mCubed's HFX mini: Fanless HTPC "heatsink case"

Cases|Damping
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October 16, 2006 by Christoph Derndorfer

Product
HFX mini
Manufacturer
mCubed
Selling Price
€899 (HFX mini bundle); €335 (HFX mini heatsink case)

mCubed has been offering fanless, DIY heatpipe/heatsink cooled cases for home theater PC since the spring of 2005. The term they use for these cases is "heatsink case", which seems appropriate. It is the same basic approach to quiet cooling as Hush, Mappit, Niveus Media, and Zalman TNN: Passive cooling with massive external heatsinks coupled to heat sources in the system by means of heatpipes. The original, called HFX Classic, is a fairly large audio/video style aluminum case designed for use with an ATX motherboard with full height PCI slots.

The HFX mini is a new heatsink case for lower power processors combining silent technologies with power saving features and connectivity for audio and video devices. Compared to most HTPC cases, the HFX mini is very slim with a height of only 9cm to blend well with other A/V components. The HFX Classic, in contrast, is both taller (14.5cm) and deeper (45cm vs 38cm) with the same width (43cm). Surprisingly, thje HFX mini can still handle an ATX motherboard.

The elegant design hides a slot-loading DVD drive, VFD and IR behind a highly polished acrylic front. An external power supply is utilized for highest efficiency and minmal heat inside the box. The HFX mini has enough space for ATX or micro-ATX motherboard, 3 HDDs, 1 Slot-In DVD, 1 VFD with IR and 3 expansion slot cards with riser cards.


Sleeker and more stylish than the original.

OUR SAMPLE

mCubed chose to submit a complete system for review. The sample came with the following components:

HFX mini sample configuration
Motherboard
AOpen i945GTm-VHL
CPU
Intel Core Duo T2300 1.66 GHz
CPU Cooling
HFX mini heatpipe
RAM
2 x 1GB DDR2 667MHz SO-DIMM CL5
Case
HFX mini (black)
Power Supply
mCubed EF28 external power brick
Hard Drive
Samsung HD300LJ (300GB, 7200RPM)
SP2504C (250GB, 7200RPM)
[RAID 0]
CD/DVD-RW
PIONEER Slim Slot-In DVD-RW DVR-K06
Video Card
onboard i945GT
Sound Card
Soundblaster X-Fi Elite Pro
TV Card
Hauppauge Win-TV PVR-150 (with Video-In via SCART)
VFD
iMON with integrated remote-control
Operating System
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2006
Media-Software
MediaPortal (includes a free EPG)

Just looking at the specifications shows that mCubed is aiming the HFX mini directly at the HTPC market. By including a top-notch soundcard, the all-famous Hauppauge TV-card, a reasonable amount of mass-storage, a VFD with a remote control and a Media Desktop Interface, the review sample I received was a complete HTPC package.

But rather than just look at the features themselves we're obviously more interested in how well the HFX mini works in terms of being a fanless and silent system. Obviously with a fanless system you're basically left with two components responsible for noise: the hard-drives and the optical-drive. mCubed is claiming to take care of both of these factors with custom-made silencing solutions for these devices.

PACKAGING & CONTENTS

mCubed ships all of their system double boxed and so the sample in a huge parcel that contained the smaller box with the system shown on the photo above. Due to the enclosure's huge heatsinks the system weighs approximately 12kg. The box was well-padded with sturdy foam packing material and huge amounts of bubble-wrap. Inside I was greeted by the original box for the AOpen motherboard, the well-packaged external power-supply and the system.


Very well packed for transit.


mCubed's 280W external power-brick EF28:
120 or 240VAC input depending on where the order comes from.


The system came with a lot of accessories and goodies.


mCubed includes all of the bundled manuals and software/driver CDs that come with the motherboard, soundcard, etc.


The iMON remote-control and a small wireless keyboard were also included with the review sample.



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