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
|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
Case: SilverStone Vital Series VT01
|SilverStone Vital Series VT01 Enclosure|
|Model No.||SST-VT01S (Silver)
|Material||0.8 mm SECC|
|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)
|Weight||1.28 lbs (582 g)|
|VESA Mount (included)||MIS-D (75 x 75 mm)|
Cooler: SilverStone 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)
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):
- SilverStone VT01 Mini-STX enclosure: $29.99, Amazon.com
- SilverStone Nitrogon Series NT07-115X low-profile Cooler: $19.99, Amazon.com
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!
hi does it have tb3? oh it
hi does it have tb3? oh it does does it support video through tb3?
None of the mini-STX boards
None of the mini-STX boards on the market currently offer TB3 (that I'm aware of).
I like this case a lot. It is
I like this case a lot. It is cheap and well-designed. I would prefer if it was made of alu, but can’t complain at this price.
I’d like to see more STX boards on the market, preferably some options with higher-end chipsets like H170 or Z270.
I’m with you. And I want to
I'm with you. And I want to see more socketed Intel CPUs with Iris graphics. The few out there are very expensive. (Still hoping a next-gen AMD APU will make it to a form-factor like this as well.)
Yes AMD’s Ryzen/Vega APUs
Yes AMD’s Ryzen/Vega APUs with at least a single stack of HBM2(4GB or 8GB) acting like a last level cache to a larger amount of DDR4 based DRAM. AMD should really have made an amended JEDEC standard with HBM2 having a 2048 bit bus to each HBM2 stack instead of 1024(Current standard) and just gone higher with the DRAM stacks for larger memory capacities!
Not really seeing a use for
Not really seeing a use for this, although it is cheap
For HTPC it has a fan so a fail for me (my old i3 NUC is in a fanless case for that)
Cannot be used as a cheap NAS as not enough SATA ports
Not enough power for anything other than light gaming
Only thing I can think of is office use, use the VESA mount to hide it on back of monitor. Very neat but you can get cheaper.
This would be a nice little
This would be a nice little build if intel cpus had better integrated gpus. Lack of graphics upgradability is huge concern for me. I would rather put the money into mini ITX build with pci express and much higher power delivery.
I saw a pic of an Asrock
I saw a pic of an Asrock miniSTX board with an MXM slot so you could slap a notebook GPU in there
Gecube made a RX480 – a full Polaris 10 – in MXM format – but it used too much power for OEM notebook cooling solutions and they didn’t make it compatible with Clevos (which are the most upgradeable and have the most robust overspecced cooling of all laptop manufacturers) so nobody bothered seeing if it worked.
Re: Left: ECS H110S-2P
Re: Left: ECS H110S-2P (mini-STX)
There is a SODIMM socket from Lotes
that allows the sockets to be
placed much closer to each other:
Normally I detest external
Normally I detest external power but in this scenario it makes sense. It’s so small there’s no room to be putting extra wires in there.
I’m glad I coerced Sebastian
I’m glad I coerced Sebastian into doing the Prime95 run, very intersting results
Very nice! Would love to use
Very nice! Would love to use a setup like this to run a freeNAS server, although I would couple ASUS H110S1/CSM motherboard ($75) with Pentium G4560 3.5GHz with Hyper Threading ($65).
Any chance you could post PassMark benchmark score?
I didn’t run PassMark, just
I didn't run PassMark, just Geekbench 4. If I have time to re-assemble the system I'll check it out (already on to another mini system).
How fast is M.2 slot and can
How fast is M.2 slot and can you boot Windows 7 from it?
I saw up to 1800 MB/s reads
I saw up to 1800 MB/s reads and 1500 MB/s writes benchmarking my Samsung SM961 NVMe SSD in the M.2 slot. I am not sure about Win7 compatibility, but I assume it is possible with a driver during installation. Seems like a murky subject when I look around for info on Windows 7 NVMe installs…
The rail voltages on
The rail voltages on HWMonitor are way lower than they should be. Maybe you need a better power adapter.
I 100% agree. The lack of
I 100% agree. The lack of high-quality adapters specific to the form-factor is a negative at present.
How does WiFi work? I didn’t
How does WiFi work? I didn’t see any mention of sockets for antennas as part of the back IO?
There are punch-outs for a
There are punch-outs for a Wi-Fi antenna on the back of the case, and the board has an M.2 Wi-Fi card slot in addition to the standard PCIe SSD slot. While a lot of mini-ITX board come with Wi-Fi solutions I haven't seen mini-STX with that bundled in yet.
It would add about $34 to the total build cost to implement a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth solution, including external antennas if you used an Intel 7265 M.2 card (~$24) and an antenna kit (~$10), for example.
(I should have mentioned this in the review, and I updated it with this info).
I noticed the info about the
I noticed the info about the slots but was mainly concerned about how you’d mount the antennas. Thanks. Good review.
Don’t cheap out on the power
Don’t cheap out on the power brick.
What is that a computer for
What is that a computer for ants?
Could you suggest good thin mini ATX case with support for one 3.5 or 2.5 HDD, SFX PSU but without space for dedicated GPU?
Hi Sebastian, I’m also using
Hi Sebastian, I’m also using ECS H110S-2P MB and VT01 case. My CPU is G4560 and 8G DDR4 RAM was installed. The BIOS was updated to the latest version (Feb 2017). The power adapter is a 90W model for ASUS laptop. It is strange that when I use this PC, it reboot automatically from time to time. There’s no blue screens or error prompts, the system just loses power and reboot, just like the reset button is pressed. It happens when I surfing the internet, watch videos, even during the Windows 10 loading. I don’t think it’s a DC adapter or CPU issue, because I ran Aida64 for 15 minutes with full CPU/FPU/MEM load, the system seems stable. I also tested RAM with MemTest64 for 10 loops, no error was detected. Do you have any suggestion to locate or solve this issue? Thank you.
Hi – Please can you suggest
Hi – Please can you suggest what is the source of power for this build? If you can provide a link that would be really greatful. This is really an awesome review… I am pretty sure I will be doing it now for my PC as I am already thinking of upgrading my processor/MB so wy not this one as it fills in all the checkboxes me… 🙂 Thanks Sebastian…
can we fit mSATA (using mSATA
can we fit mSATA (using mSATA to M.2 adapter) on this board? i have mSATA spare and don’t wish to buy M.2.