealing its cooling and powering secrets in all their glory.
The nerve centre of the Quantum is an ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac Mini-ITX motherboard powered by a (shocker!) Intel i7-4790K processor.
This is no off the shelf board though. All the heatsinks and several of the front panel ports have been removed.The ATX power connector has been flipped through 90 degrees and fitted with a powerful DC converter. A meaty AC Adapter sits outside the case entirely, providing the DC converter with plenty of power.
The cleverest part is the cooling - a custom milled Aluminium waterblock sandwiches the board and the GPU, which all sit in the bottom half of the case together with the SSD. A pump and 180mm radiator and 3D printed reservoir sit in the top half the case, connected to the bottom by 3D printed hoses.
The Redstone PC is the Ultimate Mini-ITX Minecraft Machine
August 13, 2015
Spencer Kern put his skills as a 3D video game artist at Microsoft to good use when he created the Redstone PC.
Inspired by a Minecraft redstone block, the Redstone PC is an 8.5in cube constructed from extruded acrylic bars and laser-cut acrylic sheets solvent welded with acrylic cement. The outer shell is decorated by custom vinyl decals covered with a clear poly finish to dissuade them from lifting off the surface.
At the heart of his build is a Gigabyte GA-H97N WIFI Mini-ITX motherboard with an EVGA GTX 750Ti graphics card. The board is mounted upside down with strategically placed fans pulling air down and out of the bottom and rear of the case.
Spencer took several rolls of paracord and a crimp tool and braided all of his custom-made internal cables, and even designed an entirely new power button to match the rest of the case.
This clearly wasn’t enough work for Spencer. He also:
- Fitted internal LED lighting using light strands
- Designed a two colour decal for the SSD
- Customised a mouse, headphones and an Xbox One controller
- Designed and had custom key caps printed for a mechanical keyboard
*For the benefit of our few readers from undiscovered Patagonian tribes still unfamiliar with Minecraft - Redstone is a building block used to make rudimentary and often highly complex circuits.
Spencer Kern's Redstone PC
Roundup of the First Wave of Intel Skylake Z170 Mini-ITX Boards
August 05, 2015
Intel have today officially announced their 6th Generation Desktop Processor Platform, aka Skylake-S. With Skylake comes 14nm lithography, updated Intel graphics, DDR4 support, a new range of '100 series' chipsets and most importantly a new socket type: Socket 1151. Yes - you will need a new memory, processor and motherboard type to make this upgrade.
The first Skylake compatible Mini-ITX boards to emerge over the past few weeks all use the 'Performance' Z170 chipset but boards using the 'Mainstream' H170 and 'Value' H110 chipsets together with the more business oriented B150, Q150 and Q170 chipsets will all follow.
This is our roundup of what we currently know about the first wave of Z170 Mini-ITX boards. Expect to see the boards hitting store shelves (including our own) in the next few weeks as boards are officially announced and supplies trickle through to vendors. We will update this story as new information emerges.
The ASRock Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac has Dual HDMI and DisplayPort on the back panel, together with Intel I219V LAN and both 3.5mm Analogue and Optical audio outputs powered by an ALC1150 codec. There are a healthy 7x USB 3.1 Type-A ports and a snazzy new reversible USB 3.1 Type-C port. Dual band 802.11ac WiFi internally connected to a half Mini PCI-E slot and a combo PS/2 keyboard/mouse port complete the back panel. On the board itself are 6x SATA 6Gb/s connectors, a SATA Express connector, the PCI Express x16 slot and 2x DDR4 memory slots. The board has an 8pin 12V connector.
The ASRock Z170M-ITX/ac has DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort on the back panel, together with both an Intel I219V LAN and Realtek RTL8111E LAN and 3.5mm Analogue audio outputs powered by an ALC892 codec. There are a 6x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports and a combo PS/2 keyboard/mouse port. The Dual band 802.11ac WiFi looks to be internally connected to a vertical Mini PCI-E slot. On the board itself are 4x SATA 6Gb/s connectors, possibly an M.2 slot on the underside (TBD), the PCI Express x16 slot and 2x DDR4 memory slots. The board has an 4pin 12V connector.
We only have a blurry picture of the Asus Z170i Pro Gaming board so far, but we can tell it has 4x SATA 6Gb/s and 1x SATA Express connector, onboard 802.11ac WiFi and most likely one LAN port. Unclear is the presence of USB 3.1 or M.2 SATA. The PCI Express x16 slot and 2x DDR4 memory slots are in their usual positions. The board has an 8pin 12V connector.
The Gigabyte Z170N-Gaming 5 has at least DVI and HDMI on the back panel, together with Gigabit LAN and a double stack of 3.5mm Analogue audio outputs. There are USB 3.1 ports and a USB 3.1 Type-C port. The Dual band 802.11ac WiFi is connected to a slot on the board with a vertically mounted Intel AC-8260 Mini PCI-E card, which supports Bluetooth 4.2. On the board itself are the PCI Express x16 slot and 2x DDR4 memory slots and 2x traditional vertical SATA 6Gb/s connectors and 4x SATA 6Gb/s and 2x SATA Express connectors mounted sideways on an edge connector. The board has an 8pin 12V connector.
The Gigabyte Z170N-WIFI shares a lot of similarities with the Z170N-Gaming 5. It has Dual HDMI and DVI on the back panel, together with dual Intel I219V LAN ports and 5x 3.5mm Analogue and Optical audio outputs. There are 4x USB 3.1 Type-A ports and a USB 3.1 Type-C port. Dual band 802.11ac WiFi internally connected to a half Mini PCI-E slot and a combo PS/2 keyboard/mouse port complete the back panel. On the board itself are the PCI Express x16 slot and 2x DDR4 memory slots and 2x traditional vertical SATA 6Gb/s connectors and 4x SATA 6Gb/s and 2x SATA Express connectors mounted sideways on an edge connector. The board has an 4pin 12V connector.
The EVGA Z170 Stinger has HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 on the back panel, together with Intel Gigabit LAN and both 3.5mm Analogue and Optical audio outputs. There are 6x USB 3.0 ports and 2x USB 2.0 ports. On the board itself are an E-type M.2 SATA connector (up to 32Gbps) , 4x SATA 6Gb/s connector, the PCI Express x16 slot and 2x DDR4 memory slots. The 10-layer board has an 8pin 12V connector and 2 digit LED display which can provide POST diagnostic codes and temperature information.
The ECS Z170IU-C43 is a more budget board with DVI and HDMI 2.0 on the back panel, together with Intel I219V Gigabit LAN and 3.5mm Analogue audio outputs powered by a Realtek ALC892 codec. There are 2x USB 3.1 ports and we think 4x USB 2.0 type ports. On the board itself are 4x SATA 6Gb/s connector, the PCI Express x16 slot and 2x DDR4 memory slots. The board has an 8pin 12V connector.
We've yet to find a picture of MSI's Z170I Gaming Pro AC, but expect it to have Intel I219V LAN, Intel 802.11ac WiFi and MSI's USB Audio Power to stabilise the 5V output for external USB audio devices, a Turbo M.2 SATA connector, no USB 3.1 connectors and the usual array of SATA and memory slots on the board.
CES 2015: MSI Z97I Gaming ACK Mini-ITX Motherboard
January 05, 2015
MSI have launched their Z97I Gaming ACK Mini-ITX Motherboard at CES 2015 this week. The ACK is an evolution of their earlier Z97I Gaming AC board, but in this case the 'K stands for Killer - both the wired LAN and wireless LAN port chipsets are Killer branded for low latency and traffic optimisation. The Intel Z97 Express chipset board supports current Haswell (4th Gen) and future Broadwell (5th gen) processors and overclocked memory up to DDR3 3300 speed.
The board has highest quality components throughout to withstand the rigours of online gaming - as you would expect on a board of this nature - though we're undecided whether the backlit audio codec is overkill or marketing genius! We'll expect to see the delightfully red and black accented ACK on store shelves within the next few weeks.
MSI's Z97I Gaming ACK Mini-ITX Motherboard
CES 2015: Silverstone SG13 Mini-ITX Chassis
January 05, 2015
Silverstone's SG13 was first seen in prototype form at Computex 2014, but has now been officially launched at CES 2015 this week. The SG13 follows the effective 'Elongated Cube' Mini-ITX chassis design pattern first popularised in the early 2000s by Shuttle and now used by many manufacturers.
The case supports graphics cards up to 26.6cm and up to a 15cm (14cm recommended) deep ATX power supply, meaning most low to mid range AMD graphics cards and almost all NVidia cards will fit within the 11.5 litre chassis. The Mini-ITX motherboard of course sits at the back of the case and mounting points are provided in the front for a water cooled radiator to support the meaty graphics card you just fitted.
The "Restomod TV" reinvents an 80s CRT Television as a Mini-ITX powered OpenELEC Media Center
October 09, 2014
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.
Read how James performed this feat here:
James Nethercoat's "Restomod TV"
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.
April 09, 2013
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.
Building an XBMC 12 Home Theatre PC with a Mini-ITX motherboard
February 28, 2013
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
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