mBox a gaming/living room/steambox PC for the living room or wherever!

So we (Moray Labs) have been working on a computer design for a while now, and I wanted to share a bit about it along with the CAD files and more.

mBox: the wooden prototype!

mBox: the wooden prototype!

CAD Rendering

mBox: CAD Rendering

First off some background. We have wanted to make an affordable/portable computer for a long time. We tried a number of small cases small motherboards and efficient processors over the years and never really have been happy. VIA had some really nice low power boards (I made few with them), ATOM based boards worked well for some stuff we did (see Drew’s Snowy Tech computers), and of course the raspberry Pi and other low end simple boards with ARM processors were fun. Unfortunately non could really be much more then a simple media players or emulators for classic games. So we decided to aim for a more mainstream x86 board design setup.

We had the following design requirements: 
-Power efficient, we did not want a wasteful energy hog.
-Luggable. We wanted to be able to take it easily to a friends house, like earlier gaming systems.
-Affordable. We wanted it to be less then $500, and be able to play modern games.
-Standards based. No exotic PSU or expensive motherboard. Easy to replace parts or upgrade them.
-As small as posable, and look good in a living room. Not some ugly beige box sitting next to your TV, but something that looks as good as or better then a DVD player or other game systems.
-Quiet! It had to be almost silent as I can not STAND loud computer and fan noises.
-Open source. We want to make and sell them, but we also want the community to be able to download and modify it.

So how did we come out? We were able to tic all the check marks with our design. I made a wooden prototype to test how the over all design and airflow work, and it has worked very well.
Here are the details of the prototype:
-For the main board I picked a miniITX, it is very standard now, and you can find some nice high end boards from Gigabit or Zoltech for very cheap.
-I went with a quad core Intel i3, before you scoff, it is extremely powerful and uses very little power. Tests show that an i5 or i7 are way more then 98% of games need (the board can handle an i7 if you wanted to upgrade).
-It supports a dedicated video card. I originally wanted to go with the AMD A10 with a very nice on chip video card, but it was just not quite good enough. It also created a decent amount of heat. For the time being I went with a AMD Radeon 7xxx series card. The wood prototype supports a single width full hight card, but the download files have been expanded to hold a 2x width card. The video card has it’s own, isolated vent hole to exit its hot air.
-It uses a standard ATX PSU above the motherboard. Putting it above the board allows it not to need another case fan. The PSU pulls the air from the vents on the bottom sides and up and out the top back. I picked a nice LiteOn PSU with a big quiet fan.
-The top has a very nice, and usable handle. It also works great for holding a small wireless controller or mouse.
-It has 4 USB ports on the front for controllers or jump drives.
-Full access to all the standard ATX computer ports the motherboard has on the back.
-Audio jacks on the front as well.
-Works great in my living room! It is a very small footprint and fits nice right next to my tv on top of a speaker.
-Room for full size hard drives. It can take a 3.5″ drive, or two 2.5″ laptop drives. I stated with a 3.5″ and it worked well and had no heat issues, I later went to a 2.5″ SSD and 2.5 spinner drive, it works very well.
-Cool, and quiet. After almost a year, it has had no heat issues or gotten loud while playing a new game.

Here are some more detailed pictures:

Four USB ports and Audio jacks are easy to get too right on the front.

Four USB ports and Audio jacks are easy to get too right on the front.

Notice the vents on the side of CAD version.

Notice the vents on the side of CAD version.

 

Other side, note the vent hole for the video.

Other side, note the vent hole for the video.

Rendering of the back, note the PSU vent fins, and the mount for video card. The Purple plate is the mount for the motherboard.

Rendering of the back, note the PSU vent fins, and the mount for video card. The Purple plate is the mount for the motherboard.

FullSizeRender_3

 

Close up of the handle and you can also see the drive mounts inside on the left.

Close up of the handle and you can also see the drive mounts inside on the left.

PSU exit on the back, and simple handle/storage.

PSU exit on the back, and simple handle/storage.

Rendering of the back. Place for info sticker. Another vent, and ATX MB plate compatible.

Rendering of the back. Place for info sticker. Another vent, and ATX MB plate compatible.

Wedge! The shape of things to come!

Wedge! The shape of things to come!

Another angle of back. Note, inside drive mounts on left, and you can see a bit of the internal wifi antenna mounts on the front right.

Another angle of back. Note, inside drive mounts on left, and you can see a bit of the internal wifi antenna mounts on the front right.

Note the full size video card. The edges are a bit rough on this prototype.

Note the full size video card. The edges are a bit rough on this prototype. Antennas are outside in this model. Mounts are inside in CAD version.

Front again.

Front again.

Where to get one?
We are not manufacturing them yet, but would like to soon.  In the mean time, if you want to make your own, or play with the CAD files, check them out below.

Thingiverse

TinkerCAD

 

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