VIA EPIA EN12000E: Today's most efficient CPU & mainboard

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TESTING

The EPIA EN12000E was tested for thermal performance and power consumption. The tests were done with the system in three states: Idle (in Windows), CPU Load (using CPUBurn), and Full load (using CPUBurn and ATI Tool simultaneously to stress both the CPU and graphics). CPU temperature was monitored using VIA's Flight Deck application, although SpeedFan was also capable of reading the thermal diode. System power was measured with a Seasonic Power Angel at the AC plug and does not include the power required by the monitor.

The rest of the components in the system:

  • 512 MB generic DDR2 533 MHz RAM
  • Seasonic Super Silencer 300 SS-300FS power supply
  • Fujitsu MHT2080BH: 80GB, 5,400 RPM SATA notebook drive

Throughout the testing, the only sources of noise were the hard drive and the power supply. For this reason, noise was not measured, as the board itself had no effect on the noise level of the system.

Ambient conditions during testing were 21°C and 121V @ 60 Hz.

VIA EPIA EN12000E: Thermal and Power Measurements
Activity State
CPU Temperature
AC Power Draw
Idle
26°C
28W
CPUBurn
35°C
33W
CPUBurn + ATI Tool
35°C
35W

The results of the test made the EN12000E look very, very good. The idle temperature was just 5°C above room ambient, and no wonder — the total system power was just 28W! We have never before managed to get any system to idle at less than 37W, even with a Pentium M with SpeedStep enabled.

Things did not change much under load. With the CPU under heavy stress, the system power increased by only 5 watts and the temperature by 9°C to top out at 35°C. Unfortunately, the thermal data is a little bit difficult to interpret, since the accuracy of the sensor and the thermal tolerance of the CPU is unknown. However, assuming reasonable accuracy in the Eden processor thermal sensor, a 35°C CPU temperature should have plenty of headroom as ~60°C is usually considered a reasonable target for mainstream processors. VIA C3 processors have been known to keep running indefinitely even without a heatsink.

IN-SYSTEM TESTING


The only usable intake vent is quite small...

Our open air test bench clearly did not present much of a challenge to the EPIA, so we decided to see how it did in more strenuous circumstances. An old Sereniti 2000 enclosure, one of the first designed specifically for Mini-ITX systems, was called into service. The Sereniti has terrible cooling airflow. Two tiny intake vents on either side of the case are the only sources of air, and airflow is expected to be generated by the power supply.

We weren't interested in using the stock power supply, which is loud and inefficient, so we were faced with a problem: How to fit a power supply into the tiny confines of the our chosen enclosure? We did not have any other power supplies of the same form factor as the original, but we did have a picoPSU, which was designed originally for mini-ITX. The picoPSU is a tiny DC-DC power supply that allows the system to be powered by an external power brick. As a bonus, it is both fanless and efficient.


An emergency cooling fan was installed where the original power supply was.

In addition to swapping the power supply for a picoPSU, we also took the opportunity to round out the system by adding a DVD drive — an essential addition for a home theater. When not in use, the power it consumes is negligible, but it could become a significant factor when spinning quickly.


The DVD drive was added for the system comparison.

VIA EPIA EN12000E: In-System Test
Activity State
CPU
System
AC Power
Idle
30°C
52°C
17W
CPUBurn
41°C
56°C
21W
CPUBurn + ATI Tool
44°C
59°C
24W

This time, SpeedFan 4.28 was used to monitor the temperatures, and — surprise! — an unknown thermal sensor suddenly showed up. Ordinarily, we do not monitor sensors when we do not know what they mean, but this sensor was special: It read much higher than the "CPU" temperature. We decided that it was worth paying attention to. Further investigation in the BIOS revealed a sensor labeled "System"; it seems reasonable that SpeedFan was reporting this sensor.

Even inside the poorly-ventilated Sereniti 2000 with no fans running, the EPIA was still quite cool, and perfectly stable to boot. Temperatures rose by about 5°C across the board: A tiny amount that is almost insignificant.

Unlike the open-air bench, there was a slight but significant difference between the CPU-only load and the full CPU/Graphics load. With the graphics load in play the CPU temperature went up 3°C — most likely because of an increase in the ambient air around it.

On the other hand, the AC Power dropped dramatically thanks entirely to the highly efficient PicoPSU. While the 28W idle from before was impressive, the 17W idle with the picoPSU more than doubled the power advantage over the previous best. At idle, this EPIA system required less than half the power of any other system we've measured.

The power consumption under load was even more impressive, topping out at just 24W — still much less than any other system at idle.



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