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Build Your Own Mini-Computer 324

Bored in Chattanooga writes: "Tom's is running an article reviewing a Shuttle mini-computer. Seems to have everything the average computer user would need, minus a nice 3D graphics card. Perhaps the standard large ATX-size computer cases will cease to exist and be replaced by these "mini-computers." I find these gems cuter than any iMac I've ever seen!"
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Build Your Own Mini-Computer

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  • by MathJMendl ( 144298 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @04:22AM (#2831589) Homepage
    I'd rather have one of these [umass.edu]...then again, it might be kind of hard to upgrade.
  • by red_crayon ( 202742 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @04:22AM (#2831591)
    Why would I want to bulid a minicomputer?

    PCs blow away VAXes. A modern PC has way more computing power than a VAX 11/780.

    Move along, people, there's nothing here unless you're still using your VIC-20.

    • Yeah, this title had me confused too...

      I think the Slashdot editors are too young to know that a "mini-computer" used to be the term for a computer smaller than the room sized monoliths they used to have at like IBM and a "micro-computer" is what is also called a PC.

      Tom's has the right title, "build your own mini-PC".

    • Me, on the other hand...I was really hoping someone was selling PDP-10 kits.

      -Paul Komarek
  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Sunday January 13, 2002 @04:30AM (#2831598) Homepage
    Why on earth would a supposedly tech-savvy site misuse a term like that? I seriously thought they were referring to wardrobe-sized computers...
  • ...make a great addon to a home entertainment system. Pop a 80 GB hard disk in it and you can view movies, listen to MP3s, or browse the web.

    All you need to add is a wireless keyboard and mouse and you're set.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, it may make the perfect media box. I'm still very wary of a few issues, however.

      The article mentions that the specs for the temperature on this machine should not exceed 50C. I agree completely (much hotter and the sucker's gonna' melt straght to the core of the earth), but how freakin loud are the fans?

      I might put a system like this by my stereo, or by my home theater system, but if it's crankin out much more than 32db, no way. Maybe my ears are especially sensitive (32 db is supposed to be silent to an 'average' person, but even that is bothersome to me.)

      And as they say, an average Joe, is not prepared to munge one of these together. I really wish more reviews would post some sound specs in addition to the norm. Ack! I digress.
      • by tap ( 18562 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @06:26AM (#2831768) Homepage
        I've got one of these at work to make an X-terminal out of. It comes with three fans, a 60x10mm fan on the short heatsink that sounds like a jet engine, a rather noisy 60x25mm fan as the case exhaust, and a tiny 25mm fan in the power supply. Even without a hard drive, it's a very noisy machine.

        In order to quiet it down, I got a low power VIA C6 CPU for it, the 800Mhz samuel2 1.6V model. I couldn't find the C3 ezra 1.3V cpu for sale anywhere at the time. The small heatsink wasn't enough to cool the chip without the fan. I've ordered the Alpha PAL6035 heatsink to see if that will cool the C3 ok without a fan. There isn't much space in the case to put a large heatsink in. The intel OEM PIII heatsink is too wide, so is the Alpha PAL8045 and Thermalright SK6. The Swiftech MCX370 should fit, and I think the Zalman heatsinks can fit if you cut and bend some of the fins and don't have a harddrive.
  • I picked one of these up last November. I put in a 1GHz PIII, 1GB Ram (when it cost about 1/3 of what it does now), and 100GB HD. It runs great so far. The on board video card could be better, but I'm using it as a little server at home. I'm pretty surprised that the little thing isn't running hot after 3 months of running dnetc non stop.
  • What about heat? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @04:37AM (#2831608) Journal
    Of course a major problem with mini-computers is that there's just nowhere for the heat to go. Aluminum cases may help a small bit, but certainly not enough to accomidate an Athlon, Fast hard drive, etc. The air-circulation methods we've been using for so long just breakdown.

    If small PCs are to catch on, manufacturers are either going to need to make low-heat devices their bread and butter, or case manufacturers are going to need to realize that they can just add a little extra metal and actually CONDUCT the heat out through the case, instead of the much less effecient (although for some reason exclusively used) convection method.
    • Interesting idea, to have the metal in the case designed to conduct away heat from the CPU, hard drive, etc.

      Another solution is to avoid athlons for these systems. As much as I like athlons, they are just running too hot these days. I recently built a micro-atx system (slightly bigger than the one in this article) with a Via C3 chip. This is an x86 compatible socket-370 CPU that uses only about 7 watts. The whole system uses about 40 watts on average, and runs only a litle bit hotter than the ambient air temperature.

      True, its not blazingly fast (I think the C3 tops out at around 800 MHz and floating point sucks), but for a non-gaming desktop system or a small server, this setup is energy efficient, cool and quiet. It even seems to be quite stable, which was my biggest worry. No lockups or even any strange behavior after about month of uptime.
      • Interesting idea, to have the metal in the case designed to conduct away heat from the CPU, hard drive, etc.

        I'm glad you are impressed, but it's not exactly hard to think of, especially for the engineers that are getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Yet somehow it never gets designed into modern PCs that are now made to operate in Artic-like temperatures. Now that I'm done ranting...

        I think the C3 tops out at around 800 MHz and floating point sucks

        I've used Cyrix processors before. One of which was a 300MHz CPU that every different CPU test clocked at 212MHz. I overclocked it to 233 (woo-hoo) but any more than that and it would become REALLY unstable. I'd say from my experience that everything about them sucks.

        I leared long ago that paying a little bit more for quality components results in far better quality, stability, and longevity. If you want low heat processors, use a mobile AMD, but that still doesn't make a huge difference, and there's still the problem of heat from the power supply hard drive, videocard, etc.
        • The C3 is not really a Cyrix chip, although I too have had the misfortune using a few of those hot and unstable CPU's you mentioned. The C3, though, is based on the Centaur core designed by engineers at IDT (Via bought their CPU division around the time they bought Cyrix).

          As for stability, I've experienced no problems with this chip, nor have I heard of any from others. And the price isn't really any different from an Intel chip of the same speed. You're comments about "quality components" remind me of a guy I saw the computer fair in LA a few years ago. He was looking for a CPU and I recommended an athlon, and he whined "But it's not Intel! What about the risk?"

          Sure, Via/Cyrix/IDT haven't always made great components, but AMD has made some really crappy hardware too, and I don't hold it against them. And don't even get me started about Intel the last few years.

          Also, the mobile AMD chips are only low-heat in comparison to the desktop AMDs. You're likely to burn yourself if you actually set your laptop on your lap ;-)

          Personally, I'd prefer a StrongARM, but I occasionally need to use Windows, and last I heard, nothing from MS but WinCE (or whatever they call it now) will run on it. I'll be stuck on x86 for a while longer, unfortunately.
        • I'm glad you are impressed, but it's not exactly hard to think of

          This is not a new idea. Z shaped copper has been used for years between IC's and metal cases, to draw heat from the IC into the much larger cases or common heatsinks.

          I actually have an old Apple Powerbook 100 opened in front of me, which has a C shaped copper heat transfer strip which bridges heat from two FET's into the aluminium base of the keyboard.

          The cute little 1cm x 1cm 16MHz 68000 needs no heatsink though. : )
    • ...nowhere for the heat to go

      Umm... out of the case? Using fans? Like with any other pc? Being smaller might even make it *easier* to cool, as you can channel the airflow accross the components without it swirling around inside the case too much. The air going across the CPU is then always cool exterier air and not luke warm semi-recirculated air.

      Just make sure the ribbon cables inside aren't blocking the airflow (or use those more expensive cables where the strands of ribbon are just bundled up instead of one solid strip).
      • I thought about that, but it's just not the case (no pun intended). Any system builds up hot air just because theres a limit to convection. Normal fans just can't push that much air through a few little holes, and this case reduces the already limited ventilation a large case would have.
    • by Shanep ( 68243 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @08:31AM (#2831931) Homepage
      Of course a major problem with mini-computers is that there's just nowhere for the heat to go.

      As far as my thinking goes, the smaller the case, the better, provided that there is a strong enough air flow. Reason being, that with a small enclosure, there is less air to displace. A fan that can extract at 10 cubic feet per minute is going to fully displace the air in a 10 cubic feet case once per minute, yet this same fan will displace the air in a 1 cubic feet case 10 times per minute, giving better cooling. The air flow around components tends to be faster, but this depends on the physical layout just as much as a larger computer.

      The problem with small cases are the small fans, not the small cases. Small fans don't tend to scale down well. I like to put a large fan into a small case, at an angle, with the output side ported out of the case unrestricted, with the efficiency of the fan lost at the sucking side, inside the case. This might be inefficient compared with the abilities of the fan, but tends to be much better than a small fan working at it's best.
      • Re:What about heat? (Score:2, Informative)

        by TheMeld ( 13880 )
        The problem with your argument about cubic feet and flow rate is in the basics of fluid flows. Given a presure on a fluid in a duct/pipe/whatever, the flow rate goes up with the fourth power of the diameter! This is why, as you correctly pointed out, fans don't scale down well, and thus a bigger fan is much better.

        However, when you get small cases, you get small spaces for air to move through, and thus reduced flowrates regardless of fan size. The CFM rating on a fan assumes no significant load on the fan. The types of fans used in pc cooling cannot handle large resistance to flow; their cfm will drop like a rock.

        Blowers (the things with a rotating circular mouse cage thing) do a lot better, but are noisier and don't move air nearly as fast in the first place.
        • Totally right, but to clarify what I think your point is, the problem is no in the case but in the internals.

          In order to make a mini-pc they need to cram a lot of components into a small space. They do this by layering the components, thus creating a lot of narrow spaces through which air can flow. These narrow spaces offer a lot more resistance to flow than the wide-open spaces in a normal-size case. It also makes for very long and tortured air flow paths which constrict the flow.

          The Macintosh Cube combats this by careful design of the space to maximize flow. All of the boards are aligned vertically so that the natural convection of the heated air adds to the flow. They also use components that naturally generate less heat, such as the PowerPC G4 processor.
  • Notebook? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dadragon ( 177695 )
    I wonder if they will start making standard notebook parts, so us do-it-yourselfers can build one ourselves. We could stop feeding Compaq, Dell, Apple, and IBM money and just get the parts, a case and a screen and throw it together.
    • Re:Notebook? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2nd Post! ( 213333 )
      Feeding? You make it sound as if the manufacturers are parasites.

      DIY cannot make an iMac or a Cube. DIY cannot make PowerBooks or iBooks.

      Rather, you can take the point of view the DIY *do* make these machines, but they happen to work at Apple.

      Also, I dunno if you own a Mac or not, Macs are more than just the hardware. There's the OS and the addon software that makes it far from standard. We (me) feed Apple in order for Apple to continue producing the iPods, the iMovies and iTunes, the FCP, and the OS X for us.
  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @04:39AM (#2831613) Homepage
    Seems to have everything the average computer user would need, minus a nice 3D graphics card.Perhaps the standard large ATX-size computer cases will cease to exist and be replaced by these "mini-computers." I find these gems cuter than any iMac I've ever seen!"

    The "SpaceWalker" [tomshardware.com] is no way as cute as the Apple iMac [akamai.net]. Plus the iMac comes with a NVidia GeForce 2 MX 3D card and 15" LCD monitor. The iMac has DVD-R/CD-R burning compared to the CD-RW of the SpaceWalker. Also, the iMac only has a 10.6" foot print. From what I understand, that is smaller than the FlexATX board.

    The SpaceWalker is more a diamond in the ruff compared to the polished Apple iMac [apple.com].

    • You have to remember that Bored in Chattanooga wants less functionality, pay less for a machine, keep his hands warm, and keep his books from falling over.

      He really does want the firewire, USB, tv out, compact size, built in audio, built in networking, everything the iMac offers, and the iMac does, as you mention, come with a GeForce2 and LCD screen. Except he doesn't want to pay for it and he tacitly acknowledges that look matters. Isn't that ironic? Saying that he values cute PCs, the iMac isn't cute enough?
    • The spacewalker barebones (Case+Mobo) is about $250 (£170 is the price I knew). Add a duron, 20Gb drive and 256Mb RAM, and it's about $500.

      The iMac spec you describe is shipping from the Apple store for $1900.

      So, with $1400 to spend, we can add a Pioneer A03 DVD-R ($500), a 15" LCD ($300?) and a PCI GF2MX (should be $100 or less if you can find one).

      I think I still saved $500, and I have a computer that will fit on a shelf, and run the latest games reasonably. I guess the final decision (whether you'll pay about $500 premium for the 'sexy' Apple case) is one of taste.
      • by skullY ( 23384 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @01:07PM (#2832592) Homepage
        I think I still saved $500, and I have a computer that will fit on a shelf, and run the latest games reasonably. I guess the final decision (whether you'll pay about $500 premium for the 'sexy' Apple case) is one of taste.
        Ah, but you also get an 800mhz PPC chip, which is roughly equivilent to a 1.4-1.6ghz x86 chip. And you can run OSX on it, which is a dream to run and happily beats the pants off anything you can run on intel. Finally, I can buy the new imac for $1800, plus shipping. You have to buy your barebones system for $250+shipping, from somewhere else buy the chip, drive and ram, for another $250+shipping. Next you find the DVD-R from the one place that has it at the cheap price, but makes up for it by having all the rest of their stuff be really expensive. Same deal with the video card and LCD. Or you can bite the bullet and buy it all at the same place, and do some research to figure out where you can get the best average price.
        At the end of the day, I spent 15 minutes deciding whether or not to buy a new imac, and you spent all day finding the best prices for your stuff so you could save $400. In 3 weeks when we each finally have our machines (The imac's aren't shipping for another couple weeks) I'll have mine setup and playing UT in 15 minutes. You'll have to first assemble yours, so maybe an hour later (If you're good with hardware) you have a working machine.

        I dunno, to me, the $400 is worth the reduced agrivation, work, and the benefits.

        • To most people on /. the "aggrivation [and] work" are worth $400 in and of itself. Most people LIKE spending time putting their systems together. Most people would prefer getting their systems in parts and being forced to put it all together. The only time that's a liability is if it doesn't work when you are done, and most people on /. have enough experience to accomplish this without making any novice mistakes.

          Of course I speak of a /. from quite a while ago. I have no idea of the demographics of /.'s current userbase.
          • Most people LIKE spending time putting their systems together.

            Indeed, I like the idea of being able to pick and choose components for my system. For me, I would pick mainly on noise - cooling noise (fanless VGA, quiet-bearings on CPU fan), hard drive noise (fluid bearings, insulation, lower speed), CDROM noise (TrueX drive) - and secondly on absolute performance. I would also have an LCD screen (assuming I wanted one) of my choice, not attached to the system - that's a benefit in my eyes. Horses for courses.

            [anyone know of a UK source for TrueX drives? especially if there is a DVDROM using this technology...]
    • The "SpaceWalker" [tomshardware.com] is no way as cute as the Apple iMac
      I totally have to agree. As inexpensive as the SpaceWalker might be, it is just a small, rectangular, grey box as opposed to a large, rectangular, grey box. There may be some people who might like that but even they have to admit that the iMac in all its incarnations has much more style than a simple grey or beige box.

      I won't even begin to argue value or which one is better, that is up to each person to decide.

  • It's in the car (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sauron23 ( 52474 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @04:45AM (#2831623) Journal
    Bought one. Works great for browsing, running Morpheus. Didn't read Tom's article. Did he mention you can have 3 ATA100 devices? Use the floppy slot for another disk. Yes you can use standard cables, yes the power supply has enough watts to do this. Sound is good for MP3 quality, graphics suck, go buy a PCI card and use that one slot, such as a 64 meg MX400 which does the trick for me as it has the TV out. Don't ask it to copy 10 gigs while your watching a DVD and you'll do fine. Add a 300 watt inverter, wireless keyboard, touch pad and small lcd and throw the whole thing in the car. Add GPS, cell phone to match your needs. Now go buy one. I want more cases like this. The cappacino PC almost made my list but lacks that important ingredient, versitility, which this has.
  • The only real problem I can see with these is the video.. its really subpar for a modern computer.. You can use totally uptodate everything else but they expect you to settle for mediocre graphics..

    I know several people I'd recommend these to if they had decent onboard video or if they had a good way to update the video.

    Really these would be great if you could throw a really good soundcard and a really good video card in them.. It would be like a do it yourself game cube.. Image being able to lug something that small to a lan party instead of a huge tower.
  • by scott1853 ( 194884 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @04:56AM (#2831636)
    So why should my PC? I have 9' ceilings. Saving 10" on the vertical height of my computer is not a problem.

    Besides, where will you put the flourescent light and glass window?

    Uh oh, conflicting geek factors... smaller vs. pointlessly cool... arghh.... losing... precious... karma...
  • I own an FV24! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <gundbearNO@SPAMpacbell.net> on Sunday January 13, 2002 @04:59AM (#2831641) Homepage
    It's running W2k right now.

    I stuffed it inside an old, old, $10 Mac LCII case. Yeah, you know, those 1.4", smaller than 1U case. I haven't finished it, yet, as I have to hack at the case for the power supply to fit; the power supply is like 50mm and the free space inside is only 43mm. I have to carve up some plastic.

    I'm seriously considering stuffing an old iMac mobo into one of those as my next project, and then pop in a fast 800MHz G4...
    • Re:I own an FV24! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by WasterDave ( 20047 ) <(moc.pekdez) (ta) (pevad)> on Sunday January 13, 2002 @05:16AM (#2831669)
      One upped, a mate of mine did it with a Mac classic and a 9 inch monitor.


      We played rocket arena off it (serving) for several hours the other day. It rocks.

    • *bragging mode on*

      Think that's cool? I stuffed a complete Pentium MMX-based PC into an Apple ][e and even adapted the integrated keyboard to work! The only thing I couldn't figure out was how to get the composite greenscale monitor to work with the PC's VGA-out. God, I wish took pictures of that system!

      • Didn't the composite monitor use an RCA plug? I would assume you could use a video card with a RCA tv-out, and you'd be fine. Of course, I don't know how long ago this was, but the cards are really common these days.
  • As far as anyone can tell so far (apple has JUST begun shipping their new beauties), the new iMac has the same botherboard as the Powerbook G4, with some added extras (daughtercard for GeForce2, etc). It actually uses SO-DIMMS.

    I'm suprised no PC manufacurer has followed suit. Laptop mobo's are tiny AND heat-efficent, two specific features that are needed for Mini-PC's.
  • This is kinda cool I guess, but c'mon... only 1 pci slot? What if I want to add a radio or tv card, or more usb ports, or a scsi card? Or whatever? Seems like you're sacrificing expandability just so it can look good. If you want to do that, why not just buy an iMac? Or even better, find yourself one of those Mac cubes.
    • The reasons one might want to go this route rather than an iMac include

      • Price - for the small footprint, it's very inexpensive
      • x86 architecture
      • customizable to a greater degree

      It's not perfect for every application, but it does suit some. I know I would have preferred 2 PCI slots, but there is a space restriction after all. Certainly with so much included with the motherboard, there is less need for PCI cards than usual: firewire can fulfill many of the SCSI applications; there is onboard networking; and there is onboard sound and video too, even if it's not great for gaming. For small server applications you could pop in that SCSI card; for a portable gaming box, you could find a decent PCI video card.

    • by atam ( 115117 )
      A radio or TV card?

      You can plug in a radio or TV adaptor to the USB ports.

      More USB ports?

      That is what a 4-port USB hub is for.

      SCSCI card?

      Well, you can use it on the only 1 PCI slot. Besides, it has Firewire ports so you could possibly plug in external Firewire harddisk, tape drive, etc instead of using equivalent SCSI devices. OK, I concede that this Mini-PC is not as expandable as regular PC, but the expandability is not as bad as you think.
  • The hardware is sold as a loss-leader, and it'd have 3D abilities missing from the "mini"

    Just a thought.
  • to linux box.

    Perfect for someone who wants to build a file server, or a firewall. You know, ideal if you want it sitting on top of your existing PC.

    I say stack'em up and imagine a you know what.

  • by geojaz ( 11691 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @05:27AM (#2831683) Homepage
    Isn't that so like... 1983?
  • Slow graphics? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by c.r.o.c.o ( 123083 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @05:32AM (#2831691)
    This question begs to be asked. Why isn't any company creating something like this but instead of the very, very slow S3 chips, use an Nvidia Nforce?

    The Nforce is fast enough graphics-wise, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, I'm playing RTCW on a dual Celeron 466 w/ TNT2 32Mb... Yeah, I can't have all the special effects, and it only runs at 640x480, BUT IT WORKS! I've spent far too many hours playing it at this cappy resolution and I loved it. Granted, and Athlon XP2000+ w/ GeForce3 would blow my computer away, but it is also a few thousands more expensive. So on an Nforce, coupled with a newer CPU would be significantly faster.

    Not to mention the fact that the Nforce has good sound capabilities too. And it supports the Athlon, which is also faster than the P3.

    Honestly, I'm just waiting for the day when they're going to come out with this very same computer, but with an Athlon w/ the Nforce inside, and I'm buying it. I hope SpaceWalker is listening to me...

    • Re:Slow graphics? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rhekman ( 231312 )
      Thus spake c.r.o.c.o.:
      Not to mention the fact that the Nforce has good sound capabilities too. And it supports the Athlon, which is also faster than the P3.

      After a couple pages of this article, that's exactly what I was shouting! It's not just the sound either, NForce supports faster CPU's, has a better memory subsystem, has superior built-in graphics, has the absolute best chipset included sound available, and comes with half the ethernet chipset all ready to go. The thing that really struck me was THG putting a SB Live in -- with decent onboard sound (aha! NForce) that slot would be available for something else like a video editing board or extra NIC. Also, why not mention a DVD+CDRW for the 5 1/2" drive option?

      A couple of other things I'd do in addition if I were updating this thing: First put a larger quality copper heatsink in there, as big as will fit all the way up to the HD. Only then cut a notch in the fins to allow a PCI card. With the bigger heatsink, put the fan for it on the side of the unit with intake holes in the case. I'd replace the single rear fan with two quieter ones and add tons of rubber washers and shrouds were appropriate.

      Those mods should allow a decent speed Duron while cutting down on the noise without an increase in heat build up. I'd buy and recommend something like that. Shuttle, Asus, MSI, are you listening?


    • An nForce in this case would be very nice, but I think that it wouldn't be easy to solve the heat and power problems of this combination.
      Now the case contains a 145 w power supply, when you want to add a athlon and nforce you would need at least 250 W.
      Also needed is a special cooler, because there isn't enough space in the case to mount a standard athlon cooler. I think that these problems aren't easy to solve. I think they could maybe solve these problems if they find a good way to use the case as a heatsink.
      • Actually, one of the few recent mobo reviews I've seen without a fan on the northbridge (only a heatsink) was for an nForce board: the MSI K7N420 Pro [tomshardware.com].
        • I don't think that the heat of the nForce is the problem, the athlon is the real heat problemmaker here. If a northbridge has a fan or not is more a marketing trick than anything else, almost no northbridge really needs one. Hardcore gamers wouldn't buy a nForce anyway, so you don't need a fan to sell your board to that market.
    • Well, perhaps it has something to do with Nforce boards being ridiculously expensive, or forcing you to use an ultra-hot AMD chip in a tiny case with poor cooling?

      The mobo was designed and released before the case was, the case was just a proof-of-concept thing that took off. Face it, uATX boards aren't marketed at performance freaks, they're marketed at OEMs who are building small, cheap systems for office drones. (Come on, look at the chipset they're using. It's a budget-system chipset)

      No marketing department in their right mind would build a machine with all those integrated components for a performance-oriented market. Top of the line products change too often. Doesn't nvidia release a new product every 9mo? You can't stick that many things on a board and make obsessive hardware freaks happy with all of them.
  • Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seanadams.com ( 463190 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @05:43AM (#2831706) Homepage
    I'm just amazed by the number of posts along the lines of:

    * What, only one PCI slot? Stingy bastards.
    * No on-board 3D video, wtf?
    * All the peripherals are integrated - what if I want a 3com NIC instead of Realtek?
    * How am I supposed to fit my three CDROM drives into this?

    Guys - this is EXACTLY THE FRIGGIN POINT. Believe it or not, there are other people in the world besides you, and many of us have been waiting for exactly this kind of integration in commodity PCs for quite some time. Not everybody wants to spend weeks building the Ultimate Gaming Machine - some of us have real work to do and we just want a reasonably fast machine without all the hassle. Small is great when you need several machines in a rack, or you want to stash the machine neatly behind your monitor. This machine is perfect for me - I have several Linux and Windows workstations, plus a couple of FreeBSD servers, all with empty slots and drive bays, so this would be a much better replacement for all those bullky mid-towers.

    If you want five PCI slots, a $400 video card, surround sound, 1TB of hard disk space, etc, then this product is not for you. It's not designed for you, it's not being marketed to you, so why are you complaining that it doesn't fit the bill?

    I'm surprised it's taken this long. Large cases date back to the days when you'd need a separate card for your serial/parallel, IDE, VGA, etc, and a bunch of drive bays for a pair of 5.25" drives, a newfangled 3.5" drive, and so on. There are still plenty of uses for that space, sure, but not so much in "mainstream" PCs any more.
    • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NeuroManson ( 214835 )
      In the Mini PC business, note that most of the systems are geared towards the Japanese market... Where a studio apartment on average is smaller than some folks' bedrooms, an ultra compact PC is ideal...
    • I got one of these to use as a portable storage box. I prefer this to a laptop because I can use standard components in it (100Gig HD, Plextor CD-RW, PIII-1000, 512M RAM). I use it mainly when I'm doing consulting onsite, most of the time headless just as a personal file server of sorts. I always have all of my files with me and don't have to worry about filling up a (comparatively) small laptop hard drive. I've also used it when having to do presentations and product demos. Thanks to vmware, I have just about any operating system I need on here.

      I bought a Fender OEM handle like they use on their amps and screwed it into the top. It works great! I get to a site, plug in power and network, turn it on and go. Not to mention the comments I get about it. Even though it kind of looks like a frankenstein box, it has its own charm in person.

      For the right application, this is a great little box. It's not meant to be everything to everybody. If it's not what you're looking for, go get something else. But don't put it down because you're trying to make it into something it was never intended to be. Admit to yourself that you could imagine a situation where a system like this could be usefull and move on.
  • Subpar Video? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x136 ( 513282 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @05:44AM (#2831708) Homepage
    Well, if you don't like the video, make use of the PCI slot. Ditch the sound card. ATI just announced a PCI Radeon 7000 for the Mac, so I would imagine it's either already out or coming soon for the PC. Sure it's PCI, but it'll still spank a Savage4. Plus, the Radeon 7000 has a DVI port, so you could hook up a nice LCD display.

    Having said that, I'd love to see one of these slightly taller, with either 2 PCI slots, or a PCI and an AGP slot. Then there wouldn't be much to complain about! (Actually, I wonder if there would be room for another card with the floppy gone? I mean, who needs a floppy anyway?)

    As others have pointed out, it isn't nearly as attractive as the new iMac, I wouldn't mind having it on my desk next to one. :)
    • If I had mod points you'd be getting one. I was going to say the same thing...

      Right now in one of my boxes I have a voodoo3 3000 PCI video card which has played q2, q3a and cs just perfectly... and those are the only video games I play. Next paychecks one of these badboys is mine.

      Now if there was only a way to make my 19" trinitron monitor about 60 lbs less than it is now...
    • Having said that, I'd love to see one of these slightly taller

      Try the ASUS Terminator [asus.com.tw] then. 2 PCI slots, 2 3.5" bays, 2 5.25" bays. A bit more plasticky too though.
    • I used floppies to boot into Win2K install. Apparently, burned discs aren't bootable, even from ISO images...wait, I didn't say that.

      Anyways, I still use floppies...not often though, but in VERY necessary situations.
  • by Nerant ( 71826 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @06:10AM (#2831741)
    Soldam [soldam.com] also has something similar. Pandora [soldam.com]

  • You know, this could be the perfect place for those embedded NVidia nForce chipsets. That way you could have reasonable 3D as well.

  • I saw one of these at Fry's a couple weeks ago and thought it looked pretty cool. For the complaining Frank does about the video chip it is a pretty keen little box and may very well be the start of a trend if it becomes popular. Consumer systems didn't always used to be two and a half foot metal and plastic monstrocities. I really like the look of the old SparcStations or the Quadra 610 and at times even the LCII/III. Why do PCs have to be so damn big and bulky. It wouldn't kill anybody to have a full fledged PC the size of a Playstation. I would have gotten a much smaller case for my PCs had they been available. I want something I can easily tuck under my desk, next to my monitor, or under my router.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @06:54AM (#2831804)
    ...of mini computer. Last time I checked the computers we normally used were "micro" computers. Minis are the thigns that are bigger than that, but not big enough to be a mainfram yet. A good example would be the Sun 10000 we have at work. It's huge 8 processor server with a ton of disks, in a rather large box. Too big to be in teh same category as the desktops, but not as big as the supercomputer up stairs (a mainframe). So it's a mini.
  • Imagine... (Score:2, Funny)

    by willum448 ( 461084 )
    A beowulf cluster of these!
  • by doggo ( 34827 )
    DIY is okay I guess if aesthetics are not an issue. But I gotta say, I haven't seen a decent looking case yet that's not part of a manufacturer's system.

    Trust me, I've looked at probably every case vendor's web site. They all look "cool" if you're a high school kid. I mean c'mon [yahoo.com], you gotta be kidding! What do they do, have the president of the company's nephew do the industrial design?

    I think I'll stick with the big manufacturers for cool small computer design. [dynamism.com]

    But then again, most people here are looking for horsepower and upgradablitly, not sleek lines.
  • by TicTacTux ( 99149 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @10:00AM (#2832078)
    ...so I bought this [in-win.com] and that [asus.com.tw]. Not as geeky as the shuttle thingie, not as fast as the bleeding edge, but a tad cheaper... Most important: Everything is supported under Linux, hehe.
  • "from the no-not-that-kind-of-minicomputer dept."

    Then who needs you, anyway? I'd rather have something to fill up my garage that I can host god-knows-what on. So who needs ya?
  • Two changes... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @11:07AM (#2832222) Homepage
    Two changes to this configuration would make it perfect, IMO...

    No onboard video and an AGP slot on the opposite side of the board...

    And for the case, a separate power supply module.

    The result would be even more compact, and the components would be even smaller. Swap the A/C power module for one supplied by 12 volts, and you've got the perfect box for your vehicle.
  • I'm moderately curious. They seem to have everything decent onboard, with the exception of the video, as well as a PCI slot. For what? It's already got an NIC, sound, controllers, USB, IIRC FireWire, and such.

    Maybe, instead of 1 PCI slot, give it an AGP slot?

    Not *that* hard to do I'd imagine. I'd 100% definately buy one if I could put my own video card into it.
  • I would probably never use this thing as a desktop class system, just not enough expansion. This is clear to most everyone here, and the source of many complaints. But it was intnded more for stuff like a TV-PC.

    I think it would be very convenient to have something that small to put in an entertainment system. In this case, the PCI card would likely be used either for a better sound solution to provide Home Theater class playback, or else some sort of Capture card to provide TiVo like functionality.

    Another application for a lot of people here would be a small router/internet server. You acheive a form factor and noise level close to the "cable/dsl router/switches", but with the flexibility of a PC class system. This might be appealing to replace my aging P-60 which is a bit too slow and high-profile.
  • Perhaps what I found most interesting abot the setup mentioned was the inclusion of a firewire port. Its good to see that this is getting more and more attention from PC manufactures after Apple made it a crucial part of their desktop line. I have a firewire harddrive which is plenty fast for general use and with more and more devices coming out the limited expandability due to the size of the case could become less and less important.

    However, I would be included to wait a little while if I were to invest in a system of this type. Once Bluetooth or 802.1 gets established, the issue of space could be even less of a hindrance as it won't be as important that there is that direct and internalized method of communication. That said however, I have to echo what had been said earlier, why would you bother packing in decent amounts of RAM and a fairly fast processor if you're going to be using this for word processing and the like. Not necessarily a criticism of the case per se, but something that I thought of reading THG's review.
  • Basic truth: 80% of PCs are never opened after they leave the factory. That fraction of the market doesn't need empty slots or bays.

    The new Apple flat-panel iMac is a step in the right direction. It looks better in the ads than it does in person, though. All the cables have been left out of the ads.

    Here's the logical next step for mainstream business PCs.

    • Packaging is a small rectangular box that also acts as the base of the flat-panel monitor.
    • USB, IEEE-1394, and Ethernet. No legacy I/O. No big connectors. USB and IEEE-1394 connectors are on the front, so portable stuff can be plugged in. The backside has Ethernet and AC power, and maybe audio connectors.
    • No floppy. One CD/DVD read/write drive.
    • No slots. No empty bays. No user-serviceable parts inside. Maybe a PCMCIA slot.
    • Power supply is a high-frequency switcher embedded in a solid block with a heat sink, not a sheet metal box with a fan. Cooling will involve a few very tiny fans, rather than a big one, and airflow will be engineered based on the known heat loads of the fixed configuration.
    • One big chip does all the motherboard stuff. Probably an NVidia Nforce, but there will be others. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the CPU gets absorbed into something like the NForce.

    From a business perspective, the sell is low total cost of ownership. Nobody on staff ever opens these boxes; if they fail, they're replaced as a unit. No user-serviceable parts inside, 3-year warranty. That's the shape of a mature product.

    Stuff close to this is already shipping, but at premium prices. Soon, this will be the mainstream low-cost PC.

  • Bad Concept, Period. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @03:01PM (#2832991) Homepage

    1) Who on earth is going to buy a stainless steel case, and then mount drives with BEIGE faceplates inside of it? Talk about ugly, sheesh.

    2) It may take off elsewhere, but this is America. Bigger is better. Most people want a machine that kicks ass and takes names, not something that looks a blinking vaccum cleaner attachment.

    3) Design thats pleasing to the eye will take off. Not this crap. I'm still waiting for a company with some balls to produce a nice black pyramid shaped case, an oversized corner slab or monolith-shaped case.. Those things would take off hardcore.

  • minus a 3d card? that's like...having a bed without a pillow...or Linux without vi...or a woman without breasts...
  • Alternate vendor (Score:2, Informative)

    by RedDirt ( 3122 )
    The case, power-supply and motherboard is also available from AMS, the company that makes the case: http://www.american-media.com/index-CF7989.html
  • When I think of a "mini-computer" I think MicroVAX II. The class of computers that was not as large as a mainframe.
    Funny how these things change.
  • All these PCs, even if small, are still noisy... if you try to build a silent one, it is big; and the small ones need fans.

    If we could buy an efficient processor that didn't generate much heat -- that would mean RISC: ARM, PowerPC, the notebook Alpha 21264 that was never built, MIPS -- and build our own silent, energy-efficient, small systems, I wouldn't have my craving for a Cube or new iMac. If it had USB 2, 1394b and SCSI 3 so much the better -- throw in a slot-loading SuperDrive to burn DVDs *and* CDs and it's a deal.
  • Hell Yes (Score:3, Informative)

    by soupforare ( 542403 ) on Sunday January 13, 2002 @05:12PM (#2833489)
    Mount one of these bitches [overclockershideout.com] on there (whee, Svideo), hack up a custom battery and you have one *hell* of a quake2 mobile rig.
    (Good for trash-talking bastards:) "Man, I'm the fucking best DM'er ever! My sk1llz are t3h best, rar!"
    'umm, right, so, ok. Here's my box [*grunt*] Bring it'

    Screw you guys with your fancy-ass video cards, poor people *tweak* baby! I had a P200(nonMMX) with a Savage4 and I got it to play UT.
    I currently run a G400(guh) and I run Counterstrike in OpenGL 800x600x32 at a consistent 70fps, it spikes to 99+

    So when is the shipping company getting off it's ass to bring me mine? :D
  • How hard would it be to get linux up and running on this little thing? A friend of mine needs a box for a VPN connection to his network...

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...