Small Form Factor the new world order

Those of you who come around often, will have most likely figured out that I have a thing for small form factor PCs. I have been building small PCs with big video cards for years, even before Mini-ITX became the norm. Trying to pack the fastest hardware into the smallest possible case is challenging, but also rewarding when you don’t have to break your back carrying a huge PC into LANs.  I know a few of you have been catching on to this, I have been seeing LAN rigs showing up a lot on my Facebook and at the LAN. Well when Intel launched their NUC I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one, well my wife just happened to win one at a LAN. So today I’m going to check out what the NUC is all about and put it together with some cool hardware from Kingston and a Harmony Smart Keyboard from Logitech to help put it to use as an HTPC.

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MSI Nightblade Z97

Every time I cover something Mini-ITX I talk about how great it is that we can build these monster PCs in such a small form factor. Even so, considering how sensitive they are to heat and bad wire management it’s not for everyone. If you don’t know about every single part on the market it can be a little harder to pick out your components for a LAN rig as well. You don’t know what will fit with what, larger builds are a lot more forgiving on all of these things. Well MSI might just have the answer to all of those issues. They have put together a Mini ITX barebones for gamers who know they want a small easy to carry rig. Their Nightblade comes with a variation on their Z97i Gaming AC motherboard that I recently reviewed, a case, slim DVD drive, and 600 watt power supply. You just need to bring your SSD/Hard drive, CPU, heatsink, and video card. The question is, does the Nightblade make things easier and also how well does it perform. Today I’m going to take a closer look and put it through a few tests to see what it’s all about.

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MSI Invades Mini ITX Gaming

As someone who tries to make it out to as many LAN events as possible, small but powerful LAN rigs have been saving my back for years. Even though to some the LAN scene has been shrinking, the industry has really started to take notice of the small LAN rigs recently. We have seen smaller console like builds from boutique builders and Valves recent interest in steam boxes has gotten everyone in a frenzy as well. Because of that, I was happy to see MSI dive into the Mini ITX gaming market with their new GTX 760 Gaming ITX video card and the ZZ87I Gaming AC motherboard. Given our previous experience with similar products, MSI sent over the motherboard and video card combo to see what we thought about the two. Let’s see what they are all about.

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Project Build: Lunchbox v3 Part 3

Now that you know a little more about all of the parts that are going into Lunchbox 3, today we are going to go over how well the installation went and then put it all to the test in a few benchmarks. This is where we can finally see how the part choices work out and talk about any regrets I might have with them. Of course I’m most excited to see how it all performs. Then this coming weekend I can finally put it to good use at a LAN.

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Project Build: Lunchbox v3 Part 2

In my first article about our project build Lunchbox 3, I covered everything that controls how fast the build is. Today I will be following up with all of the parts that support. That includes the power supply, case, and cooling components. These are all critical parts to your PC, but things like the CPU, motherboard, and video card generally get all of the attention. Today we will find out all about why space was such a concern when picking our previous components. Let’s dig in and see the rest of what Lunchbox 3 will consist of.

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Project Build: Lunchbox v3 Part 1

Today starts a small series of articles about our latest project build. If you haven’t noticed, LanOC staff takes a very big interest in LAN events including hosting our own in Northwest Ohio twice a year. Anyone who has packed all of their equipment up to come out to a LAN or two will completely understand why I prefer to build a PC specifically for coming out to events. My main PC the “Fridge” is literally larger than a mini fridge. It is a complete monster and is extremely eye catching, but when it takes two people and a large vehicle to get it out to an event you really start to wish you had something smaller. This is why for the past few years I have been using my “Lunchbox” builds at any event where I just want to kick back and enjoy myself. This project build is for Lunchbox 3, over the next few days I will go over its components and then show off its performance.

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Stock Trading PC

IMG 2338A couple of months ago a friend came to me and asked about upgrading his machine. With his current rig running a Core2Duo, 3gb of RAM, Windows Vista 32bit, 2 Nvidia 9600GT's and a spinning hard disk. What he wanted was something that would boot quickly, handle his four monitors for stock trading and be an overall better PC. We had some work to do.

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Sapphire Edge-HD Mini PC

titleWhen you think of Sapphire you think of video cards and more recently motherboards. Along with expanding into the motherboard market, today, Sapphire introduced its newest product the Edge-HD Mini PC. With a dual core Intel Atom D510 and a Nvidia ION 2 GPU the Edge HD could be a perfect HTPC or PC for light use. The Edge HD gets its name from its thin size; everything is packed in a form factor that is smaller than the average home router. Considering its contents, the size is very impressive!

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Cyber Power PC - Back to School P55 Configurator

mainIt's easy for us those of us that are PC enthusiasts to forget that not everyone has the inclination or know-how to build their own custom gaming computer. Most people just people just want to plug it in and play games, one of the reasons consoles do so well. But the current consoles are starting to show their age, which makes the PC more and more attractive. If you walk into the local brick and mortar, there's all kinds of computers, but none are all that good for gaming. This is where a good custom builder like CyberPower comes to the rescue. They sent along one of their "Back to School" builds to take a look at. Let see what they've got to offer

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Shuttle SG41J1 Plus

titleWe have taken a look at Shuttles small form factor barebones systems before, today we have the chance to take a look at their new J series chassis that is made specifically for budget builds. With the motherboard, PSU, and Case packaged together it’s no doubt that they have a low priced solution, but who would be interested? Outside of the obvious uses, I can’t help but wonder how good of a foundation that this will make for a budget LAN rig. I am going to use this as a base to build a rig that Adam will be testing more next week for our upcoming gaming on the go week. Let's jump in

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MaxForce P55 Javelin

IMG_9545_lanocBased out of Michigan, MaxForce PC has been creating custom rigs tailored suited to customer requests since 2007. To further suit customer needs, they will even track down a part not listed on their site to install in your system. Max contacted us a while back to see if we were interested in reviewing one of his enthusiast gaming build's, the Javelin P55. Since it was right down our alley and had a perfect LAN situation to test it out in, we took the oppourtunity.

 

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AVerMedia HD DVR

dec_020_lanoc_smCluster is an issue that any entertainment enthusiast can sympathisize with, especially gamers. The requirement for all the equipment involved in the modern gaming PC plus three cores console systems on the market, each with their own cords and controllers, trying to switch between mediums can truly be a pain. The frustration is that much more for gamers in the press world, attempting to capture screenshots and videos between all these mediums. If only there were some way to combine them all in one place, so TVs wouldn't need switched, cords wouldn't need swapped, and capturing a gaming experience wasn't such a chore. AVerMedia has answered the call with their Video Capture Card, and has sent us a sample to help spread the word.

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Patriot DDR3 Viper Series Tri-Channel Kit

patriotviper_10

Memory these days comes in just about every speed, shape, color and price. Recently we have taken a look at memory with LED's, and even memory with a platinum finish. Today I'm taking a look at a triple channel kit from Patriot from their Viper Series, designed specifically for i7 rigs. We are going to find out how well they performed compared to the kits we have tested in the past. Will the Viper Series come out on top?

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OCZ Platinum 1600Mhz Ram Triple Channel

oczplatinum_01In the ram market there isn't any one manufacture who is top dog, but there are a few that stand out. One of the few manufactures that targets enthusiasts and benchmarkers is OCZ. They entered the memory market in August of 2000 hoping to make the best high performance memory; over nine years later they have grown to be one of the most successful enthusiast ram manufactures on the market. Recently they have been known for their SSD's but their memory is what started it all. Today I have the chance to take a look at one of their 1600Mhz Triple channel kits for the i7 platform. Read on to see how it performed.

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SilverStone MFP51 Multi-Media LCD Display

IMG_4352[lr]Desktop computers have an inherent flaw in that, short of custom modding jobs, most PCs end up looking fairly similar.  Most cases are black and nondescript, with only a portion of people opting for case windows to show off their hardware. And if you have a store bought rig, forget creativity - there are thousands of people with the same exact computer.  So the question is, what makes a specific build unique?  What it boils down too are all the little features and touches that the end consumer may opt for over one another.  Accessories play a large part of this picture. One person might decide they need a fan controller, whereas another might have a use for an all in one memory card reader.  In the end these people are able to claim difference from one another in form and function.  VFDs are one of the more interesting computer accessories, providing visual information via a small screen.  This is not unlike having a small monitor attached to your computer at all times. Its worthy to note that the term VFD actually is an acronym for the technology used in older devices, and has become a catch-all term for them in general.  Most newer VFDs actually utilize LCD technology for a crisper viewing experience. Many case manufacturers include mediocre old VFDs with their htpc cases but quality new ones usually have to be purchased separately.  SilverStone makes such a VFD, the MFP51 LCD Media Display, which they kindly sent to us to try out...

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Crucial Ballistix Tracer Blue 3x2Gb DDR3

img_3276-lanoc-reviews-lanoc-reviews-smallWith it being tax time and computer upgrade season we have been seeing a lot of our members upgrading to new i7 setups. I was even lucky enough to win a setup while in Vegas thanks to our friends at Coolermaster. With DDR3 ram becoming more prevalent, especially when run in Tri Channel with the new i7 setups its no surprise that every ram manufacture is bringing out their new kits. While at CES we did get to take a look at Crucial's new Ballistix Tracer color series. Well knows for their led lighting that flashes to the speed of ram access, I was really happy to see they are producing a line using only one color to help match today's high end rigs. Today I will be taking a look at a Blue set of TriChannel 3 x 2 GB RAM from Crucial with a color matched LED, heatspreader, and PCB running at 1600Mhz.

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Cosmos S Mods Part 2 - Fan upgrade

img_3329-lanoc-reviews-lanoc-reviews-smallThis past December I walked everyone through a few small mods that I did to our Cosmos S to help it stand out. The window and lighting really made the case look amazing. I did have some issues with the fans with vibration and overall noise. Infact it got so bad that I had to unplug most of them. Because of that I was on the market for replacement fans. I have reviewed a few fans in the past so my decision was hard, adding to that was the problem of my favorite fans running $20+. When you’re looking at 5 or 6 fans that adds up quickly. In the end, I decided to go with Noctua fans considering the amazing performance of them in the past. After working out a deal with Noctua, the next thing I know I had a box full of fans on my doorstep. Will they be an improvement?

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Antec Veris Multimedia Station Basic

picture-021-copyHigh-end PC gaming can be considered a niche market without too much of a stretch. Its expensive and doesn't always translate well in the price to performance ratio department.  Home theater PCs, on the other hand, are a niche within a niche, due largely to the pain and expense necessary to maintain a separate computer simply to watch television.  Furthermore, you can't use just any hardware in an htpc. If you want one that can decode high-def movies and television or even lightly game you can't just slap the oldest stuff you have lying around the house into a case - the tech has to be somewhat competent.  Antec has recently come out with the Veris product line to help blur these lines a bit.  Whether you're looking to turn your main rig into a pseudo-htpc, or trying to spice up an already assembled home theater solution, read on for our experience with the Veris Basic.

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A-Data G-Series DDR2 Memory

A-Data, relatively new company, has been around for 7 years. Starting with twenty employees, A-Data has grown into Asia’s biggest Ram provider. They have recently been popping up in the US market. Their commitment to the US market is proven by their opening of the Miami, FL branch of A-Data on July 17th 2008. With Microsoft getting the bugs worked out of Vista and ram prices dropping unbelievably low you couldn’t ask for a better time to invest in more ram for your computer. Ram is one of those things that you can’t have too much, but you can have too little. We have the chance to take a closer look at A-Data’s G (Gaming) branded DDR2 memory. Specifically their DDR2-800G 2GBx2 with a Latency of 5-5-5-12. Check out how it performed

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Asus G1S

picture-003.jpg The Asus G1S series came out around late 06 early 07. Back then it was billed as a " Budget gaming notebook". So how does that claim hold up 1 year later? It seems the term "gaming laptop" has been reserved for only the most über overpowered machines , because this laptop still kicks ass in my opinion. Later on I will give my impressions on how it handles games and the pros and cons of the notebook.

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