Streacom FC5 OD Fanless HTPC Case

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There's really only one way of testing a "heatsink case": Assemble an appropriate system in it with a thermal signature that's as high as recommended, then run stress tests to see whether it cools well enough.

The first task was to scan through the list of compatible motherboard and identity one that's here in the lab, with a suitable 65W TDP processor. Streacom's Motherboard Compatibility List looks promising at first, as motherboards from many brands are listed. Alas, despite the long lists, it was a challenge to find a board and CPU that was suitable. I was hoping to use a newish socket 1155 Intel mini-ITX board (like the Asus P8H67-I Deluxe in the HDPLEX H3.ODD shown on the previous page) with a Sandy Bridge i3 or i5 processor, but virtually none of these types of boards were compatible with the Streacom FC5. The issue is that all of those boards position the CPU socket further to the left, and feature components on the right that would interfere with heatpipes.

In the end, an Intel DH67-BL micro-ATX motherboard was chosen. This boards has no ports on the right side of the CPU socket, which is quite close to that edge, and all the board components on that side are low.

The chosen components:

Assembly is not difficult, but in order to avoid getting thermal interface material (TIM or messy goop) all over your fingers and on the components, you do need to plan ahead and think the assembly procedure through. The PDF instructions are pretty good.

  1. Step one is to install the CPU in place, and mount the bottom portion of the main CPU "evaporator block" atop the CPU. (If this terminology confuses you, see Thermacore's notes on heatpipe technology.)
  2. Slip the heatpipes on the "condensor blocks" for a dry run to ensure fit.
  3. Apply TIM on the heatpipes in the condensor blocks, align them, then secure them to the inside wall of the heatsink. Don't tighten everything all the way yet.
  4. After ensuring good fit of the heatpipes on the evaporator block as well, apply TIM there, then secure the top half of the evaporator block.
  5. Now tighten up all the screws.

The three condensor blocks clamp one end of the heatpipes to the heatsink; the condensor block clamps the other end to the CPU. It is all made of aluminum rather than copper. Some of you may recall that the Zalman TNN fanless cases had far more robust heatpipe cooling hardware using big blocks of copper... but they were a lot pricier, and they were meant to cool much hotter CPU and GPU components.

The round nuts have adhesive to stick them on the underside of the motherboard, and screws to the nuts secure the evaporator block atop the CPU. This is clumsy, the adhesive doesn't stick well, and the round nuts spin. A one-piece back plate like the kind used by so many aftermarket heatsink makers would be much better. The screws are small, too, and don't inspire confidence, though they work.

Here's a condensor block with heatpipe ends inserted from one end. The grooves are like tubular tunnels with an open strip which allows part of the copper heatpipe to make contact with the heatsink directly.

Dry run on one side.

The TIM got a little messy; it takes less than you'd think, because it spreads out when parts are screwed and compressed together. The heatpipe farthest left needed slight bending to fit properly.

Cooling system installation finished.

Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB drive mounted on the far left, back corner, over the bottom vents.

Power Problems

There was a problem with the lone picoPSU in the lab that could not be resolved, so an alternative had to be found. Nothing small enough to fit into the case was readily available, so improvisation was required.

A picoPSU, the recommended power solution, adds virtually no heat to the case, as it's highly efficient, and all the real heat-producing conversion of AC to DC is done outside the case, in an AC/DC adapter. So I decided to run cables from a conventional ATX12V power supply through the opening for the horizontal add-on card slot. A fanless Seasonic X-460 was used.

Not pretty, but The Seasonic X-460 provided power, and the cover to the case could be installed.

With physical installation completed, Windows 7 64-bit was installed as the OS, all the drivers, updates and other software fixes were done. Time now for thermal testing.

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