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Test system idle at 1m.
Given that there was only one component in our system with moving parts, a single 1.5TB Caviar Green hard drive, the machine was almost silent when idle. It measured only 13 dBA@1m and had a slight hum audible at closer distances.
Test system seeking at 1m.
However, when we induced seeking activity using HD Tune's random access test, the noise level increased to 24~25 dBA@1m. The thumping of the hard drive was clearly audible and incredibly distracting. Seeking with the drive's AAM setting at minimum brought it down by 4~5 dB but it was still fairly loud. The WD Green drives are noisier during seek than in idle, but when tested by themselves, they do not exhibit this kind of increase in noise during seek. We conjecture that the large top and bottom panels may be vibrating in sympathy with the seeking drive. The rubber grommets used to isolate the drive may not be soft enough for effectively mechanical decoupling. Excitation of air resonance in the case could also be a factor.
You should note, however, that audible as HD Tune's random access test is here, the test is hardly representative of typical HDD seek. It would have to be an immensely large file read/write for any drive to work at this intense level of seek activity.
These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
The HDPLEX H10 is designed to cool a home theater style system without the use of active cooling and in this role, it is definitely a success. The case can fit a pair of hard drives for filling up with downloaded or ripped content, a full-sized optical drive for playing DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and supports a full height single-slot PCI-E expansion card via a riser card, perfect for a low-end graphics card for gaming or perhaps a sophisticated HD tuner card.
The heatpipe cooling system does a good job at fanlessly dissipating the heat of the sample system's processor. We would not recommend using a chip with a TDP of more than 95W, at least not if you plan to push the CPU as hard as we do in our torture tests. However, for general HTPC use (rather than for lab torture testing), a hotter CPU should work fine as long as you're not trying to encode hours of HD video in a single session during a summer heat wave.
Fundamentally the H10 case works, the workmanship seems good, and it looks pretty sexy, but we have some quibbles:
- The aluminum fins on one side of the case have no purpose except for making the case look symmetrical; it's a lot of wasted material that has to add to the price-tag. OK, maybe the AC/DC adapter gets the benefit of some cooling by being pressed up against it.
- There are no ports on the front panel. We imagine it would be a pain to reach around the back of it to plug in a USB device.
- There is the issue of loud hard drive seeks, but given the size of the case, perhaps there isn't a lot that can be done about it. We'd love to see a suspension system in every case, but that simply isn't realistic.
- By far our biggest issue with the H10 is its size. While quite slim, it has a very big footprint, far larger than necessary in our opinion. It could be slimmed down with a few simple changes:
- Take the AC power adapter and make it external rather than internal to save space on the left side.
- Ditch the full-sized optical drive for a slim one. A more expensive option, but this would allow you to place an existing hard drive mount underneath sideways, reducing both the width and depth of the chassis.
- Make the case taller and hang some components above the motherboard to reduce the depth. Thin is good, but does anyone need an almost silent rackmount case?
Here are some comments by Larry Liu, the principal of HDPLEX, concerning our quibbles and about HDPLEX cases in general.
- "Thick front panel and no I/O ports is my aesthetic preference. Blame my sense of minimalism. But on the H5 and H3 series, there is one USB 3.0/2.0 port.
- "H10.ODD is indeed very deep. We debated this a lot. We originally thought about mATX + slim ODD solution for H10.ODD. But since we already have the H5.SODD for mini-ITX + Slim ODD, why not go all the way with H10 to accommodate 5.25" ODD + 24x24 cm mATX board? Otherwise, we would not have a product for mATX + 5.25" ODD. If customers want a shorter case, the H5.SODD or even H3.SODD are there for them, and mini-ITX mobo is so popular now. MicroATX + slim ODD is a compromise which might not be received well by customers on either side of the spectrum.
- "The width is due to 3.5" HDD placement with 5.25" ODD in the middle. The 3.5" drive is almost touching the side panel at current width.
- "The heatsink is used more when the user chooses the 80W internal open frame PSU. [Available from HDPLEX.] That PSU needs the left side panel to dissipate heat. For picoPSU users, the left side heatsinks are purely for aesthetics."
The H10 is listed on HDPLEX's site at US$258. Compared to similar products from HFX, it is certainly competitive in price, and its cooling hardware seems better thought out. If you love the slim minimalist approach and don't mind the large footprint, it is certainly worth considering to slip into the shelf under your big screen TV. If like us, you would prefer a smaller case, the $248 HDPLEX H5.ODD appears to be nearly everything that the H10 is, in a smaller mini-ITX format.
Our thanks to HDPLEX for the H10 fanless case sample.
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mCubed's HFX mini: Fanless HTPC "heatsink case"
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this article in the SPCR Forums.
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