At Computex, SilverStone started to show off its early mini-STX prototype cases. This week it introduced its first commercial product, the VT01. The new PC case inherits classic design elements of SilverStone chassis and despite the fact that Mini-STX is mainly intended for system integrators, SilverStone plans to sell its VT01 in retail as well.

Mini-STX is the latest iteration of form factor for motherboards, decreasing from the 17cm x 17cm of the mini-ITX into a 12.7cm square by ditching the full-length PCIe port as well as moving the power into an external brick for a DC-input. At Computex, especially at vendors such as Silverstone and ECS (who works closely with Intel for the NUC), Mini-STX was being pushed as the platform to have in certain commercial verticals, such as digital signage, where power and adjustability are important. It aims to fit above the Core-M mini-PCs in that regard. 

While the interest for small form-factor PCs is increasing mainly because such systems are small, energy-efficient, and provide good enough level of performance, there is another reason for their growing popularity. Highly-integrated systems are usually pretty inexpensive and have additional flexibility to adjust the socketable CPU in the Mini-STX form-factor. Style, affordability and a certain degree of flexibility is what SilverStone hopes the VT01 is all about.

SilverStone VT01: Quick Specs
Dimensions (W×H×D) 155mm (W) × 152mm (D) × 65mm (H) 
1.53 Liters
Weight 582 grams
Motherboard Form-Factor Mini-STX
PSU Form-Factor External / Power Brick
3.5" Drive Bays 0
2.5" Drive Bays 1
System Fan None
CPU Cooler Dimensions Up to 34 mm in height
External Connectors Audio in/out, USB Type-A and USB Type-C

SilverStone’s VT01 chassis is made of 0.8 mm stainless steel and a weight just 582 grams. The case can fit in one Mini-STX motherboard with a cooler that is no higher than 34 mm as well as one 2.5” SSD or HDD. Theoretically, high-performance 34-mm coolers (such as Scythe Kodati) can support CPUs with up to 65 W TDP, hence, VT01-based Mini-STX systems can be quite powerful when paired with the appropriate hardware. The VT01 has one USB Type-A as well as one USB Type-C ports in addition to an audio in and audio out. Besides, the case has VESA mount mechanism. Initially SilverStone plans to offer the silver version of the case, but shortly it also plans to debut the black one. We also saw a blue one at Computex, which may come later.

Since the case is very small, it naturally does not cost a lot: the manufacturer intends to charge $35 for it in the U.S., once it is available in approximately three weeks from now. In Europe, the case will be available late in September.

Source: SilverStone

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  • JoeyJoJo123 - Monday, August 29, 2016 - link

    Yeah, I noticed that as well after making my last post. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, August 29, 2016 - link

    Is it true that newegg only sells one Mini-STX motherboard? Reply
  • Samus - Monday, August 29, 2016 - link

    I suppose stainless steel actually saves a lot of money over Aluminum, but still surprisingly inexpensive for something from Silverstone. My FT03-Mini is still my favorite case of all time, only displacing the 2008 FT01 by a tiny margin as my previous favorite case of all time. They're just so awesome and to my, obviously worth the money. Reply
  • pixelstuff - Monday, August 29, 2016 - link

    Is there a compact replacement for the PCI-E slots that could be used for third party GPUs? It would be nice if nVidia and AMD started releasing their mobile GPUs as an add-in card for computers like this. Reply
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Monday, August 29, 2016 - link

    Yes/No.

    Thunderbolt 3, via a USB 3.0 Type C connector can support external graphics card docks, as the Thunderbolt 3 spec allows the transmission of PCI-E 3.0 signals over the cable. Some laptops have already began using this feature, such as the Razer Blade Stealth Ultrabook (2016) and the Razer Core (external graphics card dock), but given how large external graphics card docks are compared to the Mini-STX spec, I find it kind of hard to think of a Thunderbolt 3 external GPU dock to be a good solution.

    If the idea is to have as small of a PC with a dedicated GPU as possible, then a beefy gaming laptop with a Pascal GPU is better match, given that you get the screen, keyboard, enclosure and such in a compact and mobile form factor. It's especially getting harder to recommend Mini-ITX portable PC form-factors now that Pascal mobile GPUs are nearly on-par with their desktop counterparts, and the fact that Mini-ITX builds would easily go for ~$1000 + time needed to plan and build it out, when something very similar in performance can be had for $1000 pre-built and ready to go, and includes the screen and keyboard.

    I find this compact PC form factor to be a more customizable NUC, and as such, the best uses I've found for this kind of form factor is as a thin-client for an actual full PC elsewhere on the network. (Example: As a SteamLink box, to stream more demanding games from your desktop to a living room TV over the network, but with a Skylake iGPU, it can still handle light games or older titles well enough.)

    Too big to be portable if you add a dedicated GPU through an external graphics dock (compared to a laptop), too small to have an internal dedicated GPU, but at least manages to be a small sized PC that can handle some modern tasks, so long as they're not too GPU intensive. In other words, it works as a day-to-day desktop, and as a thin-client to a beefier PC in the house via SteamLink.
    Reply
  • JustSay'n - Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - link

    While there are scenarios where I whole-heartily agree with your assessment of mini-ITX vs laptop, in my case the mini-ITX solution is superior. This week I priced out a Clevo based laptop with the components I desire and the final price was $3334. I then priced out a mini-ITX version with the same components using a Silverstone ML08 case and the final price was $2024. For the $1310 difference I can get a lot nicer display than the one on the Clevo and add a good mechanical keyboard. Of course this works for me because I will seldom need to move the system. I also get enjoyment out of building my own system, as I have been doing since my first Z80 system in 1976.

    I'm not sure I am on board with the mini-STX form factor. I don't see any real advantage over the NUC form factor and the lack of an internal graphic slot seems to put it at a disadvantage over the mini-ITX form factor. Again I am sure there are specific use scenarios where the mini-STX is the ideal solution.
    Reply
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - link

    The advantage over the NUC form factor is that it allows you to have more choice in the processor and for some Mini-STX, normal compatibility with aftermarket coolers (so long as it fits the height limitations of a Mini-STX case)

    This is another Anandtech article showing AsRock's MiniSTX board:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/10404/asrock-deskmin...

    This board allows you to slot in up to 65W Skylake CPUs and use normal mounting for aftermarket coolers. I imagine getting an i7-6700 (non-K) and a cooler like the Noctua NH-L9i would be the best configuration possible, which beats out Skull Canyon NUCs by quite a bit, especially if the thermals of the case and cooler solution prevents the CPU from throttling and lets it hit boost speeds for longer periods of computation time.

    So yeah, there are some advantages to be had, and a Mini-STX build is the smallest form factor you can use to get 4 real Skylake desktop cores with Hyper-Threading (i7-6700 only), if you're not interested in a dedicated GPU.

    For mom and dad who just want a fast desktop, but don't really use a lot of storage space or play any games, this could be ideal for them. (Although, I question if the i7-6700 would be necessary.) Additionally, I'm sure it could be a useful form factor for a small PC-monitor attached console emulation box, or as a thin-client via Steam Link as said before.

    Chances are these use-cases don't line up with what you're looking for in a machine.
    Reply
  • JustSay'n - Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - link

    Mini-STX seems to be a fairly narrow niche solution where NUC isn't good enough, mini-ITX is too much and a laptop won't cut it. One possible usage might be for still/video editing where a more powerful CPU is desired, but the 3D features of a discreet GPU are not needed and a professionally calibrated monitor superior to what is available on a laptop is required. If the built-in graphics of Kaby Lake CPUs live up to the hype, then I can see mini-STX being that "just right" answer.

    I might even upgrade from my current Zbox Ci320 as my low end system of choice.
    Reply
  • lewisl9029 - Monday, August 29, 2016 - link

    I'd love to see case makers like SilverStone get into the TB3 external GPU dock market. The GPU dock is basically a case + power supply + TB3 integration, and case makers have a huge competitive advantage in the former 2 areas due to their existing experience designing and producing products in those areas.

    The profit margins on the Razer Core looks to be pretty ridiculous at $500, so it should be ripe for competition and innovation from new entrants. Specifically, I'd love to see something much smaller and cheaper than the Razer Core designed to house single-slotted GPUs.
    Reply
  • rhysiam - Monday, August 29, 2016 - link

    I really like the idea of units at this dimension for standard office machines. I've steered away from NUCs in the past because they were limited to "U" series processors (with the exception of the high end units). A build with a proper 50W+ CPU and M.2 SSD in this form factor is pretty attractive to me. Means I could carry a spare unit or two around in the bag with me for client support.

    Two thoughts on this case. First, if I'm reading it right, the 34mm cooler height is 3mm too shallow for a Noctua NH-L9i, and 6mm shy of the Intel E97379 cooler which comes bundled with current gen CPUs up to 65W, (basically all non "K" Skylake CPUs). I know they're aiming for SFF here, but I'd think that trading 6-8mm of Z height for the ability to use a boxed cooler, or commonly available aftermarket coolers would be a no-brainer.

    Second, until power bricks become more common, it would be nice to see at least the option of bundling one with the case.

    I'm still interested though. Nice looking case at a great price.
    Reply

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