Small Form Factor PC Reviews And News

Palm sized or pint sized, PCs are getting smaller, more powerful and more capable. Micro ATX motherboards and mini ITX motherboards for X86 processors, as well as tiny single board computers that run Linux and other open source operating systems, can deliver powerful computing experiences and great performance per square millimeter. Here are the mighty mites.

The last time we looked at Dell's Alienware X51 series of console-sized gaming PCs was back in mid-2013. Back then we were working with Intel's 4th generation Haswell Core Series processors and NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 600 series GPUs based on their Kepler graphics core. Our man Paul, frankly, was spouting off a bit wildly about aliens serving humans for dinner and, well, let's just say it made for interesting reading. But that was so 2013, and like anything in life, seasons change and architectures evolve. Paul is still nuttier than a fruit cake but that's a different story all together, so we'll just stay on task. The Alienware team has been relatively quiet for the past 18 - 24 months or so with... Read more...
In addition to ushering in a tidal wave of new notebooks and mobile devices, Intel’s Broadwell microarchitecture has also found its way into a plethora of recently introduced small form factor systems. We have already taken a look at a couple of them, like the excellent Intel NUC NUC5i5RYK and Gigabyte Brix S BXi7H-5500.The low-power characteristics of Broadwell simply make it well suited to the tight spaces and constrained thermal envelopes of small form factor systems. But another side benefit of Broadwell is that it also allows manufacturers to cram higher performing parts into the same (or smaller) spaces than previous-gen, Haswell-based parts.Take the Intel NUC5i7RYH we’re going to show... Read more...
We first got an official look at the Intel Compute Stick earlier this year, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In one of those “But wait! There’s more!” kind of moments common at trade shows, one of the good folks at Intel that was previously showing off a few upcoming NUC systems pulled a tiny device from his shirt pocket and revealed the diminutive Compute Stick. If you’re unfamiliar with the Intel Compute Stick, it’s essentially a fully-functional, low-power, Atom-based system—with memory, storage, and an OS--crammed into a form factor not much bigger than a large flash drive. Though Intel has had their hand in similar devices like the MeeGoPad... Read more...
Gigabyte's Brix line-up of small form factor systems is the company’s answer to the teeny, tiny NUC from Intel. These ridiculously small PCs pack all the power of a laptop, or a budget desktop, into a box small enough to fit in your palm. These wee PCs are marketed to non-gamers and people who need a basic, no-nonsense PC with a tiny footprint. Think people who need a PC for a kiosk or for basic, day to day computing. These little brick PCs are basically made to mount behind a monitor, and use mobile parts and solid-state components to keep the noise and heat to a minimum. One big difference between these Ultra small form factor PCs and traditional PCs is that these little boxes are mostly sold... Read more...
Intel just wrapped up an event at a location adjacent to the Game Developers Conference where the company talked about its vision for the future of gaming, and how Intel plans to further support the industry. Intel discussed some updates to its 5th Gen Core processor line-up, Intel graphics developments, the Intel Hardware SDK, and its various game developer tools. Some walk-on guest were also brought out to discuss a few new partnership announcements and programs designed to bring more diversity to gaming and the game industry.Pete Baker, Vice President in Intel’s Software and Services Group opened things up with some high-level perspective on past products and Intel’s outlook on the future.... Read more...
NVIDIA just wrapped up an event in San Francisco, where the Game Developers Conference (GDC) is currently underway. The company unveiled a new Android TV streamer, game console, and supercomputer as NVIDIA’s Jen Hsun Huang calls it, all wrapped up in a single, ultra-slim device—the new NVIDIA SHIELD. The NVIDIA SHIELD Console And Wireless SHIELD Controller   In the lead-up to tonight’s event, an invitation from NVIDIA’s CEO was sent out with the title “Made To Game”, claiming that the product that would be shown was “more than 5 years in the making” and that it would “redefine the future of gaming”. That five year development cycle surely harkens to more than just the SHIELD device itself.... Read more...
As Intel (and other chip makers) have been able to shrink its processors, integrate more features, and reduce power requirements over the years, manufacturers have been able to fit them into smaller and smaller form factors. That means notebooks and tablets have gotten thinner, lighter, faster and more portable over the years, of course, but it also means that desktop systems no longer need to be big boxes crammed with numerous components and cooling hardware. In some ways, Intel’s NUC series of products are the epitome of this dynamic. Intel’s NUC systems are ultra-small form factor systems that pack almost all of the features of a full sized desktop, but with minimal expansion options. Intel... Read more...
Intel is readying its latest generation of NUC small form factor systems, based on the company’s recently-released Broadwell-U processors. We got our hands on a Core i5-powered version dubbed the NUC5i5RYK. To be more specific, this little machine is packing a Core i5-5250U processor with on-die Intel HD 6000 series graphics. The system also sports built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, M.2 SSD support, and a host of other features. We’re still readying our full review, but in the meantime we thought you’d like to take a peek at the diminutive Intel NUC5i5RYK to get a sense of what the system can do. As you’ll see, not only is the machine nice and small, but it packs... Read more...
Valve’s Steam Machine was all the rage at CES 2014 in Las Vegas, but as we enter 2015, the SteamOS gaming platform (and Valve’s tantalizing Steam Controller) are still works in progress. SteamOS hasn’t been written off, but Dell, which was one of the first PC makers to build a custom console-sized system for SteamOS, isn’t waiting around. Its Alienware gaming brand launched the Alienware Alpha, which is meant to be your next (or your first) living room gaming PC. The Alienware Alpha plugs the holes left by Valve with Microsoft hardware and software and a simple 10-ft UI developed in house. Instead of shipping with a Steam Controller, for example, the Alpha features an Xbox 360 wireless controller.... Read more...
We first caught wind on the Alienware Alpha in the lead-up to Valve’s Steam Box announcements, prior to the Consumer Electronics Show. If you’re unfamiliar with the Alienware Alpha, it is a sleek, small form factor gaming PC, designed specifically for gamers. Valve is not quite ready with Steam OS or the Steam Controller, so the whole Steam Box angle is on hold for now, but that didn’t stop Alienware from re-tooling a bit and shipping the Alpha with Windows 8.1 instead. There are a number of Alpha configurations currently available. The machines have a starting price of $549 with the entry-level configuration featuring an Intel Core i3-4130T dual-core processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 500GB hard drive,... Read more...
When Valve initially revealed its partners for the company’s Steam Machine, Alienware was one of the first on board. However, since the Steam Machine was delayed, Alienware decided to go ahead and re-package the device. Called the Alienware Alpha, the company has started shipping the device out to consumers who pre-ordered the PC console.The Alienware Alpha has a starting price of $549 with the low end version featuring an Intel Core i3 4130T dual-core processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 500GB hard drive, and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M GPU. The $799 model swaps out the i3 for an Intel Core i5 4590T quad-core processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB hard drive while the most expensive version will cost consumers... Read more...
Until such time as Valve gets its ducks in a row, those of us who want a console-like Steam experience are sticking with DIY PCs, Big Picture mode and a third-party controller. Digital Storm, however, thinks it has a killer system for your living room Big Picture setup (or for use as your main gaming rig if you’re a mouse and keyboard type) in the newly updated Bolt II. The Bolt II is a midsize system that fits some powerful components into a very sleek, sophisticated case – one that looks as good standing upright as it does on its side, which is an important feature for a computer that might end up on your home theater setup. At $3,481 (as tested), the Bolt II’s... Read more...
The small form factor market has seen a ton of innovation as of late, and while it’s quite nice to have so many tiny PC options that offer generally impressive performance in a package that you can stick just about anywhere (often with price tags that make these machines affordable enough as your second PC), system builders need to work harder than ever to differentiate their products. Zotac has decided to take a stab at a radical chassis design with its Zbox OI520 Plus “Sphere”, and indeed, the black orb will make you do a double-take when you see it. It’s small. It’s spherical. It’s certainly different. And it has an icy blue LED light band around its... Read more...
These are the days of form factors. The PC market is changing rapidly as tablets supplant some laptops, new players such as the Chromebook disrupt the old WIntel model, and innovations in processors and graphics allow for ever-smaller PCs such as Intel’s NUC. Here’s a new one for you: a tiny NUC-style PC that doubles as a video projector. It's an interesting combination and that’s we have for you today with the Gigabyte Brix Projector. The little PC ships as a barebones unit without storage or memory, but it actually has some solid specs under that diminutive hood and capabilities not found in virtually any PC product on the market to date. Gigabyte Brix Projector Specifications... Read more...
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