Assembling a mini-PC with the smallest socketed form-factor yet

Mini-STX is the newest, smallest PC form-factor that accepts a socketed CPU, and in this review we'll be taking a look at a complete mini-STX build that will occupy just 1.53 liters of space. With a total size of just 6.1 x 5.98 x 2.56 inches, the SilverStone VT01 case offers a very small footprint, and the ECS H110S-2P motherboard accepts Intel desktop CPUs up to 65W (though I may have ignored this specification).

PS3 controller for scale. (And because it's the best controller ever.)

The Smallest Form-Factor

The world of small form-factor PC hardware is divided between tiny kit solutions such as the Intel NUC (and the host of mini-PCs from various manufacturers), and the mini-ITX form-factor for system builders. The advantage of mini-ITX is its ability to host standard components, such as desktop-class processors and full-length graphics cards. However, mini-ITX requires a significantly larger enclosure than a mini-PC, and the "thin mini-ITX" standard has been something of a bridge between the two, essentially halving the height requirement of mini-ITX. Now, an even smaller standard has emerged, and it almost makes mini-ITX look big in comparison.

Left: ECS H110S-2P (mini-STX) / Right: EVGA Z170 Stinger (mini-ITX)

Mini-STX had been teased for a couple of years (I wrote my first news post about it in January of 2015), and was originally an Intel concept called "5×5"; though the motherboard is actually about 5.8 x 5.5 inches (147 x 140 mm). At CES 2016 I was able to preview a SilverStone enclosure design for these systems, and ECS is one of the manufacturers producing mini-STX motherboards with an Intel H110-based board introduced this past summer. We saw some shipping products for the newest form-factor in 2016, and both companies were kind enough to send along a sample of these micro-sized components for a build. With the parts on hand it is now time to assemble my first mini-STX system, and of course I'll cover the process – and results – right here!

First we'll take a look at the specifications for the motherboard, enclosure, and cooler used for this build, courtesy of ECS and SilverStone.

Motherboard: ECS H110S-2P

ECS H110S-2P Motherboard
CPU Supports 6th gen Intel Core family / Pentium / Celeron series processors for LGA 1151 socket
Chipset Intel H110 Express Chipset
Memory Dual-Channel DDR4 Memory architecture
2x DDR4 SO-DIMM socket
Support up to 32 GB
Expansion Slot 1x M.2 slot for SSD
1x M.2 slot for WiFi/BT
Storage Support by H110 Express Chipset
1x Serial ATAIII 6Gb/s
Audio Realtek ALC662 2-channel High Definition audio CODEC
Network Realtek 8111H Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controller
USB Support by H110 Express Chipset
4x USB 3.0 ports up to 5Gb/s (either rear I/O or front header)
2x USB 2.0 ports Up to 480 Mb/s
Rear Panel I/O 2x Audio jacks
1x RJ-45 port
1x HDMI ports
1x Display port
4x USB 3.0 ports
Connectors & Headers 1x 4-pin CPU_FAN connector
1x 4-pin SYS_FAN connector
1x Front panel audio header
1x USB 2.0 header, supports additional 2 USB ports
1x SATA III 6Gb/s connector
System BIOS AMI BIOS with 64 MB SPI Flash ROM
Multi-Language BIOS
Form Factor MINI STX Form Factor
147 mm (W) x 140 mm (H)
OS Support Windows 7 32-bit
Windows 7 64-bit
Windows 8.1 64-bit
Windows 10 64-bit
* Intel 7th Generation CPUs support Windows 10 64bit only
MSRP $79.99

Case: SilverStone Vital Series VT01

SilverStone Vital Series VT01 Enclosure
Model No. SST-VT01S (Silver)
SST-VT01B (Black)
Material 0.8 mm SECC
Motherboard Intel Mini-STX
Internal Drive Bays 1x 2.5-inch
Front I/O Ports 1x USB 3.0
1x USB Type-C
3.5 mm Audio
3.5 mm Mic
CPU Cooler Limitation 34 mm
Dimensions 6.1 x 5.98 x 2.56 inches
(155 x 152 x 65 mm)
1.53 Liters
Weight 1.28 lbs (582 g)
VESA Mount (included) MIS-D (75 x 75 mm)
MSRP $29.99

Cooler: SilverStone NT07-115X

SilverStone NT07-115X
Model No. SST-NT07-115X
Material Copper center, Extruded aluminum fins
Application Intel Socket LGA1150/1151/1155/1156
Cooling Fan 80mm PWM
Fan Speed 1500 – 3600 RPM
Max Air Pressure 0.8 – 2.6 mmH2O
Max Airflow 15.6 – 28.1 CFM
Dimensions/Weight (WxDxH) 90 x 90 x 23 mm
(3.54 x 3.54 x 0.91 inches)
180.3 grams
MSRP $19.99

Pricing and availability:

First of all, there are no listings for the ECS H110S-2P motherboard in the U.S. that I can find at this time. I would expect the board to sell for somewhere below its $80 MSRP when (or if) it is available in North America, with other Mini-STX options on the market selling for less than $85 currently.

As to SilverStone's case and cooler, these are easy to find (and quite affordable):

Next we'll take a closer look at the motherboard and case, and then move on to the build process with this ultra small form-factor system!

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