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AMD's DTX PC design aims to bring small PCs to everyone

Hands on with AMD's new DTX PC design

AMD sent us a prototype of a DTX system a few weeks ago. DTX, if you'll recall, is the new small (SFF) PC standard AMD announced at this year's CES. True, there are indeed a few other existing SFF standards (micro-ATX, mini-ITX, etc.), but the idea of DTX is to create a spec for small, power-efficient PCs that's easy for parts manufacturers to build around. The goal is to allow the motherboard, chassis, power supply, and other vendors to retain many of their layouts for current ATX parts, thereby reducing manufacturing cost and making SFF PCs cheaper to build.

AMD's DTX prototype on left, Lenovo's mini-ITX ThinkCentre on the right. CNET

AMD has two designs for DTX motherboards and chassis, standard full DTX and smaller mini-DTX. We received a full-sized model, with a power-efficient Athlon 64 X2 BE-2350 CPU in it. Incidentally, that's the same CPU that came in Lenovo's new mini-ITX ThinkCentre A61e. Even if the AMD prototype was mini-DTX, it would still be larger than the Lenovo system, but mini-DTX would still give you two expansion slots, where the Lenovo design gives you nothing.

AMD's DTX system might be bigger, but it also offers expansion slots. The smaller mini-DTX version will offer expansion, as well. CNET

We put the DTX prototype and the Lenovo system side-by-side to show a visual comparison, but we have our doubts that the larger desktop makers like Dell, HP, and Lenovo will latch on to DTX, at least right away. Each of those vendors has its own internally-developed SFF PC, and moving over to a new assembly process takes time. We're more intrigued by what DTX might mean for smaller vendors, as well as the DIY crowd. If easier manufacturing means that the DTX hardware ecosystem will be cheaper than the micro-ATX and mini-ITX alternatives, it's easy to imagine DTX taking off. The usual collection of component manufacturers like Asus, Gigabyte, ThermalTake, Shuttle, MSI, Foxconn, and others have announced various DTX parts. The next question is how much parts will cost when they come to market.