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Mini Gaming PCs — Promising, But Not Ready

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the call-me-when-it-fits-inside-a-chromecast dept.

AMD 83

An anonymous reader writes "Ars has reviewed an AMD-powered mini gaming rig made by Gigabyte. The box itself is small and solid, and it runs a pretty beefy video card for its size. The manufacturer even claims Linux support, though the device ships with Windows 8.1. Unfortunately, reality lags a bit behind their plans — Ubuntu boots OK, but driver support is a mess. SteamOS won't run at all. The box is also limited by a mediocre CPU, which is itself limited by heat and power constraints. The review says the machine was 'intriguing and frustrating in equal measure' because 'its ambition is rarely matched by its execution.' It concludes: 'With some time and some different components, a little desktop that can deliver a great gaming experience will surely follow.'"

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First Post (1)

AlanS2002 (580378) | about 7 months ago | (#46876135)

Machine sounds sucky!

Linux everywhere? (1)

spark89 (3569393) | about 7 months ago | (#46876143)

This is another version of game console for Linux. It will be successful in a short term? I highly doubt it.

Re:Linux everywhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46878257)

I can't believe that in 2014, someone would dare manufacture a gaming PC that doesn't run every distro of Linux straight out of the box (especially my own fork of a subfork of CentOS 4.9, which I call "PrettyMeOS"). WTF are these guys thinking????? How the fuck am I supposed to run my Humble Bundle games on a piece of shit that doesn't even support PrettyMeOS??????

Should have targetted BSD (2)

unixisc (2429386) | about 7 months ago | (#46878321)

Instead of being strictly married to the Linux model, Steam and AMD should have had PC-BSD options as well. The latter does a great job w/ driver support, once it is supported, since it's not tied down by GPL rules. So if any vendor wants the drivers to be closed, it can be under PC-BSD, and then they can provide the same quality of drivers that they do under Windows, and go from there. Better yet - once they've written the drivers for say, PC-BSD 9, they won't need to do it again for PC-BSD 10: the v9 drivers will run just fine

Re:Should have targetted BSD (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#46882441)

If you are going to target a relatively obscure sysem to avoid the big, bad, GPL why not skip the BSDs entirely and help ReactOS chase binary compatibility with Windows drivers? Then you wouldn't even need a second set of drivers.

Cute, but not $815 cute (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 7 months ago | (#46876149)

Cute little box, but kind of expensive.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#46876169)

for 800 dollars you can almost get a gaming laptop that is decent.

I recently got one for 1200 that is amazing. I have yet to play a game on it that I can't put at max settings and get frames well over 100.

So why the hell would I get one of these things? Is the small form factor really worth money?

Imagine if the thing were four times larger BUT actually had good components or was a much cheaper price? Who is really THAT space constrained for it to matter. You could be in a tiny apartment and it wouldn't matter.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876209)

Imagine if the thing were four times larger BUT actually had good components or was a much cheaper price? Who is really THAT space constrained for it to matter. You could be in a tiny apartment and it wouldn't matter.

One the one hand, I agree. On the other, this is pretty much every Early-Adopter situation in a nutshell. "Imagine if it had less [main selling point] but had more [other feature] or was much cheaper? Who is really that constrained by [main feature] for it to matter?".

I've always had full sized ATX gaming rigs, but at the moment I'm thinking about a new mini ITX build. It amazes me that the form factor which a few years ago used to get laughed at as weak can now include most mainstream CPUs and GPUs, even if cable routing is a bit of a pain. I just like the idea of compressing the power of my 50 x 50 x 25 cm ATX machine into one not much more than 30 cm cubed so it takes up less space under my desk, and that's actually big for the ITX form factor. A few years ago this wouldn't have been possible, or it would have been extortionately expensive.

"Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons."

  -- Popular Mechanics, 1949

This whole "computers getting smaller" thing is not new, and while it might not be a huge market today you never know about tomorrow.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876383)

I thing I always wondered about vacuum tubes was how small could they be made??? Given today's technology like MEMS. Could integrated multi-vacuum tube chips be possible. Maybe a couple hundred tubes in chip sized package. Power usage and cooling would probably be the biggest stumbling blocks. Would make a cool steam-punk project.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#46876651)

Get a gaming laptop instead.

I have one... I take it on trips. It take it to work sometimes.

I spent something like 1500 dollars on it and its so fast that it can play every new game I've thrown at it at max settings. So... fine... 815 dollars is less... but from what I'm hearing that machine is slow.

Oh yeah, and I paid them about 100 bucks to put an alligator skin on my laptop. Obviously plastic... but it looks awesome.

These little machines cannot compete either with a proper ATX gaming rig or a sweet little gaming laptop like I've got.

On the price point, you can build a respectable ATX gaming rig for 800 dollars. Not the best but enough that it can play the new games on reasonable settings.

On the portability and size point, for about the same price you can have a gaming laptop that is probably a lot faster.

Seriously, look for a gaming laptop in the 800 dollar range and compare stats to what they put into this little computer. Bet the laptop is faster.

And now that we have SSD storage the old problem laptops used to have... slow harddrives... is irrelevant.

My gaming laptop for example uses a small SSD drive to run the OS... I think its something like ~100 gigs and then I have a conventional harddrive that has about 500 gigs of storage.

The system cold boots to desktop in about 10 seconds and I've noticed no drive lag on the games.

Seriously... these little computers are a product without a market. I would never buy one because there are better products at better prices.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46877339)

I have two of them, one for Windows the other for Linux. I am really happy with them. I do not use them for gaming, that is the point, but for any other usage, I am sure they are the future. The number of advantages is enormous.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 7 months ago | (#46877573)

I've always had full sized ATX gaming rigs, but at the moment I'm thinking about a new mini ITX build. It amazes me that the form factor which a few years ago used to get laughed at as weak can now include most mainstream CPUs and GPUs, even if cable routing is a bit of a pain. I just like the idea of compressing the power of my 50 x 50 x 25 cm ATX machine into one not much more than 30 cm cubed so it takes up less space under my desk, and that's actually big for the ITX form factor. A few years ago this wouldn't have been possible, or it would have been extortionately expensive.

Under your desk, I submit that height is usually not a problem, as a typical desk has around 70 cm room between floor and desk plate. Even if yours is a bit smaller or has a drawer under the table, a compact micro-ATX case should fit nicely. For instance, the Aerocool Qs-200 Advance is only 185 x 367 x 395 mm large (just an example I recently looked at, there are even smaller solutions but the Aerocool has decent room for components).

Depth is also not a problem, and in terms of width the 185mm of the Areocool actually beat many ITX boxes.

fucking shit beta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46877757)

The thing I don't get is how do you make a more powerful computer with less vacuum tubes?
(Besides replacing them with transistors, in which case you end up with 0 vacuum tubes)

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 7 months ago | (#46876259)

I imagine that since you are forgoing the display and the battery found on a laptop, you could theoretically get beefier hardware for the same price. Probably not right now since these are relatively new, but given time and economies of scale (that is, if enough people buy into these) you could see these easily outperform similarly priced laptops.

I think these could also get much better if we see legit GPUs on the CPU die (namely, intel would need to either seriously step up their GPU game, or outright integrate nvidia components on die, or nvidia get into the x86 business, or AMD combine high end GPU with high end CPU rather than cheap GPU with high end CPU) and the combined APU could be easily swapped out or otherwise upgraded without throwing out the rest of the machine.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#46876609)

Screens cost less then 100 dollars in most cases. The cost of the keyboard is literally something like 20 dollars. So... assuming all the things happen that you say... you'll see a machine that is about 120 dollars cheaper then a comparable laptop. Frankly, 120 dollars is worth those features.

What is more, the economies of scale you're hoping for won't happen because the market for laptops is a lot deeper then the market for those little computers will EVER be... ever. So what you're going to have is something like what we have now... an inferior machine at a higher cost due to inefficiencies in the supply chain and not a huge difference in the actual absolute cost of the components.

The cheapest option if that's what you're going for will be to get a desktop computer. Despite being larger the parts are more common and will ALWAYS be more common because the platform is more flexible and thus useful in multiple applications.

On top of that you can't just look at the cost of buying it and consider that the total cost. After all, these units depreciate in value over time either because components wear out or because the models themselves become inferior to newer machines. Thus there is a rate of turn over to be expected. And that turn over means either an upgrade cycle followed by a full system replacement or just a full system replacement.

These little machines don't look upgradable where as desktops clearly are upgradable. That means not only would the desktop likely cost less but it would also probably go through an upgrade cycle rather then a replacement after two to three years and that would mean a big savings on the cost of ownership over time. Furthermore, you have to consider maintenance, service, replacements, etc. Fixing a desktop isn't a big deal. Most of the parts are pretty common and the whole thing is built to be maintained. These little machines and most laptops are pretty much baked at sale. They're not especially upgradable beyond a harddrive or ram. Some of them even have the ram soldered into the board. The Lenovo X1 is an example of a machine with non-removable ram.

These little machines are a curiosity and I could see their use for lans I suppose but they're inferior to gaming laptops in that respect and gaming laptops are just so much better in general. I take mine trips all the time. Beats the hell out of watching hotel TV.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 7 months ago | (#46876761)

You are ignoring the cost of the batteries.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#46876835)

True however, you are underestimating the cost difference in producing a laptop versus some one off micro pc.

the laptops already have a deep market that is just a great deal more efficient and given the greater adaptability of the laptop and utility... it will retain this advantage over these micro pcs indefinitely.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 7 months ago | (#46880627)

Those batteries are easily going to run you an additional $80. Yes, they're that expensive. And you're probably over-pricing the keyboard and under-pricing the display. I mean what kind of display are you talking, one of those silly 1366x768 displays found in an acer vivotab? I think you'd pay a fair bit more for a display that brand new doesn't look like you let it rot in the sun for a week.

I think the difference in price would be close to $250 cheaper for one of these of equal spec, again given economies of scale.

Besides that, gaming laptops suck dick. I've owned one before, and I was ultimately disappointed as hell with it. They're so damn heavy that you never actually take them anywhere, and they burn through battery life so fast that you can't live without always carrying around a power brick. I've since then stuck with sub-$300 laptops; not only are they cheaper but they're actually portable.

Besides, what you said here applies very much to laptops:

On top of that you can't just look at the cost of buying it and consider that the total cost. After all, these units depreciate in value over time either because components wear out or because the models themselves become inferior to newer machines. Thus there is a rate of turn over to be expected. And that turn over means either an upgrade cycle followed by a full system replacement or just a full system replacement.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#46881503)

If they are that expensive the system these people are selling is very over priced because you can get a significantly more powerful laptop for that price. Which means you're getting a screen, a keyboard, a battery, etc... and other components are of a higher quality... and you're paying nothing more for it.

My point remains... this little machine is a bad buy.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

MoreThanThen (2956881) | about 7 months ago | (#46877829)

"cheaper then a comparable laptop"
"deeper then the market"
"rather then a replacement"

Hmm, check that keyboard on your gaming laptop, maybe the A and E keys are swapped over.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#46878365)

yes yes... than then... sigh.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46878595)

If the machine had a Thunderbolt port, barring hardware failure, once the video card got older so it couldn't run the latest Crysis iteration at full tilt, it could always live a second life as some type of server. It wouldn't be hard to attach an external drive cage with iSCSI for a SAN on the cheap with decent performance, or use it as a NAS.

However, for this price, I can buy a Mac Mini whose specs are light-years better than the Brix Pro.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#46886493)

you could say the same thing about the gaming laptop.

One of my old laptops is currently plugged into the big screen tv. It acts as a video file server for my entertainment system. I have a remote that works with it and everything. I just click the tv over to the input the laptop is plugged into... and then pick up the remote that works with the laptop and tell it to play.

I have lots of old machines that serve as file servers, web servers, etc etc etc.

That doesn't change the fact that at ONE time they were each desirable as a machine you'd actually like to use. This little machine they're trying to sell is too expensive, too unreliable, and too under powered.

Its got nothing to redeem it.

Re:Cute, but not $815 cute (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46882045)

A Dell i5 desktop is $550. A $120 EVGA GeForce 750 will run on a 300 watt power supply (according to their specs). So, a $670 machine could beat this.

Small form-factors appeal to some users, but most people are probably better off with a typical system.

These PCs will always be playing catch-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876165)

The compromises required for these tiny boxes are always going to fall short of the latest and greatest technology a desktop PC has to offer. Even now a gaming laptop is no match for a gaming desktop, and I'd expect the same of such a mini-gaming rig. They'll be great for last-gen and indie games, and as a HTPC or emulation box, but don't expect the latest titles to run at full tilt.

Re:These PCs will always be playing catch-up (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46876293)

One of the drawbacks of a desktop PC is that the standard form factor parts take up a lot more space than they need to. An expansion card can only go to a certain place. There's not a lot of choice with the PSU either. Motherboartds - even ITX ones have a minimum size.

Really the only components that actually take up significant space are the hard disk, PSU and the cooling system (for GPU and CPU). Chips themselves are tiny. If you look at the size of these on a competent rig they don't take up that much space.

Re:These PCs will always be playing catch-up (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 7 months ago | (#46876319)

My desktop has an mSATA SSD in it. It's always fun to confuse people who can't find the "harddrive".

In a system like this there's no reason to say a a harddisk takes up any kind of significant space at all. It's about the same size as the northbridge and without a heatsink.

Re:These PCs will always be playing catch-up (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 months ago | (#46876815)

True. I was basing my views on something more comparable with a typical machine (or are SSDs considered mid-high end these days?) but since an SSD has both performance and size advantages it makes sense to assume we'll use one.

CPU is fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876233)

I think the CPU is totally fine for gaming, though the price is quitehigh.

Mini gaming PCs (4, Insightful)

Roman Mamedov (793802) | about 7 months ago | (#46876313)

...are called the Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876357)

No, those consoles are more like two years old PCs.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#46876551)

Much as I like my home console, that Gigabyte machine is teeny-tiny in comparison. Of course by switching to an x86 architecture and benefitting from economies of scale in that whole business, hopefully the Xbox One and PS4 will be able to shrink down to a similar sort of size in time.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (0)

Mashiki (184564) | about 7 months ago | (#46876717)

And are still beat by a 2-3 year old PC. And your average $120-150 videocard has twice or more the rendering power of what's inside both machines. Building a "gaming PC" for $500 that can beat both consoles is trivial these days.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46877119)

No, it isn't. It's much smaller. Just try to get this through your exceptionally thick head. "Lots of people don't want a huge tin box wasting space on or under their desk, and are prepared to sacrifice some 'performance' they most certainly will never need anyway to avoid that scenario."

Repeat until you get it.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 7 months ago | (#46877187)

"Most people" also don't want something incredibly noisy, which these small PCs are. A larger PC (or a games console) can dissipate heat without fans sounding like a hairdryer on steroids.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 7 months ago | (#46881885)

That's pretty funny. I've got a mini tower sitting next to me, I'd say it's at about 44db at full load. But I guess that's "too noisy." After all, why would one not do your basic layout with fan flow, and use the basics of air pressure to cool something. Even if you're not so smart or don't know how to, there's enough guides out there.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 7 months ago | (#46883125)

That's pretty funny. I've got a mini tower sitting next to me, I'd say it's at about 44db at full load. But I guess that's "too noisy."

The dB value is not a measure of noise. For one thing, smaller fans generate higher pitched noise, which is far more noticeable than the lower pitched sound of larger fans.

After all, why would one not do your basic layout with fan flow, and use the basics of air pressure to cool something. Even if you're not so smart or don't know how to, there's enough guides out there.

You expect the average consumer to read modding guides and mod their boxes to improve air flow? That won't happen.
They expect, and rightfully so, that the manufacturer delivers a product that's working as expected out of the box.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 7 months ago | (#46881911)

No, it isn't. It's much smaller. Just try to get this through your exceptionally thick head. "Lots of people don't want a huge tin box wasting space on or under their desk, and are prepared to sacrifice some 'performance' they most certainly will never need anyway to avoid that scenario."

Here something to repeat until you get it then: Buy a laptop. Otherwise, wait until the end of a generation when heat dissipation and cooling are peaked and build. a machine based on that. Funny how people complain about a "large tin box" that can be pretty small, and still done for cheaper than what the monstrosity they were selling.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46877345)

let me guess, you hang out on /r/pcmasterrace on reddit?

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 7 months ago | (#46881853)

let me guess, you hang out on /r/pcmasterrace on reddit?

Terrible guess, just terrible. The reality is, the numbers for it have been like that for nearly 6 years. Even the previous generation of consoles could be beat by a PC a year or so old. They'd only needed to be in the $650 range to do it. Anyone with a bit of time, patience, and willingness to shop around can figure it out.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (2)

Kartu (1490911) | about 7 months ago | (#46877263)

Except this box doesn't require monthly subscription to play online (both PS4/Xbone do) or visit youtube / use a web browser (Xbone).

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 7 months ago | (#46879785)

Except this box doesn't require monthly subscription to play online (both PS4/Xbone do) or visit youtube / use a web browser (Xbone).

Considering that you can find PSN and XBL cards for $50 on sale regularly, for $815, that means you can get a PS4 and have 8 years of online play, or a Xbone and 6 years of online for the same price.

In 6 years, I'm not sure if you're still wanting to be using this box for gaming, or if you've gave up and bought another $150 video card (3 more years for PSN/XBL) somewhere in the meantime.

Of course, it's a naÃve analysis, since it eliminates Steam sales, but there are sales on PSN/XBL as well, some or many of which can rival Steam on pricing. And with PC games costing $60, well, the console premium for a game just doesn't exist anymore.

Granted, though, Steam may have more frequent sales, though apparently that can be to negative effect as it means people using Steam refuse to pay full price, artificially depressing PC game sales.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 7 months ago | (#46882033)

Considering that you can find PSN and XBL cards for $50 on sale regularly, for $815, that means you can get a PS4 and have 8 years of online play, or a Xbone and 6 years of online for the same price.

And of course, you get the same things on the PC for nothing. Well isn't that fun? And we shouldn't forget that unlike the consoles which may or maynot be dumped in say 6-8 years, you can take your games with you. Chances on the consoles, little to none.

In 6 years, I'm not sure if you're still wanting to be using this box for gaming, or if you've gave up and bought another $150 video card (3 more years for PSN/XBL) somewhere in the meantime.

Since that mid-range card will probably be working just fine, you can probably push it to 5 years if you're lucky. Works better when you're in the middle of a current generation of consoles considering the crap ports and all that. But, since the current GPU's on consoles are already beat by two year old video cards--then getting 5 isn't a problem.

And with PC games costing $60, well, the console premium for a game just doesn't exist anymore.

PC games might cost $60, but I haven't yet seen a sale even for pre-releases on PC games where you can't find them for as low as 50% before release.

Granted, though, Steam may have more frequent sales, though apparently that can be to negative effect as it means people using Steam refuse to pay full price, artificially depressing PC game sales.

Since there don't seem to be any numbers confirming or denying this, that's pretty much a guess on your part.

Re:Mini gaming PCs (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 7 months ago | (#46877417)

Like a miniature Hercules for its size, but still weak compared to the real thing. Lame!

Still waiting (2)

Dan Askme (2895283) | about 7 months ago | (#46876333)

I purchased this for £120 about 5 years ago (and came with a keyboard and mouse!):
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/pro... [amazon.co.uk]

For its time, this was a mini PC done right.
But now, 5 years later on (when the tech should be improving) i'am yet to see a device that will replace it.

Have i simply been missing the mini PC tech scene. Is there a device similar to this?
In the mean time, i'll keep waiting for someone to do the mini PC Justice.

ps. AMD + Linux = Nasty drivers.

Re:Still waiting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876389)

Intel NUC may be similar. I'd wait for maybe a generation or two in to those though so they can improve them considerably. (if they do)

There is also the Fit PCs.

Those are really the only 2 I can think of before stepping in to ultra low power computing like raspberry Pis, arduinos and the like.

Those tiny, whiny fans... (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 7 months ago | (#46876453)

Too much miniaturization is dumb, unless you want a portable device. Why is it that every time you see a lower-powered version of some CPU/GPU, it is crammed into a tiny box with miserable heatsinks and whiny fans, resulting in more noise than the original higher-powered one? IMHO, it's much nicer to keep things well spaced out, for a (nearly) fanless experience.

If it's not portable, why make it so small? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 7 months ago | (#46876545)

Too much miniaturization is dumb, unless you want a portable device.

I agree. If it was never meant to be carried around, why make it so small? Sounds like it needed a slightly larger cooling system to make it work properly.

Cooling capabilities of any device are proportional to the outside surface area of the device (where it can get rid of the heat), and this thing has too little outside surface area. Sometimes the marketing guys really should listen to the engineers.

Re:If it's not portable, why make it so small? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 7 months ago | (#46877235)

I agree. If it was never meant to be carried around, why make it so small? Sounds like it needed a slightly larger cooling system to make it work properly.

Never mind that the tinies tend to come with a power brick larger than the machine itself, which must be placed in open air lest it overheat.
If you have room for a 60" TV and 4' tall potted plants, you can fit a small tower PC too.

Re:If it's not portable, why make it so small? (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 7 months ago | (#46886755)

If it was never meant to be carried around, why make it so small?

So it can hang on the back of the monitor/TV instead of adding to the clutter. The form factor I'd be interested in would put the GPU on a 90 degree riser so that it points away from the CPU on a mini ITX board. You'd end up with a slim, pizza box shaped case. For cooling, with a properly positioned vent the GPU would be drawing all of its air from outside the case.

Re:Those tiny, whiny fans... (1)

edxwelch (600979) | about 7 months ago | (#46880969)

In fairness, they did not spend much effort on the cooling solution. The iMac is a PC crammed into a tiny box and it's virtually silent. The difference is that Apple invested a huge amount of development into the heatsink design.

Fairly common video complaint (2)

tlambert (566799) | about 7 months ago | (#46876523)

Linux doesn't retry the EDID with the video drivers, so for multichannel monitors with the Linux box hooked up to a secondary channel, it won't negotiate the screen settings correctly.

You see this a lot when using the larger Dell monitors, and also when using Samsung televisions as monitors. The workaround is to put the device on the first input channel, which is the default selection for the monitor when there's no video input negotiation. Basically, if you aren't the active video channel, Linux tries to negotiate with what's effectively a dead port until you switch it, and the Samsung TVs like to go back to active input sources when a video channel goes out - so you end up not having it selected when it's trying to chat about the EDID, and once it's failed at that, then you switch over, you don't have the right output.

Unfortunately, some of the monitors have a primary HDMI vs. DVI input as the default input, and for those monitors, unless you use the right connector, it'll never negotiate correctly.

Someone really needs to separate the EDID negotiation out so that it can be put in common upper level code.

Re:Fairly common video complaint (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#46877321)

Linux doesn't retry the EDID with the video drivers, so for multichannel monitors with the Linux box hooked up to a secondary channel, it won't negotiate the screen settings correctly.

Why not?

Re:Fairly common video complaint (2)

tlambert (566799) | about 7 months ago | (#46886691)

Linux doesn't retry the EDID with the video drivers, so for multichannel monitors with the Linux box hooked up to a secondary channel, it won't negotiate the screen settings correctly.

Why not?

For Samsung and Toshiba televisions, you can either blame the television, or you can blame Linux.

If you want to blame the television, then it's the lack of EDID negotiation on input channels that are not the current display input. You can blame this on the lack of multithreading in the embedded controller in the television, since electrically, there's no reason that an active input channel shouldn't be negotiating EDID information,

If you want to blame Linux, you can blame the video drivers themselves for not retrying, and you can blame X/Wayland/etc. for not forcing them to retry and delaying picking a display resolution until there's a successful EDID negotiation.

Philips had a similar issue with their DVD players when started on a secondary channel; they made a change to the DVD players and to the televisions themselves. The change to the television was that, when an input came active, the television automatically switch to the input so that it would "be there" for the negotiation phase. The change to the DVD player was to retry the EDID negotiation when it didn't get an answer from the television. In addition, when it's in "sleep mode", the DVD player will wake up when the input channel is selected.

The end result is that the DVD player comes up in a lower default resolution that's generally supported by all TV's, and then pops to the highest supported resolution in common between the player and the TV. The upshot of this is you get to see the screen change modes when you start up the DVD player.

FWIW, this first came to the attention of the ChromeOS team when we threw an I2C analyzer on the bus to watch the EDID negotiation, and it became pretty obvious what was happening. If you don't have the actual source code for the video card driver, this is a hard problem to correct without doing some reverse engineering, since it's pretty common for binary Linux drivers from the video card vendor to not do the retry and/or delay the X startup until the EDID resolution negotiation has taken place, so that you know what resolution you're going to be running at when you bring up the display server.

Personally, I think the right thing to do is fix both ends of the problem, so if you end up with an old monitor/new computer, or vice versa, Things Just Work(tm).

Wrong direction (1)

kiza (80367) | about 7 months ago | (#46876555)

I like small boxes. I built myself a cube sized (Cooltek Coolcube Mini) PC with an (desktop) AMD APU on an Mini-ITX board. There is room for a PCIe graphics card, but the integrated one suffices for the moment. The difference? It is upgradable. Granted, sort of until the CPU socket changes.

But how long will all these "mini gaming rigs" last? Probably a year then they end up in the closet. Sure, it works nicely for the manufacturers. You're supposed to replace them every other year. And this in times where even gaming PCs seem to last forever. Sandy bridge intels with a new graphics card and you're good to go for almost everything.

PS4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876627)

When the PS4 gets hacked, that's the way to go surely.

AMD Graphics (0)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 7 months ago | (#46876629)

...Why?

Re:AMD Graphics (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | about 7 months ago | (#46876937)

You should be asking, AMD CPU why?

Re: AMD Graphics (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 7 months ago | (#46877381)

The answer is obvious. The Brix Gaming is set up to be a GAMING PC, and because of that, is taking full advantage of AMD Fusion to get the most performance out of the smallest/low power components they can for GAMING. That means the most important factor of the rig is GPU performance, not CPU performance.

It is pretty well established by now that Arstechnica is nothing but an Intel shill, and I think this crappy review makes that very clear. 90% of the article is about testing and bashing the CPU performance, and in only one test do they actually try it for its intended purpose(GAMING), where it trounces the other competitors because of vastly superior GPU performance, but instead of continuing to test how well it performs at GAMING, they frame the results in terms of an underpowered CPU and continue more CPU tests.

What a worthless rag of an article.

Re: AMD Graphics (1)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 7 months ago | (#46877745)

The drivers for AMD graphics are so shoddy that you can't reliably get full performance and quality as you can with Nvidia.
The CPU performance really just has to be "good enough" - which is probably is.

Re: AMD Graphics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46882013)

Even with that odd handicap, the 8510G can equal the Intel NUC's HD 5000 in every one of our benchmarks, despite being $140 cheaper. Intel mini PCs in the same price range either use Ivy Bridge CPUs with HD 4000 GPUs or lower-end Haswell CPUs with HD 4400 GPUs (the HD 4400 is faster than the HD 4000, but not by much). The AMD Brix is much faster than either—if you're looking for something that can play light games, the AMD Brix may be a better value for the money.

In review, it is cheaper. You are right, that is all the context needed. This article is bait. If I were to buy something to bolt onto the back mount of a monitor for a tiny out of the way Linux box - this is it.

Still Realtek-driven, make it stop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876663)

What will it take for Gigabyte, as well as many other vendors, to stop using Realtek NIC/PHYs? Been waiting for several years now (since at least 2008). If you think they're acceptable, go actually look at the Linux or BSD driver innards (not sure about Linux, but on BSD the driver is filled with comments demonstrating and documenting bug after bug after bug, most of which are silicon-level and the workarounds are painful). And in their Windows driver they still haven't managed to do comply with 802.3u properly (occasionally the driver will claim 100mbit negotiation on a gigE network (shouldn't be happening with 802.3ab or 802.3-2002), rebooting rectifies the problem; Intel or Atheros NICs, connected to the same switch, never have this issue). Just use Intel or Atheros NICs! (and they use Atheros already on some of their desktop PCBs, ex. Gigabyte GA-Z77-DS3H).

They'd also be better off switching audio ICs as well, ex. CMedia CM8788 or CM8828 or some such. I just moved away from my on-board audio, driven by a Realtel ALC887, because of questionable drivers (stuttering and "clicking" during use of things like Google Hangouts; full OS re-installation made no difference, but what did was switching to a US$25 Audigy SE card).

They just haven't learned a customer will pay an extra US$5-10 for decent ICs, or they have and there's some kind of sleazy relationship between Realtek and these companies (e.g. "Okay, we agree to exclusively use your ICs for 4 years in exchange for getting them for only 15%+ over cost").

And I fully agree with what TeknoHog said in his post here [slashdot.org] , re: stop using tiny high-RPM fans (Sunon and Delta are two commonly-used brands -- that Delta blower shown in the picture runs at 4000rpm), just increase the form factor (size of the board/chassis/etc.) and use larger (ex. 92mm or 120mm) fans. Larger fan = push more air at lower RPM. The demographic these systems are marketed at are mid-range gamers, who shouldn't have a problem with a chassis that's 2x larger than what's being shown there. Silence is key, especially if this is a product potentially marketed even remotely at home theatre folk. That said, the Arstechnica "review" regarding noise just provides anecdotal evidence; there's no hard data (dB measurements) shown. Maybe SilentPCReview will get their hands on one of these?

Software-based RPM control usually won't suffice; vendors always pull this card when questioned about their products post-release. Most of these get indefinitely "stuck" in a logic loop where the temperature is just a tiny bit too high so the fan ramps up, only for the temperature to drop down 1C thus the fan slows down, but then temperature increases again and the fan ramps up, ad nauseam.

Re:Still Realtek-driven, make it stop! (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#46877451)

Software-based RPM control usually won't suffice; vendors always pull this card when questioned about their products post-release. Most of these get indefinitely "stuck" in a logic loop where the temperature is just a tiny bit too high so the fan ramps up, only for the temperature to drop down 1C thus the fan slows down, but then temperature increases again and the fan ramps up, ad nauseam.

That's hysteresis [wikipedia.org] in engineering terms... Basically the software should set a more accurate RPM to match the temperature (so that it remains stable) and, have different temperature value triggers for going up and down in fan speed.

For example, if the temperature is rising and we hit 50C, we bump up the fan speed by a notch, but if after that the temperature starts dropping, we have to wait until it is 47C before we change the fan speed back to one step down. Ideally, the fan speeds would be chosen carefully to keep fan speed changes at minimum.

Re:Still Realtek-driven, make it stop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46879771)

Atheros charges 5 cents more, so no.

"covered by large copper heatsinks" (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 7 months ago | (#46876685)

What ever it's missing it's more than made up for in the heat sink. And mayhaps more than half the products price.

I want a modern SBC! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46876773)

It needs just one expansion slot, one PCIEx16 for a video card of my choice. An external power supply will keep the case small and locatable. I'll need USB3 and would like 1394 but can live without it. The case should have room for one SSD inside. I'll want GigE and a slot of some kind (internal is OK) for a wifi card that I will probably never install. I only need stereo audio out next to optical digital, and maybe four USB3 on the back and two on the front.

I have a bigass PC in a thermaltake shark case and it just doesn't need to be this big. I see the value of having big PCs in the world, but I don't need one. I just got the case cheap used because it had only one drive sled.

Re: I want a modern SBC! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46877225)

I thought you meant small block Chevy. I've built several 350s, nothing like the sound of a push rod engine.

Re: I want a modern SBC! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46881099)

I thought you meant small block Chevy. I've built several 350s, nothing like the sound of a push rod engine.

I have a push rod engine. It's 444ci and it doesn't have spark plugs.

I also have one timing belt engine and one timing chain engine. Guess which I prefer. Except the timing chain version of the timing belt engine doesn't have a lifetime chain, so there's no point to that really. It goes a little longer and costs a lot more, and it's a lot harder to swap. Timing belt it is. I just got that prick running again after having a head off, too.

Re:I want a modern SBC! (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about 7 months ago | (#46877707)

Despite not having nearly as many expansion cards as in the past, I seem to have no problem filling up most of the back plates on full ATX cases with breakout connectors.

Better ways to spend $800 on a computer. (1)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | about 7 months ago | (#46876839)

http://pcpartpicker.com/parts/partlist/

I built this (with a couple of sales at the time) for $812 one month ago.
I supplied previous peripherals like a 32" LG 720p HDTV for the monitor as well as a MS wireless KB and Logitech M570 wireless trackball along with several types of gaming controllers.

For a budget gaming build, it kicks ass.

Re:Better ways to spend $800 on a computer. (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 7 months ago | (#46876939)

Try again mate, the link brings us to a blank slate.

Re:Better ways to spend $800 on a computer. (1)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | about 7 months ago | (#46883695)

Thanks for letting me know. Not certain what I did wrong.
So here are the specs:
AMD FX-8320 3.5 GHz 8-core
Zalman 92mm Performa CPU Cooler
Asus M5A97 LE r2.0 ATX MB
G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (2x4) 1866MHz DDR3 Memory
Sapphire Radeon r9 270x Video card
Sentry ATX mid tower case
Zalman 600w Bronze ATX PSU
Win8.1
TP-link USB wi-fi adapter

$812 USD. Quiet and runs very cool (32C idle mid 60C running maxed out) You can hear the fans but they are still far under the game soundtrack, but it is much quieter and cooler than my old 'desktop replacement' laptop was.)

Nano PCs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46876851)

Didn't AMD announce tiny almost flat PCs at the beginning of the year? What happened to those? I want to put one of those above my TV to serve as a media center and forget about all the issues underpowered android devices that are currently supposed to fill that space.

Re:Nano PCs? (2)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about 7 months ago | (#46877737)

Intel sells that Next Unit of Computing box.

It's expensive, but... (4, Informative)

rivaldufus (634820) | about 7 months ago | (#46877789)

It does perhaps show that AMD is (hopefully) figuring out some way they can continue as a processor company.

Very much off topic, but... Has anyone else noticed the usual review structure on Ars (and I read this review at Ars yesterday)? It got the usual Ars non-Apple headline: say one (vaguely) positive thing in the headline and one negative thing (and negative to the point of cancelling out any positive)

If it's a Samsung device, it'll be like:
The New S5 Has a Lot Features, But Most of them are useless
If it's about smart watches, they all seem to read like this:
The New Pebble Has Better Aesthetics, but We're Waiting for THE WATCH (from Apple)

Apple reviews over there are almost 100% positive (and they get very defensive when people point this out.) They even maintain an Apple evangelist at all times, and their Android "Evangelist" is generally pretty negative about the droid and truly hates Samsung. Every Samsung review he writes talks about the device first and then spends the second half explaining why Samsung sucks.

It was so bad at one point, I started trying to figure out if Apple owned part of them.

Gigabyte cheaped out (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about 7 months ago | (#46878725)

One of the problems with Gigabyte's design is that they used an inadequate heatsink/fan, which not only causes the CPU/GPU to throttle, but also makes a great deal of irritating noise. They would have been better off going with a design similar to the Akasa Euler [silentpcreview.com] , where the whole exterior of the case is a giant heatsink and is connected to the die with heatpipes. In all likelihood they could have gotten passive cooling better than the crappy and noisy active solution they used. Of course, it would have cost a few bucks extra in bill of materials costs, plus added engineering expense.

Great Device... Just not for gaming (1)

the_saint1138 (1353335) | about 7 months ago | (#46878959)

The much cheaper "non-gaming" editions of this make much more sense.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/... [newegg.com]

They have VESA mount points and can be mounted on the back of a monitor:
http://assets.hardwarezone.com... [hardwarezone.com]

Sure the graphics aren't top-notch, but most people don't need that. They're great if you need a computer but don't have space for a tower (and also don't want the failure issues associated with a laptop).

Why aren't these more of a thing? (1)

John Pfeiffer (454131) | about 7 months ago | (#46879499)

These 'mini gaming PCs' seem kind of ridiculous... I mean, it's not even a real computer, it's like some piece of absurd custom hardware.

Last year on Black Friday, I hit up Newegg for a $70 Biostar A68I-350 Mini-ITX AMD Fusion mobo w/soldered-on APU, bundled with 8GB of G.Skill DDR3 1600 RAM. (Basically they were giving me the $40 RAM for free.) I really only intended to use it as a computer for a CNC setup... But it turned out to be such a great media PC and general gaming machine-- just about anything but the most demanding games would run reasonably well at 720p (In other words, the bulk of the non-FPS contents of my Steam account) --that I set it up next to my bed as a secondary media PC and internet terminal.

I even put it in this great little IN WIN case (IW-BQ656T) about the size of a couple of books.

It's a shame the board seems to be discontinued, or I'd have bought like two more...

Anyway, as I was saying... If I can get that much system for so little, I wonder why portable uber gaming rigs using REAL HARDWARE aren't a thing. I mean, you don't really see 'gaming-oriented' Mini-ITX motherboards out there, do you? (Well, I haven't, at least.)

A bit too small (1)

phorm (591458) | about 7 months ago | (#46879749)

I've got a mini gaming PC in a box that's about the size of a "shuttle"
It runs an A10-7850k on a GA-F2A88XN-WIFI (AMD APU - CPU+GPU - on a mini-itx board). It can run all my games at decent detail (including BF4 on high at 1080p).
Win8.1 had some issues with the Catalyst drivers conflicting with other software, and Linux required the Beta drivers to run (they seem OK though).

The heat is a bit weird in this box. It'll climb *very* quickly, but once the fan ramps up it goes down quite fast as well. The stock fans really do suck though, as the base of the heatsink doesn't even have contact with the full APU surface

So much wrong here (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 7 months ago | (#46879987)

I basically build computers for a living so let me point out that they're utterly wrong. If you put in a Kaveri A10 with DDR3-2400, that's right, more than 2x the speed of boring original 1066, you will get acceptable gaming performance if you turn down the settings a little bit. Since they almost definitely did not do that despite it being the actual stock memory controller frequency of the chip, there's your performance problem. Going from 1600 to 2133 RAM on a Richland APU for example brings the Windows 7 speed rating from 6.1 to 6.7 instantly and that's before overclocking.

As for heat, everything they said is wrong. The golden rule is the less cubic feet you have, the less cubic feet per minute you need the fans to blow at to swap out the air out of the case every X seconds (typically 5). Small cases actually are much easier to cool with less powerful fans. You put in one single 45CFM 92mm Silenx fan in a mini-itx case and it simply will not overheat nor will you hear the fan. If the case was designed for 40mm fans only or something, it was designed by morons who need to go back to the drawing board and put in a 92mm fan.

no more AMD :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46884459)

Every AMD CPU I've ever owned (including a Phenom II 1090T) has encountered fatal heating problems. My PhenomII ended up losing 5 of its cores to overheating, and it's got a heatsink, fan, coolermaster case; pretty much everything but a liquid N cooler. I had a AMDK5 years ago, same problem. They just don't do well with heat regulation, in my experience. I'll stick with Intel. :/

AMD needs to release the COMPLETE source, not some (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46886289)

It bothers me to no end the number of people and companies that just don't get GNU/Linux or free software including the people behind half the code (looking at you Linus). Yea- you'll bitch about companies not cooperating, but fail to recognize that's exactly what the problem is. They're not releasing the full specs or source which is whats creating the problem in the first place. And no AMD does NOT release the full source for its hardware. You CAN NOT utilize 3d acceleration without the non-free pieces. A wrapper is not sufficent and little more than a public relations stunt. And NVIDIA's no better. Right now only Intel's cooperative on the 3d front, but far from perfect as they haven't cooperated on the BIOS front (yes- AMD has, but AMD's not cooperative on the 3d front!!!).

Anyway. There aren't many companies that seem to get that everything needs code or specs available for proper support. Aleph Objects, ThinkPenguin, and I think one other company actually get it and have policies to this effect. If its not for them I'd probably have given up on GNU/Linux years ago. It's really sad that I should be reduced to an Apple-like awful situation where I only have one good source for hardware all because nobody else gets what the real problem is. It's one reason I don't like Apple. Your stuck buying from one company because of all the digital restrictions and propitiatory components. Then again- it's not just Apple. I also avoid Microsoft, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba too. All of them use digital restrictions and lock-ins (think wifi in particular, you can't replace the wifi card because of DRM in the BIOS).

Its already here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46924227)

Think: Laptop

Talk about reinventing the wheel!

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