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Ah the sweet sound of silence.
Of course the H3-R's claim to fame is its completely fanless nature. Simply a lack of fan noise doesn't necessarily make a system completely silent though as there are other noise generators like coil whine from the voltage regulation circuitry or even the AC/DC power adapter itself. Thankfully the H3-R suffered from none of these problems. We were unable to detect whether with our mic or our ears, anything in the audible spectrum. With the system running inside our anechoic chamber measured 10~11 [email protected], the same as the noise floor.
Boot and WiFi Performance
In operation the system was incredibly snappy thanks to the Intel 510 SSD in our sample configuration. After optimizing the BIOS for swift booting, the system reached the "Starting Windows" screen in just 7 seconds, and took a grand total of 21 seconds to fully load the Windows desktop with all its shortcuts and system tray icons.
The included USB WiFi adapter was unimpressive, managing an average speed of only 9.4 mbps when transferring a large file over our 802.11g network with the router 25~30 feet away with one wall in-between. This is about half the speed we typically get with 802.11g devices. High definition video, even 720p, often exceeds this limit so this simply doesn't cut it for a true media PC.
The Aleutia bills the H3-R as "rugged fanless media PC" which is a technically accurate description. Being a seven pound tank of steel with numerous aluminum fins, it is of course quite sturdy. The same enclosure bestows it with fanless operation, with heatpipes on the interior piping heat to the heatsinks on the exterior for dissipation into the surrounding air. The hardware can handle any type of media playback you can throw at it except those old fashioned round shiny discs as it lacks an optical drive. It's also very energy efficient, drawing just 15W AC from the wall when idling and 22W when playing high definition video.
The utilitarian design of the case mirrors the overall experience. Though described as a media PC, it doesn't have any of the usual amenities, just the ability to play media and output it to a big screen. It lacks a remote, wireless keyboard/mouse, LCD display, the aforementioned optical drive, and software (it's an almost bare Windows installation). It doesn't have integrated WiFi either and the included 802.11g USB adapter is not fast enough to keep up with most 1080p video. You can outfit it with third party peripherals and software to make a more enjoyable HTPC experience, but it's a shame to have to spend more money on an already expensive PC.
Part of what you're paying extra for is a 35W Sandy Bridge processor, in our case, the highly coveted Core i5-2390T. Unfortunately the enclosure wasn't quite good enough to handle the resulting heat with all applications. When stressed by HandBrake video transcoder, the system couldn't stay sufficiently cool, forcing the CPU to slow down to alleviate the heat. The i5-2390T throttled less when we used MediaEspresso with Intel's Quick Sync encoding feature, but still enough to annoy us. Only during less demanding work like audio encoding would the processor work at its expected speed for long periods of time. Also keep in mind that we conducted our tests in a 24°C environment, six degrees cooler than the environmental threshold claimed by Aleutia. It will fare even worse in areas close to the equator.
In the end, we can't recommend the Core i5-2390T equipped H3-R. It doesn't take a lot of horsepower to be a capable media PC, so presumably a Sandy Bridge based system would be used for more strenuous tasks like encoding video, especially given the Quick Sync feature included in the current generation of Intel Core i3's and up. That unfortunately doesn't mesh with overheating and an inability to sustain advertised speeds. It's unfair that such a pricey system can't be taxed to its limit without caveat, fanless or no. Depending on your usage pattern this may be completely acceptable, though if that were the case the cheaper TurboBoost-less Core i3-2100T would be a better choice.
Our thanks to Aleutia for the H3-R fanless media PC sample.
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this article in the SPCR forums.
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