Gateway EC1803h: Netbook or Ultra-portable?

Complete|Mobile Systems
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Noise & Heat

System Noise @ 0.6m*
Time
AC
Battery
Idle
24 dBA
20 dBA
Xvid Playback
26 dBA
24 dBA
x264 Playback
29 dBA
27 dBA
Full Load
29 dBA
29 dBA
Ambient temperature: 23°C.
*0.6m is the approximate distance of the ISO 7779 defined seated operator distance for SPL measurements. The usual 1m distance is not relevant for a notebook PC.

The noise level of the EC1803h was a tad high for our liking, especially when running on AC. At 24 dBA idle, its overall noise level was about the same as the 1005HA, but the fan had a harsher sound to it. It's clearly audible in a quiet room, especially at the typical distance one would sit from a laptop. When running on battery power, it became a lot quieter, 20 dBA according to our sound meter. It was inconspicuous at this level.

As temperatures rose, the fan ramped up more quickly when plugged into the wall. During Xvid playback, even though the CPU temperature was still under 50°C, the fan sped up enough to generate 26 dBA. The fan speed topped out during x264 playback and full load after the temperature past 55°C or so. The measured noise level was a fairly loud 29 dBA. Using Acer's Smartfan utility, we managed to reduce the fan speed o the same level it normally uses when idling on battery power (20 dBA@0.6m), resulting in a 10°C increase in CPU temperature.

The temperatures on the underside of the EC1803h were fairly low when we left the fan control settings alone. Using a spot thermometer, it measured 25~30°C on the edges, and 30~35°C near the center with the single hottest point hitting 37°C during x264 playback. When the fan speed was cut to generate 20 dBA@0.6m, the temperatures increased by 5~10°C, which was warm, but not uncomfortably so.

Acer's Smartfan utility has the ability to turn the fan completely off. At room temperature, with the fan off, the CPU temperature did not exceed 50°C when we performed only simple tasks like surfing the web.


EC1803h with the fan off results in a SPL reading of 18 dBA@0.6m (blue). Ambient noise was 11 dBA (red).


EC1803h idling on AC power at 24 dBA@0.6m (blue). Ambient noise in red.

Smartfan

Smartfan, an Acer utility, also works on the Gateway EC1803h, though it is not officially supported. It was originally intended for the Aspire One netbook. It provides some useful information, including a battery life indicator that can be set to run down the side of the screen, as well as temperatures and SMART attributes.


Smartfan interface.

None of the fan control options are properly configured for the EC1803h, however. Every settings except Auto resulted in the fan turning off altogether.


Looking for fan register values.

Within Smartfan there is an application called "Fan modes finder" which allows users to experiment with the fan register values. Play with it long enough and you might stumble upon a few that work. They can then be configured as a new Smartfan mode and made part of a fan control scheme which varies the modes depending on the temperature. We were only able to find one stable value in our short time with the EC1803h, "0x1A" which resulted in a lower fan speed generating about 20 dBA@0.6m.



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