The Steam Machines may not be here yet, but these small form factor PCs may be the next best thing
Ask a civvie what a gaming PC is and they’ll say it's a machine slightly smaller than an HVAC system that breathes fire. That, gentle readers, is no longer the case. Alienware planted the seeds of a revolution with its first X51 by shoehorning a real GPU into a machine the size of a VCR. And in the year-and-change since then, interest in micro-towers has exploded (partly due to the looming Steam Machines, no doubt).
Note: This Article was originally featured in the November 2013 issue of the magazine.
Windows 8-ready mini PC supports up to 16GB of RAM
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is currently underway in Los Angeles and we are in the thick of the action, bringing you frequent updates straight from the show floor. But don't forget that we are just a few days removed from the end of Computex 2013, an event where PC vendors from around the globe were out in full force to showcase their latest PC designs. Among the myriad products announced at that event was a diminutive HTPC named VivoPC from Asus, which apparently felt that the world wasn’t quite ready to learn about the machine’s specs at that time.
The unique $35 Raspberry Pi computer set the PC world on its ear last year. Part computer science project and part incredibly cheap PC, the DIY single-board computer is such a hot item, some retailers are charging double what the unit originally cost. Of course, where there’s money, there’s Intel. The chip giant has formally introduced its $320 “Next Unit of Computing,” or NUC, PC concept—basically a bare-bones, hobbyist kit PC. While this is admittedly an apple–to-orange comparison in many respects, we felt that hobbyists deserve to see an accounting of the pros and cons of each in a head-on fight.
Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of the magazine.
The Raptor MultiPlex is a home theater and gaming hybrid system.
Boutique builder Velocity Micro is joining a growing number of companies looking to carve out a place for themselves in your living room. Velocity Micro's new Raptor MultiPlex is a fully customizable home theater and gaming hybrid system that's capable of streaming and gaming at a Full HD 1080 resolution. It also sports Cable Card functionality with DVR, Blu-ray playback, and other living room amenities.
We had a tough time figuring out how to categorize the Polywell H770i-400B PC. Its small size puts it clearly in the class of HTPCs or mini PCs that get tucked behind a monitor or TV.
What’s confusing about the Polywell H7700i-400B is its power curve. PCs in this class typically pack AMD’s Fusion CPUs or Intel’s lower-voltage CPUs to balance price, thermals, acoustics, and the typically modest performance requirements of a mini PC.
A handsome aluminum chassis is marred by chintzy rubber feet that easily come loose.
The biggest thing about Zotac’s new ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus may in fact be its name. This new mini PC is so small, it makes the diminutive ZBox Nano AD10 look positively fat in comparison.
Hell, the only commercial mini PC we’ve seen that’s smaller is the Apple TV, which is about the same width and depth but a quarter-inch thinner. The Apple TV is ARM-based, though, and more in the class of a typical HTPC streaming device. The AD11, with its AMD E-450 APU and 64GB SSD is a full-on PC. While streaming boxes such as WD’s Live have come a long way in capability, it’s tough to beat a PC’s ability to go anywhere you want. From streaming sites that are restricted by cable providers to not-safe-for-work content, an HTPC streaming PC trumps all others if you’re willing to live with a mouse and keyboard controls.
Zotac’s ZBox Nano XS AD11 Plus is the smallest commercial PC we’ve ever tested.
In yet even more itty bitty computing news, the Raspberry Pi crew has announced that they've overcome previous manufacturing difficulties and are now churning out their mini-PCs are the brisk rate of 4,000 a day. Whoop-dee-do, what does that mean for you? Simple: the shortage is over and the Raspberry Pi's various manufacturers are now taking general orders. Plus, you can order more than one now.