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Advice for quality small computer?

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August 1, 2012 5:02:55 AM

I need several small computers for use in a kiosk environment. The kiosks get shipped around the country, and the computers that a local computer store builds for me keep falling apart in transit.

The computers should be reasonably small (MicroATX type case), and also need to have a total of 3 VGA ports.

The video cards don't need to be particularly powerful, but we do need 3. And no Atom/netbook processors.

Does anyone know a source for this kind of thing? Is there a maker online that makes something like this?

Thanks for any help.
August 1, 2012 2:27:05 PM

only issue I'd have with that build, troll, is the video card is just something else to fall out.

at the same time, I don't know any on-board that can handle more than 2 screens.

What's on these 4 kiosk screens, could two slim/small form factor PCs operate two screens each?

depending on what's being use, a system-on-chip very mini computer (like Raspberry Pi, or one of the similar, slightly beefer versions) might work well...no parts to fall out. although at one per kiosk screen
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August 1, 2012 2:32:18 PM

you can screw the cards in though or assemble it when it arrives at the destination

there are itx or like screwysqrl said, there are even smaller computers the size of the hand . just that running 3 monitors might be a struggle

check out zotac's zboxes. they have a e-350 chip (much better than atom) with decent graphics
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August 1, 2012 2:35:27 PM

Liberal use of silicon glue and zip ties should resolve any internal motion issues with expansion cards/slots.
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August 1, 2012 2:46:10 PM

I built recently a very nice computer around the Silverstone SST-SG05BB-450-USB3.0.

It comes with a very capable 450W single rail power supply. It can accomodates a dual slot video card up to 9 inches length.

For an itx motherboard, the Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe seem very solid and fully featured.

For the storage, because being shipped, i'd go with ssd unless you need a lot of storage space. You can easily find decent ssd for 0.80$ to 1.00$ per GB. It is more shock proof to mechanical drive.


PS: you say 3 vga. Do you mean 3 video port that can be DVI, Display port, hdmi, VGA, etc or do you mean specifically VGA port?
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August 1, 2012 2:53:35 PM

In theory, ivy bridge cpu's can handle 3 concurrent video outputs.
But, I don't know if there are any small motherboards that will support that.
Most of the time, the outputs are a mix of dvi, vga, hdmi to allow a selection of different monitor attachments.
If the monitors are all 3 vga, then I imagine that adapters can be used to handle the attachments.

For small size, I would look at a ITX motherboard.
You can put them in some really tiny cases like this Antec ISK-300(12.90" x 8.70" x 3.80") :
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If no suitable 3 output motherboard can be found, then it is easy enough to use a low profile graphics card.

As to transportability:
using a SSD would eliminate any hard drive mechanical failures.
Locking sata cables
backplate mount for the cpu cooler.
graphics cards are screw attached at one end, with a locking latch on the other. So, there should be no worries there.

What is the budget, and what does the pc need to do?
Are there any other peripherals required?
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August 1, 2012 6:28:23 PM

Are you trying to get 1 computer to do different things on each monitor are are you looking to get 1 computer hooked up to 3 monitors to show the same screen? A video splitter cable will do the 3 same monitor display.
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August 1, 2012 7:44:51 PM

Thanks for all the great info.

I'd prefer to have a company build the computers for me. Isn't there some reasonably high end PC maker out there, that builds computers to spec?

As far as the multi monitors, they're each displaying independent content so a splitter wouldn't do it.
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August 1, 2012 7:50:19 PM



ASRock A75M-ITX FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3): $90

AMD A4-3300 Llano 2.5GHz Socket FM1 65W Dual-Core APU: $55

You may run 1 monitor off the mobo d-sub analog, and one monitor off the HDMI digital. Install an inexpensive low-profile discreet card for monitor #3 (and #4 & #5 if you spend $70-$80 on an 'Eyefinity' discreet, and use an active displayport).

For another $200 or so you should be able to pull together an ITX case with power brick, SSD and RAMs ...


Edit:

How many do you want?

:p 

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August 1, 2012 7:51:25 PM

How many units are you looking at?

There are custom pc builders out there who will build one to your specs. If you are looking at a large number of units, I suggest you design and build a prototype first and evaluate it before comitting to a large number.
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August 1, 2012 8:01:28 PM

I just was thinking more about your problem.

Why not use a laptop?
They are somewhat rugged, and will come with a couple of video outputs. Probably two, but not three.
Since your displays will be static, you could handle them using a usb to vga video adapter. They are not expensive.
Something like this:
http://accellcables.com/products/computerCables/USBDVI/...
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August 9, 2012 7:08:58 PM

There's a lot of reasons why I don't want to use a laptop. A biggie is that when the kiosk receives power I want it to turn on, which laptops can't do. This is an industrial application and I want maximum reliability and simplicity.

The Matrox products are interesting but more of a hack.

I'm surprised this is so hard to find. The best option I've found so far is to use Mac Mini's, which seem to be built 1000x better than any other small PC's I've found, and install Windows on them.
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August 10, 2012 7:24:10 PM

I'm curious, how do you plan to output 3 vga from the Mac Mini? Using USB to VGA? Chaining on the Thunderbolt?
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August 10, 2012 9:01:13 PM

for the ridiculous pricing on Mac Minis, you can probly put 2 basic computers together, each feeding two monitors of the ones in your kiosks.

What exactly will these kiosks be doing?
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August 17, 2012 12:03:05 AM

Actually Mac Minis are really cheap. They start at $600, and loaded they're still only $800.

http://www.apple.com/macmini/specs.html

And the build quality is off the charts.

The last time I built a decently performing small computer it came to around $900 and it was vastly inferior in almost every respect, except that it had 3 DVI outputs.

It seems that the PC universe is really lagging behind Macs in terms of quality. I hope I'm wrong, but no one seems to be able to produce a link showing a PC manufacturer that can prove otherwise. And with the price of Macs falling so much this is really going to be a problem for the Windows universe I think.

And I should mention that I'm not a Mac user.

And as far as your other point, using 2 computers to do the same task is twice the liability and complication. Price isn't the main factor for me (in fact its pretty much not a factor at all), durability, reliability and simplicity are the only things I'm worried about. Well, that and being small and having the ability to run 3 monitors.
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August 17, 2012 12:17:54 AM

sorry, Macs are no better than Dell or Lenovo in build quality. they really aren't.

the starting mac mini is basically a $500 i5 notebook with half the ram and no screen.
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August 17, 2012 12:27:54 AM

ScrewySqrl said:
sorry, Macs are no better than Dell or Lenovo in build quality. they really aren't.

the starting mac mini is basically a $500 i5 notebook with half the ram and no screen.


Well, there's nothing wrong with an i5 notebook as far as I'm concerned. That's plenty of processing power, and beats the heck out of an Atom type thing.

I thoroughly disagree about any small Dell or Lenovo being comparable. The Minis are much smaller and about twice as powerful, and I don't think any small Dells or Lenovos even have dual monitor outputs. Though of course a link to the contrary would be invited, I'd love for you to be right.

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