Zotac is pretty much the inventor of mini PCs as we know them and the ZBOX style is probably their most known series. The newest member of the ZBOX family is Skylake based and called the ZBOX MI551.
The MI551 is equipped with an Intel Core i5-6400T quad-core processor that runs at a core speed of 2.2GHz and has a boost speed of up to 2.8GHz. The system allows for up to 16GB RAM to be installed in the two DDR3L-1600 SODIMM slots, so no DDR4 in this system.
The ZOTAC ZBOX MI551 uses the CPU built-in GPU in the form of an Intel HD Graphics 530 that supports the two DisplayPort connections for up to 4K UHD at 60Hz and the HDMI port with UHD resolutions at up to 24Hz in multi-screen mode and 60Hz with just one panel. So this tiny system is fully 4K ready.
Internally it has room for one 2.5-inch SATA SSD or HDD as well as one M.2 SATA SSD (42, 60, or 80mm length) and externally it features a combined card reader and USB 3.1 combo port for easy readout of memory cards.
Other than the previously mentioned connections you get stereo jacks for microphone and headphones, one USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0, one USB B2.0 and two Gigabit Ethernet connections. The MI551 also features a built-in 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless card with external antenna.
There is an optional Plus model available as there usually is with the ZBOX systems where you, in this case, get 4GB memory and a 120GB M.2 SATA SSD pre-installed for out-of-the-box usage.
When it comes to finding a decent-spec notebook you will be overwhelmed with options. If you’re after something slim and stylish you’re likely to be stung for a hefty premium by Apple, Sony, Samsung and so on. If you’re after something with a decent amount of CPU and GPU horsepower then you’re likely to be dragged into the depths of gaming notebooks (like those made by ASUS, MSI, Alienware and so on) even if you don’t want to game. So where do you go if you’re looking for something in between? Something that has style and is fairly slim but still has a fair amount of performance to allow you to be productive and game? Well PC Specialist are always a good place to start because you can customise just about any base notebook to have anything you want. Today we have a mid-range PC Specialist Cosmos II notebook in for testing and it looks like an epic all-rounder. With a dual core Haswell Core i5, an Nvidia GTX 850M 2GB graphics card, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB SSHD it has a great balance of performance, functionality and most importantly value. The design may be a little plain-Jane for the style conscious notebook buyer but if you’re happy for simplicity then this could be the ideal notebook for you. Below you can see the specifications of our PC Specialist Cosmos II notebook as we have it configured. You can change and configure just about every aspect of the Cosmos II if for whatever reason you need more or less of something.
Wireless: Intel N135 802.11N 150mbps and Bluetooth
Monitor: 15.6 inch matte Full HD LED widescreen (1920 x 1080)
Peripherals: Integrated chiclet-style keyboard and 2 button touchpad-mouse
OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
Warranty: 3 Year (1 month collect and return, 1 year parts, 3 years labour)
Price: £697 including delivery and VAT as configured. (Pricing links on final page of review)
Packaging & Accessories
PC Specialist are no strangers to building and shipping systems and notebooks to customers so I wasn’t surprised to see our review sample come in virtually bomb proof package. Not only is the notebook box well protected inside another outer box, but you also find the notebook comes with more foam protection inside the inner box.
The notebook box comes with a convenient carry handle, if you ever need to move all the parts around or send it back to PC Specialist for repairs then you should definitely keep hold of this.
Included is a 120W AC adapter, 5600 mAh battery, UK power plug, a user guide, a driver & utility DVD and a Nero12 essentials trial version disc.
The included adapter is manufactured by Chicony Power Technology and is good for 120W of output which is required for this notebook.
The required battery provides 62.16 watt hours and is Lithium-Ion.
Compulab, the Israeli-based system builder, has just announced the addition of the fourth generation Fit-PC, having been built on the nettop platform. The Fit-PC4 is composed out of two variants, the Fit-PC4 Value, and the Fit-PC4 Pro.
The Fit-PC4 Value model is powered by an AMD A4-1250 APU, with a manageable 8W TDP to speak of, while the Fit-PC4 Pro model runs a more powerful AMD GX-420CA Quad-Core SoC, with Radeon HD 8400E graphics.
Both the Fit-PC4 Value and Fit-PC4 Pro have two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots which can hold up to 16 GB of memory, an mPCIe+mSATA 6 Gb/s slot, an internal 2.5-inch drive bay with SATA 6 Gb/s interface, and a micro-SDXC card slot. The case dimensions consist of 16 cm x 19 cm x 3.7 cm for the Pro and a more compact 16 cm x 16 cm x 2.5 cm for the Value.
In terms of connectivity, both models include two HDMI 1.4a ports with 7.1-channel digital audio streams and a TOSLINK SPDIF 7.1-channel digital audio output. Networking includes two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces on both variants, having a 802.11 b/g/n WLAN with Bluetooth 3.0 on the Value model and a 802.11 ac and Bluetooth 4.0 on the Pro model.
The Compulab Fit-PC4 Value is said to have a price tag of $299, while the Compulab Fit-PC4 Pro is going to be priced at $380. Both models should be available at retailers in most countries, however Compulab’s Fit-PC website should provide more detailed information on availability.
Memory products are one of the areas I cover here at eTeknix, but I wasn’t able to visit CES 2014 this year to check out the newest memory products on offer. Thankfully, Kingston held a special event in London on February the 6th to show us their new releases from CES 2014, and in case you missed Kingston at CES 2014 we’re going to give you a quick run down of their newest memory products. Kingston showed us two of their newest memory product lines, both of which are quite different as they are targeting different markets.
Up first is Kingston’s new HyperX PnP kits, of which they demonstrated to us some of their new SODIMM variants. Kingston showed us the KHX18LS11P1K2/16 kit which consists of two high density 8GB SODIMM modules running at an impressive 1866MHz with 1.5 volts. Being part of the PnP series these SODIMM modules come with plug and play support making notebook or small form factor PC upgrades a piece of cake. Of course Kingston also offer these modules in standard DDR3 DIMM form factors for desktop PCs. Like all Kingston memory products these modules are tested for compatibility with all leading brands of motherboards. Consumers will be pleased to know a lifetime warranty with free technical support is offered on all HyperX PnP purchases.
At the event in London Kingston demonstrated the KHX18LS11P1K2/16 kit running on Gigabyte’s latest BRIX PRO small form factor gaming PC. Kingston’s HyperX PnP SODIMMs are ideal solutions for any system that takes SODIMM DDR3 memory modules. You can find more details about Kingston’s new HyperX PnP range here.
Of course what will probably appeal to our readers more is Kingston’s brand spanking new series of HyperX memory for desktop PCs. The HyperX Fury series replaces the mainstream HyperX Blu series according to the Kingston representative we spoke with, this means the HyperX Fury is situated below the HyperX Genesis range which is in turn situated below the HyperX Predator range. What’s so interesting about these kits is that for the first time we are seeing Kingston offer a relatively mainstream memory product in a variety of colours as well as sizes and speeds.
The Kingston HyperX Fury kits are to be made available in black, white, red and blue with black PCBs. They will be provided in 1333MHz to 1866MHz speeds and in 4GB to 16GB kit capacities.
Kingston’s HyperX Fury memory kits will be made available from March 31st 2014. Newegg have some early pre-order listings which reveal pricing of $95 for an 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1600MHz kit and $179.99 for a 16GB (2 x 8GB)1600MHz kit . This translates into £69.99 and £132.99 respectively for the UK market. Expect final retail prices to be a fair bit lower after widespread availability arrives.
What this means for system builders and consumers is that there’s finally a low cost but classy looking series of memory modules available in a range of popular colours with black PCBs and lifetime warranties….what more could you ask for? No longer do you have to fork out on expensive enthusiast-grade kits with frequencies you don’t really need to get a great looking (and performing) RAM kit.
If you’re interested in more details on Kingston memory products you can find out more here.
G.Skill have just unveiled some rather “unglamorous” but functional SODIMM kits for high end notebooks. These SODIMM kits take advantage of frequencies at 1600MHz or 1866MHz in up to 8GB modules which is quite impressive for notebooks and gives the potential for up to 32GB of 1866MHz RAM in gaming notebooks. Each module comes burn-in tested straight from the G.Skill production line and these new modules require just 1.35 volts allowing for lower power consumption (and thus longer battery life) as well as less heat.
These 1.35 volt kits are designed for Intel’s Haswell and Ivy Bridge notebook platforms due to the low voltages. You can see full details of the available SKUs below or find more information at the product page. Pricing and availability was not announced. G.Skill is providing a lifetime warranty with all these modules.
Intel’s NUC has spawned a new generation of mini PCs. We recently took a look at the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) from Intel and we found it to be a very impressive unit but was marginally let down by components lacking performance, a high price tag and a missing wireless module. Gigabyte’s BRIX looks set to take on two of those major flaws in Intel’s new reference NUC platform as they have opted for a Core i5 and have included a wireless module.
Today we are reviewing the Gigabyte GB-XM11-3337 BRIX which is like Intel’s NUC except Gigabyte have redesigned the chassis, changed the I/O, changed the BIOS and opted for some higher spec hardware. While Intel’s NUC measures in at 1.55 inches thick Gigabyte’s BRIX is much smaller at 1.18 inches thick. In fact the Gigabyte BRIX is just a generally more compact unit than Intel’s NUC. Furthermore the wireless module is included as standard and USB 3.0 has been added too. Finally there is a DisplayPort and HDMI instead of two HDMI meaning you have slightly more flexibility when it comes to display outputs.
Additionally the main change comes in the form of the CPU. The Intel NUC we reviewed had a dual core 1.1GHz 32nm Sandy Bridge based CPU whereas this Gigabyte BRIX uses an Ivy Bridge 22nm i5 3337U processor that has 2 cores and four threads at 1.8GHz stock and 2.7GHz turbo. It also supports more memory bandwidth at up to 1600MHz compared to the 1333MHz on the Intel NUC we looked at that had a Celeron 847. Finally it also boasts Intel HD 4000 graphics which aren’t going to play any games that well but are still a huge leap forward over the graphics part of the Sandy Bridge ULV processors like the Celeron 847. However, this comes at a cost as the Core i5 3337U has a tray price of $225 which is more than the entire Intel Celeron 847 based NUC system costs – straight away we know this isn’t going to be cheap but let’s see how much performance this device offers.
Below you can see the full specifications of Gigabyte’s BRIX GB-XM11-3337 system and without any further ado we will now proceed through the rest of this review.
Intel’s NUC, or next unit of computing, platform is a refreshingly new idea. Essentially what Intel have created is an ultra compact PC standard that they want to be the future of computing. Measuring in at just 12 by 11 by 4cm the Intel NUC is an impressive small standardised computer that is capable of more than you might expect. Since low power and small Intel CPUs have come quite a long way since the days of quite mediocre “nettop” Atom systems, such as a couple we reviewed a while ago based on the Atom D525, we have great expectations for the Intel NUC. The Intel NUC joins a rather crowded market place for small form factor systems and faces competition from Zotac’s ZBox and Sapphire Edge PCs.
However, the NUC’s similarities with its competitors end there because what the NUC platform does is try and carry over that high level of performance we’d expect to see from a desktop PC – or at least it should do better than its Atom based counter parts that other hardware companies are selling. Intel’s NUC is going to be available with Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Also since the NUC is a reference platform, we will see Intel partners able to create their own versions such as the Gigabyte BRIX we saw at Computex.
In any case the Intel NUC is the starting point of a drive towards smaller form factor everyday PCs. Today we have with us Intel’s “DCCP847DYE” NUC and that means it is running a rather modest ULV Celeron 847 Dual Core 32nm Sandy Bridge based processor running at 1.1GHz with no hyperthreading and 2MB of L3 Cache. You can see more detailed specifications of this particular NUC model directly below:
Without any further ado let us progress and take a look at Intel’s brand new NUC platform.
While a lot of the mini PCs currently available on the market are often lacking in performance Giada have taken a different stance opting for a very high level of performance in a very compact design. The D2308 is their latest compact desktop and it features the choice of an Intel Core i5/i7 Haswell CPU along with an Nvidia GTX 650 GPU. Furthermore unlike its older D2305 counter part it has three antennas for better WiFi signal reception and throughput up to 450mbps, that is 150mbps per antenna.
The Giada D2308 appears to be versatile enough for a wide range of uses (HTPC, Office, etc..) given its ability to support 4k by 2k content, play BluRay/DVDs and support the Trusted Platform Module (TPM).Thje Giada D2308 supports up to 16GB of SODIMM RAM and has 1GB of onboard video memory. The motherboard features a couple of mPCIe slots for adding things like mSATA SSDs. The device uses Gigabit LAN and ALC662 5.1 HD audio.
The front I/O consists of two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, the usual audio ports and a 4 in 1 card reader. Internal interfaces include TPM, SATA and mPCIe. The BIOS is provided by Phoenix EFI and supports ACPI. Giada haven’t been particularly clear if the CPU/GPU are mobile or desktop variants and the SODIMM does make it more confusing. It is possible to use SODIMM modules with desktop class processors and GPUs but it is more commonly done with mobile parts. Also the case does appear too small to support a GTX 650 video card (even laying flat), but it also possible to solder desktop video cards to the motherboard.
Gigabyte have already displayed two new notebooks at Computex powered by Haswell, the U35F and U24F and now they are showing us a new tablet/notebook hybrid device. The tablet is based on 3rd generation (Ivy Bridge) Pentium 2117U or Core i5 processors. The S1185 features an 11.6″ capacitive multi touch screen that is IPS and boasts a resolution of 1920 by 1080. It supports up to 8GB of RAM but has only one SODIMM slot. The GPU is the Intel HD 4000 and the tablet is available with either a 64, 128 or 256GB mSATA SSD. Connectivity is quite extensive with a USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, VGA out, HDMI out, microSD, a sim card slot and the keyboard dock connector.
Gigabyte are continuing their trend of integrating 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 which they have done on virtually all of their new motherboards so far. There is also an integrated 3.5G antenna built into the Gigabyte Padbook S1185. The device uses two cameras a front facing 1.3MP camera and a rear facing 5MP camera. The battery provides 39 watt-hours at 7.9 volts and the device weighs 1KG as a tablet and 1.4KG with the keyboard attachment.
Intel’s drive towards reviving notebooks is all about making them more accessible, portable and user friendly. Haswell mobile is a big part of this and we can already see Gigabyte taking this onboard with the U24F slim notebook. Gigabyte showed off this notebook in a demonstration at Computex and the U24F has some decent specifications. There is a choice of Haswell Mobile Core i5s or Core i7s and it uses a 14 inch 1600 by 900 LCD. 4GB or 8GB or SODIMM DDR3 come pre-installed and there is space for up to 16GB. The graphics are powered by a combination of Intel HD 4400 graphics and Nvidia’s GT 750M 2GB GPU. Nvidia Optimus technology means the U24F can switch between the two to balance performance and battery life.
Gigabyte are offering a 128 or 256GB mSATA SSD pre-installed and a 500/750/1000GB hard drive. A DVD-RW is provided as well as two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, an SD card reader, Gigabit LAN, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 to top off the extensive connectivity options. The provided battery is a 47.73 watt-hour battery and should provide extensive battery life with the new power efficient Haswell mobile architecture.
The Gigabyte U24F weighs 1.59kg with an mSATA SSD and 1.69kg with an mSATA SSD and mechanical hard drive.
With the launch of Haswell comes the launch of new mobile processors, and Haswell was really designed from the ground up to be a processor for the mobile market. Gigabyte are taking advantage of this brand new architecture from Intel with a whole cluster of new notebooks. We will bring the details of all of these to you and first up is the Gigabyte U35F notebook. This notebook is powered by Haswell with an option for Core i5 or Core i7 models of your choice. Gigabyte are choosing to provide either a full HD 1920 by 1080 display or a 1366 by 768 display for the more budget conscious consumer. The U35F notebook comes pre-fitted with either 4 or 8GB of DDR3 SODIMM RAM and supports a maximum of 16GB of RAM.
Nvidia Optimus technology allows the graphics to switch between Intel HD 4400 Graphics and Nvidia’s GT 750M. There is an option of a 128GB or 256GB mSATA SSD as well as a 500/750/1000GB hard drive. A DVD-RW is provided as well as two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, an SD card reader, Gigabit LAN, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 to top off the extensive connectivity options.
A six cell 68.82 watt-hour battery is provided and should have impressive battery life given Haswell’s new power saving technologies for the mobile market. The total weight of this notebook is 2.3KG. No pricing or availability has been announced yet.
Gigabyte have already recently unveiled their BRIX ultra compact PC which we brought you a news story about if you are interested in it. The Gigabyte Brix is essentially a bare bones Ultra compact PC kit that features an Intel CPU, GPU and motherboard based off the reference NUC platform design from Intel. It measures in at just 29.9mm by 107.6mm by 114.4mm and has a piano black finish. It packs a lot more performance than the Intel NUC because Gigabyte have opted for mainly Core i3, i5 and i7 models as opposed to Intel who offer a lot of Pentium based models. In fact you may want to stay tuned in the coming weeks as we have a review of an Intel Core i5 based Gigabyte BRIX mini PC.
You can add your own mSATA SSD and SODIMM RAM to the system and it supports up to 16GB of RAM. Connectivity includes Intel LAN, two USB 3.0, Display Port, HDMI and integrated Wi-Fi unlike the Intel NUC which requires you to purchase an additional Wi-Fi module.
This design is really about giving you an ultra compact yet powerful PC and the inclusion of VESA mounting means you can really put this anywhere and even use it as a potent media player, file server or HTPC. Gigabyte haven’t announced pricing or availability yet but you can expect that to come soon.