What's the smallest x86 system I can get?

For small-form factor PCs and the (extremely small) people who love them.

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What's the smallest x86 system I can get?

Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:27 pm

I have a master plan that involves using a very small computer. Basically, I got fed up looking for a media player and decided "hell, I'll just build my own!" So, I adopted this as my random tangent for the week.
All I really want is a system that can:
play music
play videos
preferably run windows so I can load some games
preferably connect to 802.11g networks
have standard plugs

So, my plan is to use a nano-itx or smaller mobo and connect to a screen of no greater than 5". I would just use linux on an Ipod, but I liked the idea of an ultra small x86 pc so I can load windows and play the games I already have (nothing too big, just Risk II, some ROMs for NES and SNES, and pacman).

Anyway, I just wanted to ask if anyone had any experience doing something like this, or has any suggestions/alternatives.
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:34 pm

I have no experience with anything that small, but remember heat is going to be a major factor with anything that small(cramped). Also you are still going to have to plug it in to get power.
Damn the torpedoes , full speed ahead.

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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:43 pm

Mac Mini
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:47 pm

I would have to second the Mac Mini, its a nice little machine. Don't go near the VIA Mini-Itx boards as they just don't have the guts to act as a media centre.

Edit: The Mac Mini is supposed to be a very quiet machine and I think you will value the lack of noise when watching movies.
Last edited by Dirge on Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:48 pm

...
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:55 pm

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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:03 pm

thanks for the suggestions!
should mention though, that I was thinking of something more handheld. My ideal machine would be basically a PDA that ran off a standard 2.5" laptop drive and ran standard windows (not CE or anything).
any ideas?
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:33 pm

Why make a handheld PC? You still need power.
Damn the torpedoes , full speed ahead.

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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:36 pm

Why don't you just buy a UMPC haha ^^

On the other hand... maybe a GP2X could fit your needs... it runs a lightweight version of linux.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GP2X
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:27 pm

king_kilr wrote:Why make a handheld PC? You still need power.


i figure I'll just run off a Li-Ion battery (after finding or making a circuit board that gets it to the appropriate power output and type)

Wajo wrote:Why don't you just buy a UMPC haha ^^


they have everything I want, but they're too big. I figure it could be made smaller

Wajo wrote:On the other hand... maybe a GP2X could fit your needs... it runs a lightweight version of linux.


That would work, but i'd really like to be able to put a few simple EXEs on there. anyone know if wine will run on that?
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:35 pm

random_task wrote:
king_kilr wrote:Why make a handheld PC? You still need power.


i figure I'll just run off a Li-Ion battery (after finding or making a circuit board that gets it to the appropriate power output and type)

Wajo wrote:Why don't you just buy a UMPC haha ^^


they have everything I want, but they're too big. I figure it could be made smaller

Wajo wrote:On the other hand... maybe a GP2X could fit your needs... it runs a lightweight version of linux.


That would work, but i'd really like to be able to put a few simple EXEs on there. anyone know if wine will run on that?
Li-Ion batteries are very complex. Don't make your own unless you know how to make some kind of power tracker/regulatory circuitry.
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:36 pm

I've looked into it recently, and its true...a Mac mini is about the smallest machine you can buy. Sometimes they have good deals on refurbed ones..
You'll need 19 V IIRC to get the thing to boot, but there are some relatively cheap Li batteries available, and you might be able to find some plans on how to hook them up to the mac mini.
Theres plenty of resources for mac mini mods (giyf), and if you really wanted to go ultra portable, you could always opt for a CF-to-IDE, and get a large capacity CF card and use that in place of the hard drive.
A ground up nanoITX solution will be longer and wider than the mac mini, but its possible you could make it just as thin.
Let me know how this works out for you as I an interested in a similar project...
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:54 pm

SpotTheCat wrote:
random_task wrote:
king_kilr wrote:Why make a handheld PC? You still need power.


i figure I'll just run off a Li-Ion battery (after finding or making a circuit board that gets it to the appropriate power output and type)
Li-Ion batteries are very complex. Don't make your own unless you know how to make some kind of power tracker/regulatory circuitry.


hmm..thats true...LiIon+bad power control = fire occasionally....
i figure somebody's done it before though, and if they did, they've probably written something about it on the web somewhere.

Turkina wrote:I've looked into it recently, and its true...a Mac mini is about the smallest machine you can buy. Sometimes they have good deals on refurbed ones..
You'll need 19 V IIRC to get the thing to boot, but there are some relatively cheap Li batteries available, and you might be able to find some plans on how to hook them up to the mac mini.
Theres plenty of resources for mac mini mods (giyf), and if you really wanted to go ultra portable, you could always opt for a CF-to-IDE, and get a large capacity CF card and use that in place of the hard drive.
A ground up nanoITX solution will be longer and wider than the mac mini, but its possible you could make it just as thin.
Let me know how this works out for you as I an interested in a similar project...
~Turkina


after looking into it a little more, I remembered I could put windows XP on it by bootcamp. Then I could attach a battery, small LCD, and maybe fix a small keyboard and touchpad (i figure the keyboard an touchpad could go under the screen like on a laptop and the battery could go on the bottom or something).

So, what's your project?

EDIT: nanoITX is a little less than 5"x5", while the mac mini is 6.5"x6.5", so it might be able to be smaller, but you're right, it would be hard to fit everything in and still be smaller.
Last edited by random_task on Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:55 pm

I demand pics of this project!
Damn the torpedoes , full speed ahead.

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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:59 pm

king_kilr wrote:I demand pics of this project!


lol I wish! At it's current state all this is just planning. Someday though...after I get some money to kill :lol:
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Postposted on Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:50 pm

well, I had time to kill, so here's a rough concept of what I would want:
Image
of course, i don't expect it to look this good after all the parts are put together, but here's the basic idea anyway. enjoy! :)
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Postposted on Sat Dec 16, 2006 4:29 pm

Random_task,
Yeah, boot camp (or parallels) is really the compelling reason for going mac mini. C2Ds in the mac mini can flip bits a lot faster than Via's Lukes.

I'm looking a thesis project that would involve a wearable system people who have had a stroke can use in the rehab process. People have been using VR environments for a while now to do it, my approach would be along the "augmented reality" tack. I'm still flushing out the details...mainly in the "feasibility assessment" phase right now...its a complicated enough project so
using mainly an "off the shelf" solutions would simply things a ton.

~Turkina

edit: just took a good look at your concept...what about an old gamecube screen? And the top of the mini will be too small to house a usable keyboard (unless you've got tiny hands, of course....)
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Postposted on Sat Dec 16, 2006 4:56 pm

Sorry for being boring but well, er, aren't you talking about a laptop?

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Postposted on Sat Dec 16, 2006 6:13 pm

The Sony VAIO UX is pretty damn small. I use an older version at work for this personal navigation system I'm working on. They are pretty cool (although expensive). The version I have has a separate keyboard that you plug in, but this one's screen moves up like some of the newer cell phones.

So if you want as small as possible but still feature rich, I can't think of much that would be smaller.
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Postposted on Sat Dec 16, 2006 6:18 pm

cheesyking wrote:Sorry for being boring but well, er, aren't you talking about a laptop?

Much too simple. 8)

Although, you have a point. What about a tablet PC with attachable keyboard?
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Postposted on Sat Dec 16, 2006 7:09 pm

Kevin wrote:The Sony VAIO UX is pretty damn small. I use an older version at work for this personal navigation system I'm working on. They are pretty cool (although expensive). The version I have has a separate keyboard that you plug in, but this one's screen moves up like some of the newer cell phones.

So if you want as small as possible but still feature rich, I can't think of much that would be smaller.


Perfect! Thats almost exactly what I was thinking of! The price is really really high, but still, that's what I was looking for.
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Postposted on Sat Dec 16, 2006 8:24 pm

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Postposted on Sat Dec 16, 2006 10:01 pm

Wajo wrote:What about an OQO 01+ ?

http://www.dynamism.com/oqo/main.shtml


This one looks even better! It has a thumb pointy thingy (sorta like the ones on laptops) and a stylus, runs XP, is smaller/lighter, and is cheaper!

thanks for the suggestions guys! it looks like there's already a few devices that will fit my needs. Now if I can just get the money...
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Postposted on Tue Dec 19, 2006 9:49 pm

I would recommend this also from dynamism. I'm thinking of getting one myself.

http://www.dynamism.com/sl-c3000/main.shtml

A buddy of mine has the 1000 verson one with out the hard drive and it is pretty slick. Its cheaper than the OQO 01+ and probably has better battery life. You would have to buy a card for wifi.

The only thing is that it doesnt run windows, but I think there should be some emulators avaliable somewhere to run the roms on linux.

Not as slick as making a mini pc.

Also another friend of mine was able to get rom emulators working on his psp. Apparently you need to get a psp with an older firmware to do it. If you are not so hung up on wifi, this would be the cheapest way to go. It would be the hardest to work with least user friendly thanks to Sony but the PSP does have the nicest portable screen Ive seen.

Tell us what you decide on.
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Postposted on Sat Mar 17, 2007 1:23 am

I had an idea for a similar project as well. I was going to strip down a laptop and just use the touchpad for input and have an onscreen keyboard. course Lcd's I see are pretty expensive (600 bucks).
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