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was the very first PC vendor to partner with SPCR for certified silent PCs,
going back to the Model Eleven
in 2006. This Washington-state system integrator is a pioneer in silent computing,
and has remained active in the field for a decade. EPCN has produced both fan-cooled
and fanless systems with extremely low noise levels. Their latest submission
for SPCR certification is a fanless Intel Core system with no moving parts except
for an optical drive.
EPCN's Streacom FC9 Micro ATX Fanless PC is a horizontal desktop style
PC built, naturally, around the fanless Streacom FC9 chassis. We've reviewed
several Streacom fanless cases fairly recently (FC8
EVO, for example) so most SPCR should be familiar with this brand. The
Streacom cases feature heatpipes transferring CPU heat to heatsinks that act
as side panels in passive cooling systems. They are designed explicitly for
fanless operation. They are built to a price while not the most robust
or efficient heatsink cases, they work well enough, look good enough and are
priced modestly enough that they could become the defacto everyman's silent,
fanless case. The FC9 is one of the several Streacom variants with a big bank
of cooling fins on each side of its fairly low profile chassis.
EPCN's Streacom FC9 Micro ATX Fanless PC looks much like a classic
minimalist high end audio/video component product.
The rear view and the AC/DC adapter tells us otherwise. The adapter supplies
12VDC to a picoPSU
which powers the computer. This is a full-fledged modern PC with a wide
array of inputs and outputs.
The design goals for the EPCN Streacom FC9 Micro ATX Fanless PC
- Flawless HD Video, HTPC and General PC performance.
- Good cooling of all the components under a wide range of conditions up 30°C
SAMPLE SYSTEM DETAILS
Time now to consider the specifications of this fanless PC test sample:
This sample uses components that are a bit older than some of the other options
on the EPCN
Streacom FC9 Micro ATX Fanless PC page. The i3-2120T CPU is now two generations
old, with Ivy Bridge and Haswell (3rd & 4th generation) Intel Core CPUs
having appeared since Sandy Bridge.
The sample unit was prepared in mid-June, and the day that it shipped out to
SPCR was the day that Haswell chips and motherboards first arrived at EPCN.
Rather than delay another couple of weeks to prepare a new system with Haswell
parts, EPCN elected to send the Sandy Bridge sample. The EPCN Streacom FC9 Micro
ATX Fanless PC web page page reflects the new inventory changes, with the new
Asus H87I-PLUS socket 1150 motherboard and two 65W TDP Haswell CPU being the
new options. A system in the Streacom FC9 with the latter CPUs cannot be part
of this SPCR certification, as the TDP of the CPUs is too far above that of
the 35W TDP of the i3-2120T in the test sample.
EPCN reports that their experience so far with the 65W Haswell chips has been
problem free in the Streacom FC9 case, with load temperatures not significantly
higher than that obtained with the 35W Sandy Bridge parts. They are awaiting
delivery of 35W and 45W TDP Haswell parts for systems they intend to submit
for SPCR certification testing. That should be within the next few weeks.
The question in this system is how the thermal test results with a Sandy Bridge
35W TDP CPU compare with higher TDP CPUs. Does the case/cooling system have
enough headroom to handle the higher power/heat of the Haswells? The Haswell
chip has documented as running hotter than previous Core generations, due to
a higher base clock rates and the use of less-than-ideal thermal interface material
(TIM) under the heat spreader which covers the actual die. Another key differences
is that Haswell incorporates a voltage regulator within, integrating as many
as seven external voltage regulators in previous CPUs.
Peter Nickol, Chief System Designer at EPCN, says the integration of the voltage
regulator in the CPU is an advantage in fanless heatsink cases like the FC9.
"The CPU could run hotter as a result of the integrated VR, but the CPU
is always the easiest thing to cool as the case cooling system is optimized
for that. But board-mounted components take a real beating in fanless systems
because of the absence of airflow, which they generally need to stay running
cooler. With the VR off the board, motherboard longevity should improve quite
a bit, especially in low or no airflow cases like the FC9."
In any case, EPCN created a new product page specifically for the SPCR
Certified Silent version of the Streacom FC9 Fanless PC, with order
options limited to Sandy Bridge CPUs. A second sample with Haswell parts is
planned for SPCR certification soon.
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