Mini-ITX AMD AM1 Motherboards

I started researching available Mini-ITX AMD AM1 motherboards for my upcoming SFF NAS build. Admittedly, this work was all done in the hopes that the AMD AM1 “Kabini” platform would make for an ideal low-power, 24/7 home NAS. A visit to the FreeNAS forums and some investigation into the hardware recommended for use with FreeNAS has changed my mind, but I leave this table of Mini-ITX AMD AM1 motherboards here for anyone looking for it.

They all use DDR3 and all have two slots for RAM, as is expected with motherboards of this form factor.

Manufacturer ASRock ASRock ASUS MSI
Model AM1B-ITX AM1H-ITX AM1I-A MSI AM1I
Max RAM 32GB 32GB 32GB 32GB
HDMI? 1 1 1 1
DisplayPort? 0 1 0 0
DVI? 1 1 1 1
D-Sub / VGA? 1 1 1 1
Serial / COM? 0 0 1 0
Parallel / LPT? 1 0 0 0
SATA 6Gb/s 4 4 2 2
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC662 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC877-VD Realtek ALC887
Audio Channels 5.1 7.1 7.1 7.1
Onboard LAN Realtek RTL8111GR Gigabit Ethernet Realtek RTL8111GR Gigabit Ethernet Realtek RTL8111GR Gigabit Ethernet Realtek RTL8111GR Gigabit Ethernet
PS/2? 1 1 2 2
USB 3.0 2 2 2 2
USB 2.0 4 2 4 2
S/PDIF Out 0 1x Optical 0 0
Expansion 1x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot @ 4x mode 1x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot @ 4x mode 1x PCI Express 2.0 x4 slot 1x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot @ 4x mode
Mini Card Slots 0 1x Mini PCIe 0 1x Mini PCIe
Notes Motherboard has header for additional USB 3.0 ports, additional USB 2.0 ports Supports either ATX or DC-In power supplies, motherboard has header for additional USB 3.0 ports, additional USB 2.0 ports Motherboard has headers for additional USB 2.0 ports

I was thinking it would be very nice to have the ASRock AM1H-ITX equipped with an AMD 5350. This, I reasoned, could get me a livable number of SATA ports, with some room for a PCIe SATA controller. Budget for the build, including case, would have come in at around $500.

While such a machine would serve well in a HTPC environment, it would not be ideal for FreeNAS. ZFS calls for a minimum of 8GB RAM, and prefers ECC RAM to non ECC. It is reported that the AMD AM1 platform should support ECC memory, though none of the Mini-ITX boards mentioned above have explicitly stated that they support this technology. Couple that with the fact that AMD AM1 “Kabini” APUs only allow for single channel memory, and I’m not immediately sold on this platform. However, that hasn’t stopped at least one person from building it..

http://www.techpowerup.com/forums/threads/am1-athlon-5350-freenas-file-server.201676/

He even uses the Silverstone DS380 Mini-ITX NAS case that I had been following, reporting that its stock fans are noisy. Maybe not for me!

Ziploc V151 Vacuum Sealer Has Arrived

The Ziploc V151 Vacuum Sealer (~$50, Amazon) I ordered has arrived, and I am ready to put it to use.

Update: I’ve published a review on the unit after using it for the past two and a half months

A couple of early findings:

  • The registration card makes reference to a V100, V250, and V350 series
    • CTI Industries recently (June 18, 2014) made a press release announcing the V350/V360 series http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/cti-industries-corporation-launches-top-of-the-line-vacuum-sealer-system-nasdaq-ctib-1921999.htm
    • I found the Ziploc ZLV251 Vacuum Sealer (~$80, Amazon), though it took a bit of time to dig it up, and it has only got a single review on Amazon at the time of writing
  • The company that markets the Ziploc system is CTI Industries, and they have a microsite for the Ziploc Vacuum Sealer Systems at http://www.ctiindustries.com/Ziploc/
  • The user manual included with the Ziploc V151 Vacuum Sealer is quite terrible, and I am surprised that it made it to print

Look forward to a complete review of the Ziploc V151 Vacuum Sealer System after I have put it through its paces. The review has been written and is available to view here. Additionally, I intend to produce some useful information on vacuum sealer bags.

Ziploc v151 Vacuum Sealer Review

I purchased the Ziploc v151 Vacuum Sealer (~$60, Amazon.com) in July 2014 – this review is backdated to the time of purchase. It’s seen two and a half months of consistent use, but will soon be retired in favor of a chamber vacuum sealer. The Ziploc v151 vacuum sealer has served its purpose well, and I believe it to be an excellent value amongst entry-level vacuum sealers.

The Ziploc v151 is an edge-sealer. The single best feature on it is the Pulse button, which gives the user control over how much air to evacuate from a bag. Similarly priced units from Foodsaver lack this feature. The Pulse button has proven invaluable when dealing with liquid-rich foods.

The Ziploc v151 also features an accessory port that is compatible with Foodsaver branded canisters and accessories.

I bought the unit because it was remarkably affordable. Prior to this purchase, I was using Ziploc freezer bags, and I was cooking sous vide in constant fear that the bag would spring a leak. The price paid for the Ziploc v151 was worth it – no more dread.

I use my Ziploc v151 with Foodsaver rolls. Buy a multipack (~$50, Amazon.com) and keep them around the house. In addition to sealing vacuum bags, the v151 can also seal Mylar. I use it to seal large bags of chips so that they remain fresher. It works similarly well for my massive bags of oatmeal.

That being said, not all is sunshine in the land of edge-sealing vacuum packagers.

Cons particular to all edge sealers

  • Poor handling of liquids and powdered goods
    • The best solution to this is to pre-freeze liquid-rich goods, and to place powdered goods within a bag prior to vacuum sealing (inception vacuum sealing)
    • If liquid gets into the seal area, it can interfere with the sealing process – wipe the area to be sealed dry in the event that the seal does not form properly before trying again

Cons particular to the Ziploc v151

  • The black foamy material that surrounds the drip basin is porous
    • Remove it and clean it, or live on the edge and ignore this

If you’re looking to add an entry-level edge-sealer to your kitchen, the v151 warrants your consideration.

The only complaints that I have are related to handling of liquids. The edge-sealer simply isn’t going to handle liquid-rich foods well, unless you freeze liquids prior to sealing. But you already know this – if you want to handle liquid-rich foods, you’re going to give serious consideration to chamber vacuum sealers, and the affordable Ziploc v151 isn’t even on your radar.

For everyone else, pre-freeze and use the Pulse button.

Purchases made through this link on Amazon.com support my continued learning and development in the kitchen.

Justin’s Intel LGA 1150 Mini ITX SFF Desktop PC (Initial Build)

This was the first small form factor (SFF) build that I took part in. We started talking seriously about the build after Justin’s laptop, a Dell XPS L1502x, kept overheating. I convinced Justin that building a desktop was the smart thing to do – he was a rising senior in college, and with multiple moves ahead, portability was a high priority. Together, we were able to spec out and build a capable, compact desktop PC.

Parts Billing for Justin’s SFF Build

Case: Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced (Amazon.com)
CPU: Intel i5-4690K (Amazon.com)
Motherboard: Gigabyte H97N-WiFi (Amazon.com)
Memory: 8GB (2*4GB) Crucial Ballistix DDR3
SSD + HDD
GPU: Sapphire Radeon Vapor-X HD 7950 OC 3GB GDDR5 (Amazon.com; pulled from my first mining rig)
PSU: Corsair RM550 80PLUS Gold Modular PSU (Amazon.com)
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

SFF PCs are challenging compared to larger builds because they require more forethought. Space is at a premium, and cable management becomes a larger issue. We didn’t opt to fill the 5.25″ bay, which gave us a nice cavity for extra cable length.

I would rate a modular PSU is a must-have when building a SFF PC.

Cooling becomes more important as well. Airflow inside of this particular case is restrictive: there are many better options, but they come at a premium.

I did experiment with Smartfan, which I might write about in a future post.

Next step: Replacing the stock Intel CPU HSF with the Zalman CPS8900 Quiet