Jul 06 2012

News - Cooler Master Announces Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX Case

Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced

Cooler Master has announced the Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX case, joining BitFenix and Fractal Design in pushing new designs geared not just at SFF and HTPC enthusiasts, but also performance enthusiasts. The Elite 120 Advanced is the latest Mini-ITX case to tout a design intended to house a full-size gaming-grade graphics card without giving up the diminutive footprint that makes mini-ITX so attractive. The new case also includes space for a full-height 5.25 drive, multiple hard drives, and an ATX power supply. Perhaps the most aggressive spec is the price at only $50. It will be interesting to see if this little beast can truly provide the cooling it suggests it can without screaming like a banshee.

The case also supports processor heatsink assemblies measuring up to 2.5 inches (65mm) tall as well as full size ATX power supplies. Despite such cramped quarters, Cooler Master claims the Elite 120 Advanced offers best-in-class cooling, which includes a 120mm front intake, an 80mm x 15mm slim side fan, an optional 120mm x 25mm hard drive fan, as well as perforated side panels for improved ventilation.


Jun 08 2012

News - Fractal Design Introduces Node Family of Cases

The list of intriguing new Mini-ITX cases just keeps on growing, this time with the announcement of the Fractal Design Node family of cases at Computex. Representing Mini-ITX will be the Node 304. The Node 304 is a relatively petite cube-style small form factor case capable of housing six hard drives, making it an exciting option for HTPC or home server builds. The case is made even more versatile by offering an option to leave out one of the two-drive cages to allow room for double-wide graphics cards up to 12.2" long. Fractal Design's other new case is the Node 605, a more traditional HTPC case designed to blend in with standard home theater electronics, similar to the nMEDIA HTPC 7000B or the SilverStone Grandia GD06. The Fractal Design Node 605 will accommodate full ATX motherboards, and although it only has space for four hards drives, it does offer a slot for a slim-line optical disc drive. We've seen a lot to like from Fractal Design in the past, so hopefully the new Node cases will continue that trend.

Fractal Desing Node 304

The Node 304 is the more affordable of the two, with a suggested retail price of just $90. It's designed to house Mini-ITX systems with double-wide graphics cards up to 12.2" long. Squeezing in a card that long will require removing one of the three hanging drive cages. Each cage can accommodate two 3.5" or 2.5" drives, so there's plenty of storage capacity to go around. You'll have to make do without an optical drive, though.


Jun 05 2012

News - BitFenix Prodigy Mini-ITX Case Reviewed

Mini-ITX always seems to be right on the cusp of bursting into the mainstream. Low-power and cool running processors abound and many of the major manufacturers are offering compelling mini-ITX motherboards, but for those of us that like to roll our own systems, the biggest challenge in selecting components for a mini-ITX build is often in selecting the right case. Mini-ITX cases tend be studies in trade=offs. Go too small and give up too much choice in expandability and drive slots, but go big and give up the space-saving advantage of the form factor; not to mention that mini-ITX cases often seem to be grouped into just two groups: cheap but low-quality or high-quality but expensive. However, we might finally be seeing some manufacturers finding that "just-right" sweet spot. The SilverStone FT03 Mini is certainly one contender, and now comes the BitFenix Prodigy. There might still be some rought edges, but it sound like the Prodigy may just be the Goldilocks mini-ITX case, offering configurations that allow it to serve in home server, HTPC, or gaming desktop roles all without breaking the bank.

BirFenix Prodigy

There's also been a slow trickle of new mini-ITX enclosures designed to support that kind of hardware, but even these enclosures have had their limits unless you were willing to spend through the nose on a Lian Li case. That changes today with the BitFenix Prodigy, a $79, full-frills mini-ITX enclosure designed for maximum performance in minimum space. If you're looking to build a powerful mini-ITX system with a single graphics card, this may very well be the case you've been waiting for.


May 28 2012

News - SilverStone FT03 Mini PC Case Reviewed

SilverStone FT03 Mini

Every so often, a case manufacturer decides to try to break the mold and release something new and different. Such efforts tend to result in, at best, niche products, but occasionally the result is so eye-catching, that I can't help but root for it. SilverStone's FT03 was one such case. The first time I saw a picture of the FT03 in all it's monolithic glory, I was smitten. Well, SilverStone is back at it and have followed up on the FT03 with a pint-sized version for Mini-ITX motherboards. The FT03 Mini is tall for a Mini-ITX case, but retains the striking profile of its big brother and is evidently is even easier to work in and offers superior cooling capabilities. I'm still not completely sold on the top-mounted USB ports, but otherwise it might make a fine HTPC case for those who like to build HTPC systems with a distinctive flair.

The FT03 Mini is the FT03 condensed further still, swapping out Micro-ATX for Mini-ITX and requiring an SFX form factor power supply in the process. Users who didn't care for the look of the FT03 aren't going to find anything new here, but people who dug on the FT03 are bound to find a lot to like.


Feb 24 2012

News - VIA QuadCore EPIA-M900 Mini-ITX: Announced and Hands-On


VIA has announced a pair of new mini-ITX boards, the EPIA-M900 and EPIA-M910, aimed at digital signage and consumer media applications. The new boards can be outfitted with the VIA Nano X2 processor, but are also the first to support VIA's QuadCore processors. Both boards pair the processor with the VX900 chipset that we most recently saw VIA using on their Nano X2-powered VE-900 boards.

Remember the QuadCore CPU Via introduced last spring? We've been waiting for the chip to pop up in actual products, and now it has. Via's new EPIA-M900 and EPIA-M910 Mini-ITX boards are available with the quad-core CPU.

Tech Report

The VIA QuadCore comes in three different speed points. At the high-end is the L4800E running at a base clock speed of 1.46GHz, while at the low-end VIA offers the U4650E with a base clock speed of 1.0GHz. Sitting right in the middle is the L4700E which our friends at VR-Zone got to spend some time with on one of the new EPIA-M900 boards. There does seem to be promise here, but like most of VIA's recent offerings, I suspect the QuadCore processor and the new EPIA motherboards don't offer quite enough performance for most living room HTPCs.

The EPIA-M900 can also be equipped with an S3 graphics card as per the one we were demoed and this allows for up to four 1080p displays to be connected. The system could even handle four 1080p video streams simultaneously, although this did slow down the system to a crawl, but at least the videos appeared to play just fine without any stuttering.


Feb 18 2012

News - J&W Announces New Cedar Trail Motherboards, Barebones

J&W's MINIX line of mini-ITX motherboards have consistently targeted the higher end of the market with unique features and a focus on quality components. My first experience with their boards was the fantastic MINIX 780G-SP128MB, a mini-ITX gem that made its way into several HTPC and home server builds I assisted with. J&W looks set to continue the trend of quality craftsmanship with the release of the MINIX D2700-DC and MINIX D2500-DC. Both Cedar Trail-based boards will be passively cooled, include USB 3.0, and feature all-solid capacitor designs. J&W is also prepping a barebones kit based on the new boards. No word on pricing or specific release dates just yet, but evidently the D2700-DC is expected out first. Atom processors may not be as popular for HTPC builds as they once were, but J&W's new boards may be worth a look for those interested in going low-powered and silent.


Luckily, J&W spared no expense and both boards feature an all-solid capacitor design, with two USB 3.0 ports courtesy of a Renesas controllers and HDMI. They also feature 5.1 audio, VGA, Broadcom dual-gigabit LAN, one PCIe x1 slot and two DDR3 SO-DIMM sockets for up to 8GB of DDR3 1066, although Intel only recommends 4GB.


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

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.


Jan 05 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. 


Dec 24 2011

News - Zotac Z68ITX-B-E WiFi Supreme Motherboard Reviewed

Zotac X68ITX-B-EZotac makes a number of mini-ITX motherboards and has established a reputation for stacking a lot features on their little boards. They make two different Z68 Mini-ITX boards, the Z68ITX-A-E, for which we saw a review a while back, and the Z68ITX-B-E. The Z68ITX-B-E adds a couple of different features, in particular the built-in discrete Nvidia Geforce GT430 GPU. Intel has made great strides with their integrated graphics performance, but the GT430 is still a nice step up for those looking for some extra graphics horsepower. It's also a nice option to have for those looking to utilize LAV CUVID as their decoder.

Today we are going to take a look at a motherboard that is perfect for a small form factor or media center application.  The board is the Zotac Z68-ITX WiFi Supreme and it features support for second generation Intel Core processors, discrete NvidiaGeForce GT 430 graphics processor, support for DDR3 memory, USB 3.0, SATA 6GB/s support and of course built-in WiFi. 


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