Mappit A4F: A Truly Silent PC

Complete|Mobile Systems
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February 18, 2004 by Mike Chin

Product
Mappit A4F Fanless PC System
Manufacturer
Mappit Computer & Kassen
Distributor
Ramlow Design
Price
US$1058 (direct from Ramlow Design)

The Mappit A4F is another Mini-ITX based PC. Specifically, the VIA EPIA M10000, a board reviewed last year here at SPCR. Ho hum, some of you might say. It's true that once you've seen and understand the VIA board, there's really not that much more to say about systems based on it. Everything is pretty much integrated in the board, so there's not much variation in performance or features. I was beginning to feel this way after looking at and examining a slew of M-ITX systems. Such were my thoughts about the Mappit A4F.

You know I am going to say I was wrong, right?

Yes, but a bit of background: Mappit is a German system builder whose all-German language web site suggests they do little outside of Germany. Ramlow Design is an Australian company with a German principal. Ramlow is the international distributor for Mappit. They are the ones who do business on behalf of Mappit outside Germany. Mr. Ramlow emailed me late last year with this description of the Mappit A4F :

It is the most quiet computer system available as per test of one of the leading German computer magazines. Would you be interested in a review of the Mappit A4F? This system is available in a small desktop version, which has almost the size of an A4 sheet, and in a 19"-1U rackmount version. Further the computer is available with a DC power supply that operates on an input range from 10 to 42 volts. The standard AC and the optional DC power supply are both internal!

Some weeks later, after an exchange of several emails, a sample of the Mappit A4F arrived at my lab, in a small, plain but suitably sturdy carton. Here's what the Mappit A4F looks like.

It looks a bit like the Hush M-ITX PC, doesn't it? Yes, but it is smaller. A lot smaller. Consider the size of those ports. To give you some perspective, the Hush M-ITX is a 7.4 liter box. The recently reviewed Shuttle Zen XPC and the AOpen XC Cube are 9 liters and 11 liters, respectively. The Mappit A4F is just 3.8 liters.

The above photo may not give you a good sense of its real size. Here's another gander, next to a typical mouse.

The overall look and feel of the machine is solid but slightly rough. Round headed screws instead of flush ones, very slight gaps and rough spots in fit and finish, cheap little rubber feet, and so on. It's hard to compare it to something like the Hush M-ITX PC, which is so much more polished yet priced about the same. But the power button feels and looks solid, and the whole machine can be picked up and shaken without the tiniest little rattle. Beauty is as beauty does?

The specifications for this machine are as follows.

Mappit A4F Specifications
Enclosure
- anodized aluminium, completely closed (apart from I/O ports)
- no fans, no ventilation openings
Dimensions
- 315 x 200 x 60mm (W x D x H)
Power Supply
- 65 Watt
- Input Range 100-240V 50/60Hz
Weight
- 3kg
Power Consumption
- ca. 35W (256MB RAM, 40GB HDD)
- no stand-by consumption
Processor
- VIA C3/EDEN EBGA processor 600 to 1000MHz
Chipset
- VIA CLE266 North Bridge
- VT8235 South Bridge
Memory
- one DDR266 DIMM socket
- expandable up to 1GB
Video
- integrated VIA CastleRock AGP graphics card with MPEG-2 decoder
Hard Drive
- 2.5inch space up to 16mm height
Onboard IDE
- 2x UltraDMA 133/100/66 Connector
Onboard LAN
- VIA VT6103 10/100 Base-T Ethernet PHY
Onboard Audio
- VIA VT1616 AC'97 Codec 6 channel
Onboard TV Out
- VIA VT1622 TV Out
Onboard 1394
- VIA VT6307S IEEE 1394 Firewire
Connectors on front panel
- 2x USB 2.0 ports
- 2x IEEE1394 Firewire ports
Connectors on back panel
- 1x PS/2 mouse port, 1x PS/2 keyboard port
- 1x parallel port, 1x serial port
- 1x RJ45 LAN port
- 2x USB 2.0 port
- 1x VGA port
- 1x RCA port (SPDIF or TV OUT), 1x S-Video port
- 3x audio ports (line-out, line-in, mic-in) switchable to 5.1 Surround Sound

Rather than drag you through another explanation of the VIA EPIA M10000, I refer you to the linked review of the integrated board. Just a few key features to point out, starting from the top of the above list and moving down:

  • The case is all aluminum with no vent openings whatsoever
  • It is completely fanless.
  • The power supply is internal and universal voltage. (No brick PSU, no VAC switch.)
  • A notebook drive is used.
  • There is no optical drive, which means an external one must be used to access CDs.
  • The review sample came with 256 MB of DDR SDRAM and a 40G HDD.


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