HTPC Hardware

Feb 17 2012

News - AMD FM1 Socket Mini-ITX Motherboard Roundup

ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe

Intel may have been hogging the CPU limelight over the last few years, but AMD has been toiling away on its own processors and taking full advantage of their purchase of ATI several years ago to pump out competitive processors with superior graphics capabilities. Indeed, for a small form factor HTPC that will be completely dependent on its integrated graphics unit, AMD's recent Llano processors are particularly compelling. At the same time, AMD has been more aggressive in adding new technologies and features to their motherboard chipsets, allowing manufacturers to pack a ton of attractive features into even the smallest boards as the motherboards in this roundup demonstrate. It may be hard to tap into the full performance opportunities of SATA 6.0 in an HTPC, but I still find it rather interesting to see an entire collection of motherboards sporting nothing but SATA 6.0 for hard drive connections.

Hybrid AMD processors from A8, A6, A4 or E2 families suit perfectly for Mini-ITX computer systems. Let’s see what platforms are currently available from the leading mainboard makers in this field. Today we are going to check out ASRock A75M-ITX, ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe, Gigabyte A75N-USB3 and Zotac A75-ITX WiFi.

X-bit Labs

Feb 08 2012

News - Alienware X51 Reviewed

When Dell announced the Alienware X51 small form factor gaming PC, the design immediately drew comparisons to modern game consoles. Certainly it would be easy to imagine sliding the X51 onto a shelf in the component cabinet, perhaps even right between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Given that Microsoft and Sony seem more interested in their consoles as media players than gaming machines these days, a gaming-centric HTPC should fit right in. PC gaming in the living room is not for everyone, but it would appear that the X51 can deliver the goods. It would certainly be cheaper to build a standard gaming PC and press it into service as an HTPC, but the X51 has a compelling argument to be made for those interested in the small form factor. 

Alienware X51

One shape the Aliens have never assumed previously, however, is the small form-factor desktop.  And let's be honest, systems in this weight class generally aren't known for their gaming prowess but usually serve as home theater or mainstream PCs.  The folks at Alienware have a different sort of vision for their next alien life form and if you weren't paying attention, you'd almost mistake it for a game console rather than a PC.

Hot Hardware

Jan 30 2012

News - Hitachi Takes 4TB Hard Drives to 7200rpm

Hitachi 4TBHitachi was the first hard drive manufacturer to ship internal 4TB hard drives, but those early drives were also 5400rpm drives. While this no doubt suits the needs of most folks building home servers and general purpose media servers, it did leave more performance-oriented enthusiasts feeling a bit underwhelmed. Fortunately, Hitachi is mindful of that segment of the market's need for speed and has started shipping 7200rpm 4TB hard drives. Unfortunately, said drives are seemingly only available in Japan at this point, though I would assume that will change before too long. I was not surprised to hear that Hitachi is being conservative and sticking to their 5-platter design. We will almost certainly see another 5400rpm 4TB offering using 1TB platters before we see a 7200rpm offering do the same.

The latest Hitachi Deskstar 7K4000 drive (HDS724040ALE640) boasts 4TB capacity and uses five previous-generation 800GB platters with 446Gb/square inch areal density, Serial ATA-600 interface, 64MB cache as well as 7200rpm spindle speed. The new hard disk drives use advanced 4K format.

X-bit Labs

Jan 22 2012

News - Western Digital Working to Restore Pre-Flood Manufacturing Output by September

Western Digital Hard DriveThe floods in Thailand last year displaced over 12 million people and left large swathes of the country underwater, including factories that produced a large percentage of the world's hard drives and hard drive components. Western Digital, the hard drive manufacturer most affected by the flooding, has been working to restore production and between their reconstruction efforts in Thailand and new factories coming online in Malaysia, Western Digital expects to restore production to pre-flood levels by September. A number of major tech companies, including Intel and Microsoft, have pinned the blame for recent weakness in the PC market on hard drive shortages caused by the flooding. Certainly, anyone looking to add storage to their HTPC or home server has seen the effect of the shortages on hard drive prices.

Western Digital expects to rebuild its production capacities to pre-flood levels by September, 2012, the company said this week. The manufacturer aims to repair its two factories in Thailand and bring back its output to normal levels in several months from now. Until then, shortages of hard drives will likely persist.

X-bit Labs

Jan 20 2012

News - Fractal Design Arc Midi Tower Case Reviewed

We had the opportunity to review Fractal Design's Arc Midi case last month and came away generally pleased, particularly with the case's versatility and value. It would make a solid foundation for any HTPC or home server build. I am continually surprised with how many drive bays Fractal Design manages to fit into their cases without sacrificing accessibility. Our friends at the Hardware Canucks have also taken a crack at the Arc Midi and have put together a video review that does a nice job of showing the case's features inside and out. Though they note that the case is not without its flaws, they too seem to be rather impressed with how much value Fractal Design has manged to build into the Arc Midi. 

Fractal Design Arc Midi

The Arc series follows two distinct lines: a mini tower and what they call a “midi” design which is something between a mid tower case and a slightly smaller form factor. For anyone that wants a mid tower but has limited space, the Arc midi may be the perfect enclosure since it combines a subtle design with a ton of cooling options and a great price of under $110.

Hardware Canucks

Jan 20 2012

News - Alienware X51: Two Parts Gaming PC, One Part HTPC

Alienware X51

Gaming PCs and HTPCs come in all shapes and sizes, and it is not at all uncommon for the lines to cross, but Alienware may well have come up with one of the more exciting line-crossers in quite awhile with the freshly minted X51. The Alienware X51 is a small-form factor gaming PC that could easily pass for a gaming console at first blush and would no doubt fit in nicely among one's A/V gear. At a base price of $699 the X51 starts out with a Core i3-2120 and a GeForce GT 545 that should handle most 1080p gaming needs well enough, though the base model lacks the Blu-ray drive that might be expected in an HTPC sporting such power. There are upgrade options, but the choice of GPUs is more limited than the choice of CPUs. Gaming-centric HTPCs are certainly a niche market within a niche market, but the X51 may be the closest a mainstream vendor has come to nailing that market, though I suspect Alienware would be surprised to hear so.

Alienware, a leading maker of high-end gaming PCs that belongs to Dell, has introduced the world's first small form-factor personal computer that is designed for gamers. The Alienware X51 is based on mini-ITX mainboard and relies on Intel Core i-series "Sandy Bridge" microprocessors, Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics cards and some exclusive technologies from Alienware.

X-bit Labs

Jan 18 2012

News - Arctic Cooling K481 Keyboard Reviewed

Arctic Cooling K481

Many HTPC owners tend to be of two minds about keyboards. On the one hand, building an HTPC that can be operated entirely with a remote control can be a point of pride, but the reality is that in most cases, there is a time and a place for a keyboard. Some folks try to split the difference with a mini-keyboard, but thumb-typing is not for everyone. I've been running with an Enermax Aurora for a few years now, and though it is a nice keyboard, the trackball has always been a bit less than ideal. The Arctic Cooling 481 combines a laptop-sized keyboard with a side-mounted trackpad. Though it appears to be smaller than many of the similar keyboards we have seen, it seems it is still big enough to lack the backlit keys that have become commonplace on mini-keyboards. I do like that Arctic Cooling was smart enough to fit in the arrow keys. It's hard to imagine running most media front-ends without them.

The touch pad is multitouch capable and K481 uses some kind power saving mechanisms to improve the battery time. Arctic cooling advertises K481 to be Windows 2000 / ME / XP / Vista / 7 / Mac OS X compatible, but as K481 shows as a generic HID-device to the operating system, I don’t see a reason why K481 shouldn’t work with any USB-keyboard capable operating system. 

rbmods

Jan 12 2012

News - SilverStone - CES 2012

SilverStoneFull size HTPC builders can rejoice, because at SilverStone; big is still in fashion. They recently updated their lineup of Full-ATX chassis with the GD07 and GD08. Both offer space for multiple 3.5" hard drives and full length GPUs. Other highlights include:

  • They will update USB 3.0 products to the latest Renesas chip later this year
  • Offer a four SATA power connector with built-in capacitors, nice for adding SATA power in a server
  • GD07/GD08 have a switch to the bottom of their HTPC chassis which controls LED brightness
  • A very well designed server chassis (TJ04-E)
  • Will offer a 450W 80+ Gold SFX PSU
  • Offer a 400/500W completly passive PSU. It is INSANELY heavy :)
  • Will offer a 600W modular 80+ Gold PSU

 

Jan 12 2012

News - Zotac Announces D2700-ITX WiFi Supreme Motherboard

Zotac kicked off CES by showing some barebones HTPC love with the new Zbox lineup, but today Zotac gave some DIY HTPC love with the announcement of the D2700-ITX WiFi Supreme. Like most of Zotac's mini-ITX motherboards, the diminutive board is packed to the gills with features and connectivity options. As you may have guessed from the name, the D2700-ITX WiFi Supreme is running an Intel Atom D2700 Cedar Trail processor, but it also running an Nvidia GeForce GT 250 for the GPU. Hopefully it will make for a potent combination. We'll let you know if we hear anything more about pricing or availability.

Zotac D2700-ITX WiFi Supreme

The little board also has a pair of DDR3-1066 RAM slots that support up 4GB of RAM. Connectivity includes HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort. The board also has dual USB 3.0 port, a combo mini-PCIe/mSATA slot used by the Wi-Fi module, and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. The chipset on the board is the Intel NM10. Pricing and availability are unknown.

DailyTech

Jan 04 2012

News - Lian-Li PC-TU200 Mini-ITX Case Reviewed

Lian-Li PC-TU200

The Lian-Li PC-TU200 is getting another run around the block, this time by our friends over at ThinkComputers. The PC-TU200 may be a mini-ITX case, but seeing it in video gives some context to just how large the case is. There is no doubt that this is a slick looking case, but with space for 4 hard drives and a full-height 5.25" bay, this is still a good size case for working inside. I also like the looks of the latching system for the side panels. I wouldn't mind seeing some other chassis manufacturers try something similar if it means we can get some more inventive aesthetics designs as Lian-Li has attempted here with the rivets and corner covers.

 It fits Mini-ITX and Mini-DTX motherboards, has internal USB 3.0 and eSATA compatibility, a large 140mm intake fan, room for both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch hard drives, a really cool side panel release system and even a handle on top for easy transportation.  The case I’m talking about is the PC-TU200 from Lian Li. 

ThinkComputers

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