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THERMAL / POWER MEASUREMENTS
One of the goals for this system was to reduce energy consumption to a minimum, because it is generally left on 24/7. At some point along the way, the old Athlon XP system's AC power consumption was checked and found to be a shockingly high 94W in idle. Maximum CPU/GPU load put it up to 132W, but this was not relevant, because such a task was never asked of the PC. The highest power draw probably occurred when downloading large files or transferring them to/from other PCs on the network, which means AC power would rarely jump more than maybe 10~15W above idle.
The SMPPC, in contrast, with Cool'n'Quiet engaged, runs at a paltry 29W. This is with a 65W TDP processor. At maximum CPU / GPU load it pulls about 90W, and early in the boot process, a peak of ~80W is seen. When a web browser is actively used along with Dreamweaver and Photoshop, the power typically varies 29W~65W, usually staying under 50W.
The CPU temperature typically hovers around 30° C. The only other temperature readout that makes any sense is usually 32~33° C, and this is probably the chipset. After nearly an hour at full system load, the CPU temperature reached 50° C. This is very cool performance. There is no indication of the Intel SSD temperature, but it feels cool to touch, and the power adapter strapped in the case also feels only lukewarm at any time.
The performance boost over the old system it replace is sometimes noticeable, but not really as obvious as you might expect with most applications. With the faster, dual core CPU and the Intel SSD, opening programs like Photoshop is much quicker, of course, but because we're mostly dealing with optimizing photos for the web, the file sizes are small and there's little advantage once the program is actually being used.
For the mod-leaning reader, the most interesting aspect of this article might be the realignment of the nMedia Icetank heatsink's fins. This is most interesting for DIYers trying to silence mini-ITX systems in small breadbox style cases where the optical bay intrudes into the air space over the CPU. There are few heatsinks which use L-shaped heatpipes to position the cooling fins directly in front of the rear panel exhaust fan. (One of the few that does, btw, is the Silverstone NT01E, but it may not position the fins far enough from the CPU to be that useful on many motherboards.)
As mentioned earlier, the nMedia Icetank was modified for use originally in the much smaller Antec NSK1380 case. In the roomier Silverstone TJ08, several other heatsinks could have been used. I refer to popular widely-spaced fin heatsink towers such as the Scythe Ninja 2, Thermalright HR-01 Plus, Xigmatek HDT-S1283, or Prolima Megahalems. The single fan could also be mounted directly on the CPU heatsink instead of on the back panel; the end result would be similar. With the right heatsink, given the wide open vents in the case, it may be possible to run safely without any fan. However, the single silent fan is good insurance against mishaps and the long-term stress of higher component temperatures.
All in all, the SMPPC is a successful lab PC replacement for SPCR. Its silence, much improved energy efficiency, and faster speed are all welcome. Hopefully it will last seven years like its predecessor.
Our thanks for Silverstone, Intel, AMD, Corsair, Seagate, Mini-Box, MSI, nMedia, and QNAP for the various components used for this project.
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Articles about fanless and otherwise silent store-bought systems:
mCubed HFX Micro S13 system: Atom 330, Silenced
Apple's 24" iMac: There's more to High End than Performance
Puget Custom Pentium-M Rig: A Silent WC System
Fanless Ultra Powerhouse PC (TNN 500) by EndPCNoise
Hush ATX PC
DIY fanless systems:
'Rebellious' Silverstone TJ08 system
Bill's Recycled, Fanless, Silent Woodbox Computer
Fanless Heatpipe Cooled System by FMAH
Silent PC with No Moving Parts
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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.
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