ASRock Announces The A88M-ITXac FM2+ Motherboard

With the release of AMD’s upcoming Zen architecture upon us, it seems motherboard manufacturers are attempting to maximize sales from the current AM3+ and FM2+ platforms before it’s been replaced. To enthusiasts opting for the best possible hardware solutions, this isn’t going to interest them, but there’s still some usage scenarios where the low-cost options make sense. For example, you could use this motherboard in a HTPC or create a home-made NAS. The ASRock A88M-ITXac adopts the compact ITX form-factor and based on AMD’s A88X chipset supporting FM2+ APUs and CPUs. Furthermore, the socket is wired to two DDR3 slots housing up to 32GB of dual channel DDR3-2400 memory. There’s also a single x16 PCI-E graphics slot, to insert a high-end discrete GPU.

On another note, the motherboard contains six SATA 6Gb/s ports, an M.2 port on the reverse side of the PCB, and 802.11ac WLAN capable of speeds up to 433 Mbps. ASRock have also implemented Bluetooth 4.0 functionality and gigabit Ethernet. In terms of connectivity, there’s a HDMI 1.4a port, dual link DVI, D-Sub, four USB 3.0 ports and 6-channel audio solution. Another intriguing feature revolves around the ability to use a discrete Radeon graphics card in combination with an APU. This enhances the gaming performance and utilizes every aspect of your hardware setup.

Even though the FM2+ socket is rather outdated, I still believe there’s some merit to purchasing the platform especially if you’re building a small form factor media PC. The A88M-ITXac offers a great deal of features in a neat package. Although, there’s no information yet regarding pricing or availability. Hopefully, this should be unveiled very soon especially when you consider Zen is just around the corner.

Do you think there’s still a need for AM3+ or FM2+ motherboards? I personally wouldn’t purchase one, but at least consumers have that extra option for a low-cost build.

Fractal Design Unveil Define Nano S ITX Chassis

Fractal Design is one of the most respected case manufacturers throughout the industry and specializes in creating products with excellent noise suppression. Today, the company announced the Define Nano S which adopts the portable, ITX form factor while maintaining compatibility with full size components. For example, you can install a 240mm radiator and graphics cards measuring up to 315mm in length. Also, the chassis is bundled with two Dynamic Series fans which provides great airflow at a low acoustical noise output. As you might expect, the case is equipped with Fractal’s signature ModuVent technology to reduce noise and create a virtually silent system. There’s also a great selection of dust filters to make the cleaning process easier and prolong the life of your cooling hardware.

Specification:

  • ITX motherboard compatibility
  • 2 expansion slots
  • 2 – 3.5″ HDD/2.5″ SSD positions; 2 – 2.5″ dedicated SSD unit positions (fits SSDs up to 13mm thick)
  • 6 – Fan positions (1 Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 140mm fan + 1 Fractal Design Dynamic GP-12 120mm fan included)
  • Filtered fan slots in the front and bottom (ejects from the front of the case)
  • CPU coolers up to 160mm in height
  • ATX PSUs up to 160mm deep
  • Graphics cards up to 315mm in length with front fans mounted (Cards wider than the dual slot bracket are not recommended)
  • 17 – 35mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard plate
  • Velcro straps included for easy cable management
  • Both side panels and rear HDD/SSD brakcets feature smart captive thumbscrews
  • Dense sound dampening material on front and right side panels; left side panel includes a transparent window
  • ModuVent on top of case for further silent computing or additional ventilation
  • Colours available: Black
  • Case dimensions (WxHxD): 203 x 330 x 400mm
  • Case dimensions – wtih feet/protrusions/screws: 203 x 344 x 412mm
  • Net weight: 4.6 kg
  • Case volume: 26.80 litres
  • Package dimensions (WxHxD): 275 x 485 x 420mm
  • Package weight: 5.8 kg

Key Features:

  • A Define Series ITX case designed for silent computing with sound dampening and ModuVent technology
  • User-friendly construction with superior cable management and compatibility for full-size components
  • Flexible storage options with room for up to 4 drives
  • Accommodates a variety of radiator sizes and includes brackets for reservoir and pump mounting
  • Features two Dynamic Series fans — 1 GP-12 and 1 GP-14 — with an adapter included for motherboards with limited fan headers
  • Featuring an open interior allowing an unobstructed airflow path from the front of the case to the rear exhaust
  • Easy-to-clean filters on the top and bottom, spanning the PSU position, with the bottom filter ejecting from the front for easy-access.

The chassis will be available in two models, a standard edition and another unit featuring a side panel window. In terms of pricing, the non-windowed case has a recommended retail price of $64.99/£49.99/€69.99 while the windowed version costs $69.99/£54.99/€74.99. According to the press release, Fractal plans to bring the case to market in March this year.

ID-Cooling T60-SFX Mini-ITX Gaming Chassis Review

Introduction


ID-cooling are a relatively new player in the PC component market, but so far, we’ve seen some great cooling products from them and I’m eager to see how their first ever chassis stacks up against the competition. With a competitive price and promising high-end build quality courtesy of its pure aluminium casing, the T60-SFX sound like an attractive product for those looking at a mini-ITX gaming system.

Space is limited inside this chassis, but with the rise in popularity of mini-ITX form factor graphics cards, SFX power supplies and more, fitting a competent gaming system into a chassis of this size isn’t as tricky as it used to be. You’ll find there’s just enough room for a few hard drives, a reasonably sized graphics card and, of course, a mini-ITX motherboard and SFX PSU.

First impressions are very good, as the chassis is made from thick aluminium panels with a stealthy matte finish. The side panel is held in place by four large thumb screws, allowing for tool-free access to the interior. There’s also a good amount of ventilation, some to the rear of the PSU and a strip at the bottom that will help the GPU.

The same panel design around the back, helping further enhance the overall airflow, but no doubt sacrificing some sound proofing qualities at the same time.

The front panel houses even more ventilation at the bottom, as well as that rather funky looking power button and some USB 3.0 ports at the top. One glaring omission, however, is the lack of HD audio jacks, so you’ll have to rely on your motherboard’s rear I/O connectors.

Around the back, you can quickly appreciate how small this chassis is by looking at the motherboard I/O cut-out! There’s a small 92mm fan at the back to help with cooling, a pair of expansion slots and finally, the AC passthrough cable, as the PSU mounts towards the front of the chassis.

There’s even more ventilation on the base of the chassis, which is a good thing for your GPU considering the small capacity of the chassis and the fact it only supports a single fan, so you’ll be relying on passive airflow for the most part.

Thermaltake Announces Suppressor F1 Cubical Mini-ITX Case

Thermaltake has announced the silent-optimized Suppressor F1 Cubical Mini-ITX chassis. This cubical mini-ITX case contains enough room to support a mini-ITX motherboard, and conventional tower-shape air cooler. Additionally, the case can house large graphics cards up to 29cm in length and traditional ATX power supplies.

The Suppressor F1 features a pedestal motherboard tray that holds a mini-ITX board,  dual-slot graphics card, and CPU coolers as tall as 160 mm. On the bottom section is a PSU bay, with room for 200 mm long PSUs and clearance for cable management. Additionally, the top panel exhibits a clear acylic window to show off your components in a pleasant way.

In terms of storage options, there are two 3.5-inch/2.5-inch bays along the right panel, and two additional 2.5-inch ones behind them, projecting perpendicular to the plane of the motherboard. The case includes a 200 mm front intake, and two 80 mm rear exhausts. The front 200 mm intake can support 140 mm x 140 mm radiators. Measuring 260 mm x 276 mm x 319 mm (WxDxH), the case weighs 3.2 kg; and is constructed of steel.Thermaltake is expected to launch the chassis later this week, and we will provide you with an update regarding the launch price very soon.

Phanteks Red & Black Enthoo Evolv ITX Coming Soon

The Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX chassis is a great little case, it features exceptional build quality matched with a very unique design that is perfect for mini-ITX gaming systems.

We recently reviewed the Evolv ITX and it’s certainly a fun case to have and to use, but now it’s going to be just that little bit better. The latest model comes with a black and red trim that gives it some extra visual flair. While I must admit that black and red has been virtually done to death in the PC gaming component market, with every brand around having products with these colours, it does still look pretty decent and when you colour match it with your chassis like this, it’s going to look even better.

The feature set is the same as original Enthoo Evolv ITX, so nothing to report there, but reports suggest it’ll be hitting the market this month! So keep an eye out for it at your local retailer.

What do you think of the latest colour scheme from Phanteks? Is this a chassis you’ll be using for your next build? Let us know in the comments section below.

AMD Radeon R9 Nano Benchmarks Revealed

AMD’s official marketing material surrounding the upcoming R9 Nano has been released and makes bold claims about being “The fastest Mini-ITX Card”. Recently, we reported on the confirmed technical specifications of the R9 Nano which features 4096 shader cores, 256 TMUs, 64 ROPs and 4GB HBM. This means the R9 Nano utilizes Fiji’s full core but in an incredibly small form factor without the need for water cooling. Interestingly, AMD appears to be targeting ITX versions of the GTX 970 and their leaked press release suggests the R9 Nano is 30% faster.

However, the benchmarks were recorded at 4K resolutions and it’s important to remember that the GTX 970 isn’t really geared towards this resolution. Furthermore, the furore surrounding NVIDIA’s 4GB VRAM implementation can cause issues at huge resolutions. On another note, there’s no specific information regarding what settings were used which can easily skew the final results. As always, it’s wise to take any marketing benchmarks with a pinch of salt.

Aesthetically, the GPU is gorgeous and adopts a more premium design compared to ITX varients of the GTX 970. There’s no denying how appealing the R9 Nano is to system builders looking for an attractive and portable LAN rig.

The press documentation provides information about the Dual Vapor Chamber and overall cooling solution. By default, the card is clocked at 1000MHz, and I’m interested to see the operating temperatures under full load. Does the Fiji chip require a liquid-based GPU cooler to reach its full potential? Another factor to take into account is price, as the GTX 970 retails between £230-330 depending on the aftermarket model and offers an incredible price to performance ratio. HBM is expensive, and in low yields, so can AMD realistically get close to this price?

Do you think the R9 Nano is powerful enough or have too many concessions been made?

Thank you VideoCardz for providing us with this information.

Phanteks Announces Special Edition Enthoo Evolv ITX

Phanteks has announced the new Special Edition of the Enthoo Evolv ITX chassis which brings two new colours to the Enthoo Evolv ITX series. The chassis is as the name suggest designed for ITX motherboard, but it isn’t a small chassis. With its measurements of 230 x 375 x 395mm, the chassis is a large one for an ITX. In return, there is room for quite a bit of hardware inside and it also looks pretty sweet.

The two color options available are white with black interior(PH-ES215P_WT) and black with red interior (PHES215P_SRD), otherwise it retains the same minimalist design from the original EVOLV and features a metal exterior.

The Enthoo Evolv ITX supports graphics cards with a length of up to 330 mm and offers a unique bracket solution for the radiator to be mounted on top without any conflicts between the radiator and memory. The storage possibilities are increased with the included Drop-N-Lock SSD bracket and a Multifunctional mid plate Bracket which allows for mounting a reservoir, pump, and SSD/HDD. There are also other optional accessories such as the 3.5-inch HDD bracket, SSD brackets, pump brackets, and a PWM hub.

The pricing depends a bit on the version and the black and red one is the cheapest with an MSRP of £49.99. The White version will cost a little more and set you back £54.99, VAT included. The new Special Edition Enthoo Evolv ITX will be available from October 2015.

Chillblast Fusion Nano 960 Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Chillblast gave us a friendly poke to see if we were interested in taking a look at one of their mini-itx gaming range. As I am mainly used to dealing with hulking gaming monsters which are show-pieces never to be moved, I was quite interested to see what offerings are available in terms of portable PCs of tiny small form factor, and finding out if they’re actually worth it or not.

Having a brief look over the spec sheet revealed on paper at least, that this seemed a fairly decent gaming rig, even touting an AIO liquid cooled CPU cooler. We’ve seen plenty of GTX 970s, 980s and even Titan Xs, but we’ve yet to try out the GTX960. Needless to say, we gratefully took Chillblast up on their offer and sure enough a fairly large yet light parcel turned up at eTeknix HQ.

Specifications

  • Name: Chillblast Fusion Barbarian Gaming PC
  • Case: Raijintek Metis Windowed Mini ITX Case – Red – modified
  • Motherboard: Asus Z97I PLUS
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4690K Devils Canyon overclocked to 4.3GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Corsair H55 all-in-one liquid cooler
  • System Memory: 8GB Corsair/Crucial/Samsung  1600MHz DDR3 Memory (2 x 4GB sticks)
  • Main Boot Drive: Seagate 2.5″ SSHD 1000GB Hybrid SSD / HDD Drive
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): None
  • Graphics card: GTX 960 2GB based on the Maxwell Architecture
  • Power Supply: Corsair CX 750W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified PSU Modular Version
  • Optical DriveNone
  • Wireless: Asus A/C
  • Monitor: Not included
  • Peripherals: Not included
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 5 Year Warranty with 2 Years Collect and Return (UK only)
  • Price: £869.99 as configured Delivered.

The outer box, sealed and in perfect condition, a good start!

Inside the outer box amongst a large amount of paper padding on all sides we have a smaller box and a case box.

The much smaller Raijintek case box

In the side box, we have the external magnetic Asus Wi-Fi antennae, extra modular power cables, kettle power lead, PCIE blanking plates, motherboard sound speaker and various manuals and drivers discs.

Removing the rig from its case showed that extra care had been given to the components inside the case, nice.

CPU-Z

GPU-Z

Element Gaming Atomic ITX Aluminium Chassis Review

Introduction


Today is a special day, as it’s the first time we’ve featured Element Gaming on eTeknix! This won’t come as much of a surprise to Element Gaming though, as they’re a relatively new brand, but they’ve already launched a wide range of gaming peripherals and chassis products to market, so we thought it would be great to see what all the fuss is about!

“Built from aluminium, steel and acrylic this high-quality case is ideal for small form factor enthusiasts. Specifically designed for ITX system boards the case nevertheless has enough room to build a high spec PC. Fast USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports along with audio inputs are positioned on the top of the case with the on/off button to the front. The rear of the Atomic has two PCI expansion ports whilst internally there is a 3.5” HD bay or room for two 2.5” SSDs. The case supports 120mm radiators and a 120mm LED fan is mounted to the rear. There is also support for 265mm VGA card and 165mm CPU cooler. As an added feature the right panel is made from clear acrylic to allow viewing of the components and the lit fan.”

The case couldn’t be better timed, as more and more people are building ultra-compact gaming systems and with more graphics cards manufacturers now making ITX graphics cards, as well as some incredible Mini-ITX motherboards hitting the market in recent years, a powerful gaming system doesn’t need to be in a mid or full tower form factor anymore.

As you can see from the features, the Element Gaming Atomic ticks a lot of boxes. It may be small, but it can fit all the hardware you’ll likely need.

Features

  • Aluminium and acrylic construction
  • Suitable for ITX system board
  • 1 x 120mm LED fan included
  • Support for 120mm radiators
  • Supports 265mm VGA card and 165mm CPU cooler

Technical specification

  • Internal drive bays – 1 x 3.5″ HD and 2 x 2.5″ SSD or 1 x 3.5″ HD
  • 2 x PCI expansion slots
  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x audio
  • 1 x 120mm rear mounted fan

The Atomic is super compact, but first impressions of it are very good indeed. The main panels of the chassis are black brushed aluminium with a little silver trim on the edges of the front panel. It’s lightweight and looks absolutely gorgeous. The left side panel is held in place with four screws, whilst also featuring a full-width dark tinted side panel window.

The side panel window matches up with the glossy plastic section on the front panel, giving it a nice wrap-around effect. Finishing up the front panel is a nice power button in the top center, as well as some Element Gaming branding.

The right side panel is the same design as the left, more screws and another full-width window panel, giving the chassis a nice symmetrical look.

The top panel features more aluminium, which has curved edges, giving the Atomic a sleek and modern look.

There’s not a huge amount of ports at the front, but there’s everything you’re likely to need; USB 3.0, HD audio and USB 2.0.

Here you can see that the motherboard is mounted upside down, which means the GPU will be at the top of the chassis. There’s a power connector at the back, which uses a pass-through cable to hook up the PSU, which mounts towards the front of the chassis.

The base of the Atomic features four rubber tipped feet; these will stop the chassis sliding around should you have it up on your desk. There’s a few mounting holes in the base for fitting hard drives to the chassis interior and, of course, there is a large cut-out for the PSU.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 960 2GB ITX Graphics Card Review

Introduction and A Closer Look


The GeForce GTX 960 has been with us for a few months now, it has established itself as the ‘go-to’ graphics card for under $200. With the amount of power graphical power it produces at this price point, it has really been taken on by the mid-range enthusiast market and as such, NVIDIA allowed manufacturers to release an ITX version, much like the NVIDIA GTX 970 before it. This new form factor is set to take the Small Form Factor (SFF) a light. Well under the typical MSRP of the rest of the GTX 960 range, the ITX models. The push for the GTX 960 was to move stagnant gamers from their aging technology. The data was collected from a Steam survey; results showing the typical powered graphics card around a GTX 660 or lower.

Today we have Gigabyte’s offering into the ITX GTX 960 market, the Gigabyte Geforce GTX 960 2GB ‘ITX Edition’ OC; that’s a bit of a mouthful, so for the rest of the article, I will refer to it as GTX 960 ITX. The reason for the ‘ITX’ label is the entire length of the card is only 17cm, which is the length of an ITX motherboard. The card features all of the typical GTX 900 series features, but due to the decreased size, the flex display has been removed due to fewer output ports. Performance wise, it has two overclocked settings; OC and Gamer. The gamer has the highest overclock at around 8% over stock, but leaves the memory clock at the standard 7010MHz. It features the same 120W TDP and 128 Bit bus interface as the standard GTX 960, so let’s see if the increased clock speeds is enough to prove this ITX size card has what it takes to compete.

The packaging follows the same design as the other Gigabyte VGA boxes, plain and simple with just the key features.

Inside the box, we find a Molex to PCIe 6 pin cable, manual and driver disk.

The card is very plain, a very similar design to the GTX 970 ITX Edition. It features the newly implemented Windforce 92mm fan with increased air flow and silence.

Along the bottom of the card is nothing interesting; the PCIe interface and the side of the cooling shroud.

At the end of the card, we see the heatsink sticking out with open-ended fins for the hot air to be expelled.

Looking down onto the top of the card, still a very boring looking card, but you do get a look at those massive copper cooling pipes.

To keep the cost down, Gigabyte didn’t incorporate a backplate on this graphics card.

The outputs offered is very wide for a card this size, 1x HDMI, 2x DVI and 1x DisplayPort. This means there aren’t enough ports to carry out FlexDisplay.

 

Turris VR Seating and Movement Control and DIY PC Kickstarter Kicks Off

The Praevidi team just launched its first Kickstarter, a VR seating and movement controller that houses a Mini-ITX . The design allows the user to input movement controls with their body while keeping their hands free. The seat also has infinite rotation and with the PC in the seat that means that you won’t be tangling yourself in wires.

The Turris Kickstarter has Turris kits for as low as $475 with an estimated January 2016 delivery date. The video on the Kickstarter page does a great job explaining the concept behind the Turris.

The guys behind the Turris are industry vets and have done design and consulting work for plenty of VR companies like Seebright, Virtuix, AboutFace, and Sixense. The design is really a great concept for keeping untangled in the current wired VR gear, and having another movement input is icing on the cake. The seat has been made to be tuneable for individuals since we are not all the same.

Having known both Simon and Aaron for a few years I took some time to ask them about the Turris.

Simon said “Aaron has been working on seating for 20 years and we began collaborating first on extreme overclocking and then on virtual reality. Together we conceived of the Turris as a systems approach to the ergonomic and motion control challenges of VR. This is a complex piece of hardware that solves many problems at once. And it’s the best excuse to build a VR rig.”

I also spoke with Aaron about the Turris and asked what the biggest engineering challenge was. He said it was finding where the pivots would be for the proper motion of the seat, and that process lead to a tunable design. He also said that one of the biggest challenges going forward is cost reduction to help them bring down the cost of units, making them more affordable to consumers.

The Turris will be American made and will use parts from the US, with a small amount of electronics coming from overseas.

ECS Z97I-Drone LEET Gaming (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s Z97 platform has been around with us for almost a year now, so the marketplace is slightly saturated with motherboards from a huge array of manufacturers. Offering full support for the Haswell Refresh CPU’s, it has really brought new performance levels to the consumer market. While still producing the Z97 platform, Intel are soon to release the newest CPU lineup, named Skylake; with that introducing the new LGA 1151 socket motherboards. Focus has moved from the typical motherboard form factor, ATX and microATX to the ITX size. Tthis motherboard crams in most of the features of it’s bigger brothers, while being a tiny 17cm x 17cm size.

Today we have the Elitegroup (ECS) Z97I-Drone (GANK), under the LEET Gaming sub-division. That’s a bit of a mouthful, so let me explain with a picture.

In this iteration, ECS aim to bring top performance and gaming to the ITX market. In this review, things are going to be a little different; let’s do an ITX showdown with the four ITX motherboards that we’ve had in so far.; the ASUS Z97I-PLUS, Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming-5 and the AsRock Z97E-ITX/ac.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, Elitegroup offer a small amount of custom software with this motherboard which is highly functional.

  • eBLU BIOS Live Update
  • eDLU Drivers Live Update
  • eOC Easy Overclock

For more information on these functions, please visit the ECS Z97I-Drone product page.

Packaging and Accessories

The box comes in two parts, the outer protective cover with all of the information on; then a plain, further protection box where you find the motherboard and accessories.

In the box we find 2x SATA cables, I/O shield and a range of manuals and how-to guides.

DeepCool Launches GamerStorm TriStellar ITX Chassis

Last week CyberPowerPC released their Trinity Gaming Desktop in various configurations and we could read some comments that a lot of users would love this chassis if they could fill it with their own components instead of buying a pre-built system. Not to worry, that is just what you can do now as DeepCool Launched the GamerStorm TriStellar ITX chassis.

It wasn’t everyone that like the chassis, but you can’t argue that it isn’t unique. The engine or blade-like design can hold a small form factor rig inside, but it isn’t so small on the outside. In fact, it will take up the same space as a normal square chassis with the same dimensions. What you get instead is a case that’s worth showing off and still fits all the basic components you need for both workstations and gaming systems.

Most small form factor chassis can run into trouble with heat when you put many high-end components into it, but that shouldn’t be as much an issue with the TriStellar chassis. The three chambers effectively divide up all the parts and only keeps one high-heat creating item in each: PSU, CPU and Graphics card.

The interior is fully black and it can hold graphics cards up to 320mm length and with up to three slot covers in height. That’s enough for a Titan-Z graphics cards and a lot of others too.

The chassis can hold a mITX motherboard and supports CPU coolers with a height of up to 80mm. There’s also support for AIO coolers with 120mm radiators as well as a standard ATX power supply.

Storage is pretty well covered too with a total of five drive trays with hot plugging SATA ports. You can have two 3.5-inch HDDs in the PSU chamber and three 2.5-inch SSDs or HDDs in the graphics card chamber. The front panel has two USB 3.0 ports and audio jacks for easy connection of peripherals.

This certainly isn’t a chassis for everyone, but I could see it fitting well in a lot of situations where having something else than square black or beige box next to the desk could be of benefit. Designers, architects, customizers, and similar offices would stand a bit more out when customers come in with a chassis like DeepCool’s GamerStorm TriStellar ITX chassis.

Asrock Z97E-ITX/ac (LGA-1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s Z97 platform is a perfect basis for a mini-ITX system build as it features enough performance to please even the most demanding user while still being power efficient enough to be tamed by small form factor cases and modest cooling solutions. Due to those reasons it isn’t surprising to see Intel’s LGA 1150 platform dominate the mini-ITX landscape. Creating a mini-ITX motherboard from AMD’s AM3+ or Intel’s LGA 2011 platforms is unfeasible from a number of perspectives including heat and for LGA 2011, the size of the socket and number of memory lanes required. We have seen other mini-ITX motherboards emerge for low power platforms like Intel’s Bay Trail, AMD’s Kabini and AMD’s FM2+ APU platform but relatively speaking all three of these platforms cannot rival Intel’s LGA 1150 in terms of raw performance. In short, Intel’s mainstream LGA 1150 platform offers the best balance of features, performance, pricing and power efficiency for the mini-ITX form factor.

Today we are setting our sights on one of ASRock’s newest additions to the line-up, the Z97E-ITX/ac. ASRock, a previous subdivision of AsusTek, has really taken the world by storm, becoming the 3rd biggest supplier of motherboards for the year 2013-2014. Being set on the Intel Z97 chipset, allows this motherboard to be compatible with all the LGA 1150 socket CPU’s such as the i5-4570k and i7-4700k. This particular board has been built using all the typical ASRock components; premium alloy chokes, 12K platinum capacitors and a sapphire black PCB, all combining to producing a stonker of a motherboard. Along with the usual hardware components, ASRock has managed to squeeze on the newest Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac, meaning a boost of up to 289% over 802.11n Wi-Fi, a M.2 port for super fast storage and much more.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, ASRock is no different and has brought a huge array of features to this motherboard.

  • ASRockSuper Alloy
  • ASRock 802.11ac WiFi
  • ASRock HDMi-In
  • ASRock Full Spike Protection
  • ASRock Cloud
  • ASRock App Shop
  • ASRock A-Tuning
  • ASRock Disk Health Report
  • ASRock USB Key
  • ASRock App charger
  • ASRock XFast LAN
  • ASRock XFast RAM
  • ASRock Restart to UEFI
  • ASRock FULL HD UEFI
  • ASRock My Favourites in UEFI
  • ASRock UEFI Guide
  • ASRock Instant Flash
  • ASRock Internet Flash
  • ASRock Crashless BIOS
  • ASRock Online Management Guard (OMG)
  • ASRock UEFI System Browser
  • ASRock UEFI Tech Service
  • ASRock Dehumidifier Function
  • ASRock Easy RAID Installer
  • ASRock Easy Driver Installer

For more information on these functions, please visit ASRock’s Z97E-ITX/ac product page.

Packaging and Accessories

Very typical enthusiast level extra’s. 2x SATA3 cables, install CD, ASRock Cloud manual, quick start manual, ASRock sticker and a single WiFi antennae.

Reeven BRONTES (RC-1001) Low Profile CPU Cooler Review

Introduction


Reeven is still a fairly new company based in Asia that focus on cooling products and also fan controllers. It’s hard to find any Reeven products in the UK as they don’t seem to have any resellers over here, which is a real shame. The products really do look very nice and I think there is certainly a place for them here. We have been sent three coolers that Reeven are looking to push into the UK market, last month we showed you the Reeven Justice and we are going to look at the second one, the Reeven Brontes. The Brontes is a compact low profile CPU cooler, these are for people who are looking for a small office PC or a HTPC rather than a fully kitted out gaming rig or a benching build.

The box for the Brontes is quite simple and as you would expect for such a small unit, rather small. It has all the information you need about the cooler such as which sockets it fits and some nice pictures showing you what to expect inside.

Here is a bit more about the specification of the Reeven Brontes. As you can see, it supports all the popular socket types from both Intel and AMD. As with a lot of low profile coolers though, there is no support for 2011.

Inside the box we get a nice bunch of brackets and fittings to allow us to mount the CPU cooler, the fittings are for both AMD and Intel. One of my pet hates with certain manufacturers is giving a sachet of thermal paste rather than a syringe. The sachet can only be used once, meaning if you need to re-attach the cooler to upgrade the CPU or anything else, then you will have to purchase more separately. Ok, it’s nice that they provide the thermal paste in the first place but syringes are far more usable.

The fan for the Brontes is really quite unique. It is tiny measuring only 100mm x 100mm in diameter an only 12mm wide. The fan comes pre-attached to the cooler so you are ready to go straight out of the box so there is no fiddling around with fan brackets. As you can see, they use the usual colours for Reeven which is black and yellow. I do like how the company sticks with the same two colours all the time, however it could put people off if they are trying to colour match with the fan with the rest of the system, yellow and black is a lovely combination, but there is only a fraction of the market that uses it.

With the fan back on the Brontes you can see how the cooler looks as a whole. I really like the sleek look and it’s great to see that they have sleeved the cable also. The cooler has 4 nickel-plated copper heat pipes to ensure that the heat from the CPU travels to the fins effectively

With a side profile, we can see just how low profile this cooler is. It is 59mm in height so it is perfect for your ITX systems.

One thing I do always love about Reeven products is the way they create their heat sinks. The larger units are works of art and its great to see they have used the same design on their smaller low profile units. The Brontes has a really nice quality feel to it and the last fin of the cooler has the Reeven logo cut out of it giving this really nice finish.

The underside is nickel-plated copper, which ensures the best possible thermal conductivity, as well as a little more eye candy. You can also see that it is actually off centre, this helps you when it comes to installing as if it was central it might foul your RAM. This is a really nice idea to give the user optimal choice.

Installation for the Reeven Brontes couldn’t be easier, it’s simply a case of attaching either the AMD or Intel brackets to the cooler and lining up the holes with the ones on the motherboard, obviously applying the thermal paste first.

Then, simply screw the 4 screws (with rubber washers) through the back of the motherboard to hold the cooler in place.

When the cooler is in place there is plenty of space in between the RAM and the Brontes meaning you can use RAM with large heat sinks if you like.

So, we have seen how this product looks, let’s see how it performs!

Antec Reveals Its Sound-Dampened VSP-5000 Case Solution

Antec announced the VSP-5000, an entry-level case for gamers, which offers a silent solution at the best price-performance ratio. It is said that the VSP-5000 comes with exceptional sound-dampening properties and top-notch performance, having both panels crafted from sound deadening high-density Polycarbonate, while a fan cover sealing the top panel reduces any chance of system sound leakage.

In order to provide an efficient ventilation for components inside, three 120mm fans are provided, two of which are at the top and one at the rear. If that is not enough, two additional fans can be mounted at the front of the case. All fans are controlled via three fan controls, offering two speed settings each in order to achieve the best balance between high performance and quiet environment.

The VSP-5000 in also equipped with seven expansion slots and two bays for optical drives. It consists of a 3.5″ bay, four HDD rail mounds and a dedicated SSD bay. In terms of motherboard compatibility, the VSP-5000 can accommodate Standard ATX, Micro ATX and Mini ITX boards. The case also offers a lot of space for graphic card solutions, users being able to fit almost any graphics card with a length of up to 380mm.

There is also ample space for big high-performance CPU coolers as well, giving the user a 158mm space to fit any CPU cooling solution, while also providing additional space for the cooler to operate at optimum performance. In addition to the latter, the VSP-5000’s top-mounted high-end I/O panel ensures maximum comfort and adds two extra easily accessible USB 3.0 solutions aside from the fan control unit.

The VSP-5000 is currently available at select retailers for a recommended price of £44.99 including VAT.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information

Noctua Launches NH-L9x65 Low-Profile CPU Cooler and NF-A6x25 PWM Fan

Noctua’s colour choice is something that’s always up for debate, but no one can argue that they don’t make great cooling products. They aren’t strangers to cooling solutions for ITX based gaming systems or HTPCs and for just such they’ve just released the new NH-L9x65 low-profile cooler as well as a 4-pin PWM version of their popular NF-A6x25 60mm fan.

The NH-L9x65 is a taller and enhanced version of Noctua’s NH-L9 low-profile cooler. It should fit snuggly into almost any chassis with its 65mm height, which is the same height as a low-profile expansion card. With 65 instead of 37mm height and four instead of two heat-pipes, the NH-L9x65 is more powerful than its smaller siblings yet still retaining the 95 x 95mm footprint. No RAM or PCIe compatibility issues.

“Our NH-L9 coolers have become a default choice for customers seeking premium grade quiet coolers in the sub-40mm class, but with a height of only 37mm, their performance is inevitably limited”, explains Mag. Roland Mossig (Noctua CEO), “The new NH-L9x65 provides the increased performance necessary to cool high end CPUs quietly while still offering excellent case and component compatibility.”

The NH-L9x65 comes with the professional SecuFirm2 multi-socket mounting system for both Intel and AMD, Noctua’s NT-H1 thermal compound and a 6 years manufacturer’s warranty. The cooler is currently shipping to resellers and should be available shortly for an MSRP of €44.90 / $52.90.

ITX based systems often lack the ability to mount ordinary 120mm fans and instead have options for 60mm and 80mm fans. The new PWM version of the NF-A6x25 sports Noctua’s custom designed NE-FD1 IC for fully automatic speed control via 4-pin fan headers and comes with a Low-Noise-Adaptor to reduce the maximum speed during PWM control from 3000 to 2300rpm

“With the trend towards highly compact, ITX based builds, 60mm fans are in demand again”, says Mag. Roland Mossig (Noctua CEO), “Since more and more ITX mainboards offer PWM speed control on the case fan header or even multiple PWM headers, we’re now providing a 4-pin PWM version of our popular, award-winning NF-A6x25 model.”

The new SSO2 bearing 60mm NF-A6x25 fan is packed with a full accessory kit and it’s also shipping to resellers now. The MSRP is set to €14.90 / $17.90.

Thanks to Noctua for providing us with this information

Spire Release Powercube 710 mATX Chassis

The Netherland based Spire has released their latest PC chassis named the Powercube 710 micro ATX case. The cube formed case only measures 28.5 x 21 x 27 cm, which is about the size of a sheet of A4 paper.

The tiny case only has room for one 80mm fan at the bottom of the case, the rest is packed to make room for your tiny Gaming or HTPC and media system. It is built from durable 0.5mm SPCC steel and it features two front USB 3 and HD-Audio ports. Inside it has room for a standard sized ATX power supply and can take micro ATX and ITX motherboards.

There isn’t a whole lot of room for drives, but it does have 2 internal 3.5-inch drive bays. The Spire Powercube 710 micro ATX case is backed by a 2-year warranty but listed with a 5-year life expectancy. The MSRP is set to $59.95 for the US and €44.95 for Europe.

Thanks to Spire for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Spire

GIGABYE Release a Mini-ITX Ready NVIDIA 970

GIGABYTE has just announced the release of their new compact 970 video card, the GV-N970IXOC-4GD. Designed for Mini-ITX applications, the card utilizes the WindForce 3X heat sink for cooling but has been modified to use only one fan – this is due to the original 3 fan configuration being too large for the compact nature and design of this beast. The two heat pipes measure 8mm and 5mm respectively and once again attached to the classic GIGABYE ‘Triangle Cool Technology” as seen in their larger editions.

GIGABYTE has claimed this new card will run semi-intensive games such Metro: Last Light whilst maintaining a steady temperature of 62 degrees Celsius, but we’ve heard claims that the public version of this card reaches something closer to 76C.

Do not be fooled by the compact nature of this card, it still packs a tough 970 punch whilst maintaining the classic low power consumption that this model is becoming famous for. The cooling could possibly be an issue, especially if you’re running your mini-ITX system jam packed full of hard drives and a large CPU coolers in preparation for sharing many gigabytes of freeware at your local LAN party.

The core of this card is said to be clocked at 1076-1216MHz, with the public version checking in at more like 1051-1178MHz. Powered by an auxiliary dual 6-pin into a single 8-pin and checking in at 12cm in length, the card doesn’t skimp on the width – taking up dual slots, with a small bit of room to spare.

Outputs include two DVI ports, three display ports and one HDMI and will be coming to stores for around $329.99 USD.

Image courtesy of MyDrivers

6 New Boards On The Horizon From MSI for Intel’s 5th Gen Chipset

Over the last few weeks we have been hearing some interesting information come to light regarding Intel’s 5th Generation chipset and its Haswell Refresh processors and with a launch date of 11th May only a matter of weeks away now, we are starting to see snippets of information come through with regards to the motherboards that are going to power the 5th Generation processors.

MSI have been throwing out some teasers of what is to come in their latest motherboard lineup and whilst some boards were on display at this year’s CeBIT in Germany, they were only prototype items. This means that whilst they give us an insight into what is on offer when the boards finally go on sale, what is seen is only to be taken with a pinch of salt and things are likely to change between then and the final release.

So what do we know about the new line of motherboards and what features will we see across the product stack? Like previous generation boards we will see the latest release of many features including Military Class IV components, V-Check Points 2, OC Engine, Audio Boost 2 and new to this line of boards we will also see an M.2 interface for the latest SSDs as standard and a Delid Die Guard for the XPower AC as seen last week.

To break up what each board will bring to the market, have a look at the next couple of pages where I’ll touch on what each board has to offer as we go up through the stack. At the moment there is no work on pricing for any of these boards, although we will be certain to keep you all updated as information comes to light.

In Win H-Frame Mini mITX Aluminium Chassis Review

Introduction


We have another funky little chassis in the eTeknix office today, and while it was only a couple of weeks ago that we took a look at the truly epic H-Frame from InWin, we now have something a little smaller, lighter and less expensive, the H-Frame Mini. The mITX sibling of the Aluminium monster that is the H-Frame looks set to offer a similar design ethic, but with a much reduced footprint, making it ideal for those short of space or in need of something more portable.

mITX has undergone a rebirth this last year, with mITX chassis proving more and more popular we have seen hardware manufacturers put out some of the greatest small components, especially when it comes to motherboards and APUs that are capable of giving smaller form factors some impressive graphics performance. Yet much of the attention goes towards the larger mITX chassis such as the BitFenix prodigy, but there is a market out there that wants all the premium build quality and design they can get in a much smaller form factor.

InWin look set to deliver to those who want such a design, giving the H-Frame Mini an aluminium and tempered glass finish, something that goes a long way to explaining the price tag of £161.99. That is expensive for something this small but it does features an integrated 180w PSU, and if the build quality is anything like that of the £260 H-Frame (full size) then it may not be such a bad deal after all. So lets get right to it and see just what this chassis has to offer.

In the box we found a simple user guide, a bundle of extra cables for the PSU and all the usual nuts and bolts required to install our components.

Computex: Antec Display New ISK 600 Mini ITX Chassis

One thing is certain, this years computex has seen the Mini ITX and Mini ATX markets explode with new products, BitFenix may have started somewhat of a mini revolution with the prodigy but it’s clear after this week that there are countless options out there tailored towards just about every corner of the market. Antec seems to be heading for the HTPC market with the ISK 600, but the chassis (pictured above) would no doubt look just as good sat on your desk.

It’s pretty well equipped and with room for a few hard drives and a large GPU, full size ATX PSU and a mini ITX motherboard there is more than enough room in here for a decent power gaming rig too.

The SSD mounts are slot loading and screw directly to the metal plate, putting them at the top front of the chassis, out of the way of the GPU and other components.

An extension cable runs through the chassis for the front PSU mount and there is a native USB 3.0 header in there too.

A large fan mount on the back, some ventilated expansion slot covers and some air inlets on the side of the front panel should help keep things cool.

 

It might not be the coolest design ever, but it’s got a certain understated vibe about it, which is perfect for a HTPC chassis as with it being next to your TV you don’t want it catching your eye every two seconds, but you don’t want it to look rubbish either.

One thing is for certain, the build quality look fantastic and Antec has a solid reputation for good construction and reliability, lets just hope the get the pricing right at launch. Well have more details for you about this chassis in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Stay tuned to eTeknix for more Computex coverage in our Computex section.

Image(s) courtesy of eTeknix at Computex

 

Cougar Spike Mini Gaming Tower Chassis Review

It’s been far too long since we saw a Cougar chassis in the eTeknix office, but I’m happy to say that they have graced us with their presence once again, for those of you who missed the older Cougar reviews you can read up on the robust Cougar Evolution and the very funky, if somewhat loudly styled Cougar Challenger.

Cougar has been on the market since 2007 and in terms of chassis and components manufacturers that makes them pretty new to the game, but that’s still long enough to have given them plenty of experience with the modern demands and needs of the PC market and they’ve already proven them selves capable of build a rock solid product, with a unique visual twist in the past, lets hope they can offer us a repeat performance today and that they haven’t lost any of the unique visual flair that sets the Cougar brand apart from many others.

“COUGAR is particularly targeting enthusiast gamers who not only demand state-of-the-art PC chassis and highly efficient power supplies, but also want to express their dynamic gaming lifestyle with reliable quality products.” – www.cougar-world.com

The chassis I’m looking at today is the Spike, a mini gaming tower design that is set to offer a solution for a mid to high performance gaming rig with a space saving compact chassis design, a tough part of the market to crack in deed given that everyone from Silverstone to Bitfenix has a compact solution, although not all within the same motherboard as the Spike, either way this should be an interesting review, so lets get started and see just what the Spike has to offer.

The Spike comes in a pretty standard box, featuring a nice high contrast image of the chassis.

Around the back we have a nice breakdown of the major features, such as the compact space saving design with takes up just 180 x 370mm floor space (not accounting for air flow space for the fans). Here we can also see some of the major component compatibility that the Spike offers.

  • Interior black painting.
  • Advanced USB3.0 port for maximum data transfer speed.
  • Support for 4 fans: front 80/90/120mm fan x 1; rear 80/120mm fan x 1 ; side 120mm fans x 2.
  • Rear COUGAR 120mm fan x 1 is pre-installed.
  • Support for longer high-end graphics card up to 330mm.
  • Screw-less mechanisms on 5.25” & HDD devices.
  • Support installing 2.5” HDD/SSD at bottom cover.

 

In the box I found a simple black and white user guide, with easy to follow instructions on how to install all major components, as well as a nice assortment of washers, screws and standoffs required to install your system.

Asus Unveil Their Z87 Lineup – Including Never Seen Before Models

With Haswell on a close horizon and Intel still holding the fort under close guard with regards to their 4th Generation chips, we’ve been seeing the lid slowly lift from each of the motherboard vendors on what their new boards will have to offer. Asus is next in line to show off some of their new boards from their Series , TUF (The Ultimate Force) and ROG (Republic of Gamers) lines and at each level they are offering up the best they can in terms of performance, user experiences, stability and upgrade paths.

Jackie Hsu, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Worldwide Sales commented “ASUS possesses the best research and development expertise, and as always we are confident that we offer our customers the finest quality with these new motherboards. We’re including a variety of media-praised exclusive features with each model, and are proud to announce that we have the most comprehensive Z87 motherboard launch line-up, all available simultaneously”

On the bottom end of Asus’ new line-up is a completely re-branded set of Series boards. The most notable part of this re-brand is the drop of the blue and black colour scheme that we have come to know with Asus entry level boards – the new colour scheme is based around a two tone yellow/gold, but thankfully this is not a shiny gold which would be rather displeasing to the eye. Whilst there are a number of boards in the Series range, looking at both ends of the range, Asus have covered all the grounds when it comes to compatibility – something which we have seen previously on their Z77 boards of a similar level. Between this board is a number of models that make a transition from a board for more mainstream builds, offering all the Z87 features. These include the Z87-C, Z87-PRO, Z87-PLUS and the Z87I-Delux (a mini ITX offering).

Top top end of the Series range see native PCI fully replaced with PCIe amongst other subtle changes. All the new series boards will see the integration of Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-way optimisation, DIGI+ Power Control, Fan Xpert 2 amongst other now offerings from Intel.

Moving up one stage and on to the TUF line of boards, this line only see some subtle changes with a full ATX board that in some respects looks very similar to the previous generation Z77 board. This is all because of the thermal armour that is laid across the PCB to keep the board as cool as possible and keep dust away from all empty slots with a series of Dust Defender plugs that fill empty ports. On the back of the PCB we see a new Fortifier metal plate that reinforces the PCB to prevent it warping whist in use and an airflow boosting valve design around the CPU power areas.

Making a fresh appearance to the TUF line-up is one of Asus’ many new boards. The Gryphon is a mATX version of the Sabertooth and like its bigger brother, it features all the same top quality components and features as well as the extended expected lifetime from its higher temperature tolerance. What is missing though is the thermal armour, however Asus will be supplying this separately and the two piece kit can be quickly mounted to the Gryphon’s PCB.

Top top of the new Z87 range is Asus’ top end ROG boards. These boards for a number of generations now have been renowned for their top end performance and overclocking abilities. New to the ROG line of boards and sitting mi-range is the HERO. This new board’s purpose is to offer mainstream the gamers the stepping stone into the ROG brand, but at a price point that is far more manageable compared to the flagship Maximus IV Extreme. As well as these two boards, Asus will also be launching an updated Maximus IV Gene and all these boards will feature Supreme FX audio as well as a new on-screen ‘Sonic-Radar’ that works as a viual overlay to any game to indicate the direction a proximity of a gun fire for example in a visual format.

The flagship Extreme board see a new overclocking tool, that unlike the previous generations OC-key is set to be far more user friendly and intuitive to use and alongside this in the Extreme box, users with find a 5.25″ drive bay adaptor to allow the OC Panel to operate as a fan control panel from the front of a case.