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Legit Reviews tackles the Antec Sonata II

Computex '05: Mini AOpen

No, it's not a Mac Mini. It's AOpen's new Pentium-M based Mac Mini lookalike, codenamed Pandora. Unveiled at Computex 2005, this tiny product is yet another AOpen effort to take advantage of the powerful formerly mobile Intel CPU in the desktop space. A fully integrated system incorporating wireless LAN, the Pandora was brought to prototype form in just a month, according to Joseph Hsu, a Technical Manager at AOpen. It uses a single blower fan that turns on only when needed. The aluminum casing was warm but the fan was not running when these photos were taken in the hot tradeshow room. A pearl white enamel painted version was also shown at AOpen's private suite display. Look for a Sept market release date.

AOpen quiet-friendly innovations at Computex

AOpen will present the world’s first ATX Pentium M motherboard -- i915Ga-HFS -- at Computex Taipei 2005. Like their last mATX P-M board, i915GMm-HFS, it is based Intel's 915G/ICH6 desktop chipset. It's loaded: Gigabit Ethernet, 7.1-ch. High Def Audio, PCI Express x1 and x16 slots, and VGA, four SATA ports, DVI, S-Video, HDTV video outputs and SpeedStep. The new board features a socket 478 heatsink retention bracket, a welcome relief after the tiny non-standard HSF of the i915GMm-HFS.

AOpen also will unveil 945 chipset motherboards for Intel dual-core processors -- i945Ga-PLF and i945Pa-PLF -- that support the company's Power Master technology, which can work in conjunction with Speedstep to further reduce power consumption and heat when the system in idle.

SPCR turns 3 today.

It's our third birthday anniversary today. Well, give or take a few days. I recall telling someone back then that SPCR would probably dwindle down in about three years because by then, average computers would be quiet enough to make the site unnecessary.

Boy, was I ever wrong!

We've come a long way since then, and SPCR probably helped to shape the perceptions and perspective of both the users and makers of PC gear. Acoustics is paid at least lip service by just about every computer gear brand today, and there are so many more real choices for noise-conscious end users than could be fantasized three years ago.

But there's a long way to go before mainstream computers and components are built with benign acoustics as a primary design goal. And there is work to be done in creating a sound specification and reporting convention that is accurately reflective of human perception and understandable for everyone.

Anyway, wish us a happy birthday & raise a toast with us today.

PS -- For a bit of a laugh, look to the bottom of this internal news achive page to see what we were writing about at the beginning. Amazingly, not that much has changed.

Asus Adapter runs Pentium-M on S478 board

The ASUS CT-479 Adapter Kit pre-release news was hot a couple of weeks ago; Legit Reviews and Anandtech just posted complete reviews. It's compatible only with a few of Asus motherboards right now. There are some limitations but the idea is compelling, especially for just $50 if you already have a suitable Asus board. Anandtech said " the Asus solution effectively demolished all other desktop Pentium M solutions," although they failed to adequately appreciate the the P-M's performance in the context of its low noise and high energy efficiency in a desktop platform.

Seasonic PSU wins 1st "80 Plus" efficiency certification

Anyone who has read even a few articles at SPCR knows that we've encouraged high efficiency PSUs for a long time. Now, it looks like the PSU efficiency race has officially begun. 80 Plus in the US has a unique program to encourage and reward (with rebates) higher efficiency PSUs in IT gear. A Seasonic PSU has just been awarded the first 80 Plus certification.

The 80 Plus test is quite tough: Their standard calls for 80% or better efficiency at 20, 50 and 100% loads. It's the 20% load test that's the challenge; for lower rated PSUs, this means high efficiency at very low power, which is usually difficult. Surprisingly, the newly certified 80 Plus PSU is the Seasonic SS-400HT APFC, a 400W model, which means it reached 80% efficiency at just 80W load. Seasonic says the newly released S12-500 and S12-600 retail models are, in fact, the higher power models of this 80 Plus qualifying PSU. Download the 80 Plus press release (a PDF).

Interestingly, SPCR's PS Fundamentals & Recommendations article is linked on the 80 Plus consumer techical info page.

A64 Winchester Vs. Pentium M Dothan at GamePC

An excellent comparison between two 90nm core CPUs, arguably the most power efficient processors available today. Game PC's Battle at 90nm : Power Consumption and Performance Compared is particularly relevant in the context of the Pentium M Platform reviews we just posted.

c|net covers Computing's Silent Revolution

c|net news.com, one of the biggest mainstream tech web sites, posted a story today entitled Computing's silent revolution by staff writer David Becker It covers a lot of ground, and many major players in silent computing are featured or interviewed... including SPCR and yours truly.

Juha's PC Noise Insulation Case

Go to Juha's web siteOne of the most elaborate noise insulation case for a computer built by an enthusiast is explained in great detail with text and a bazillion photos on Juha's personal web page. As impressive as the case is, the author's final conclusions are telling: The system still makes noise. It suggests the system could be quieter still if more effort was put into making it quieter before enclosing it. (Suspending the HDDs, getting rid of the plastic fan mounts and using soft mouting for the fans, replacing the stock CPU cooler with something better, improving the overall case airflow, and so on.)

Antec's new P180: Ultimate Silent Case?

One of the most exciting things not to be shown at CES is a new case that will soon be coming from Antec. Rather than a booth at the CES, Antec have a hotel suite nearby where press and customers are invited for a private gander at new products. The P180, a big mid-tower case that's a bit shorter than the Silverstone TJ06, appears to feature everything a silent PC enthusiast or performance nut would want. It is also a great looker in the best minimalist tradition.

Biostar's unusual iDEQ 300G SFF PC

Biostar's new iDEQ 300G is based on the Intel 915G chipset. Low noise level is claimed for use in the living room. This SFF has a unique mechanical design for a new level of ease for the barebones buyer: Entire hardware installation in just two minutes. "Not a single screw is needed; the chassis can open upward together with the front panel, looks like a shark stretches out its big jaw." This comment is certainly worth a photo. Click on the next link...

Intel BTX releases analyzed by Anandtech

Intel finally released some BTX products today (ie, they will actually be on the market some time soon), and Anantech posted an article about the Intel BTX release. They compare an Intel 915G microBTX board in an AOpen B300 microBTX case against ATX and microATX systems using the same CPU. Anandtech finds the microBTX quieter (but they are comparing against very standard ATX solutions) but a bit hotter. An interesting opening round for BTX.

AOpen i855 desktop Pentium-M board reviewed!

GamePC publishes the first AOpen i855GMEm-LFS M-ATX motherboard and Pentium M review in North America, with a slew of benchmarks as might be expected from a web site of that name. No details on power dissipation, but enough thermal notes to show how coolly the combo runs. It also turns out to be a great gaming rig.

Anand's PC Industry Update from Taipei

An industry overview article by none other than Anantech's founder Anand Lal Shimpi. Subtitled Industry Update - Q4-2004: AMD adds SSE3 Support, Intel's 925/915 not selling and more, the focus is entirely on PC component makers, with whom Anand personally met "for three days straight, usually from 8AM until as late as 11PM every night." It's a good newsy piece with interesting insights and tidbits on many topics of interest to hardware development watchers.

mCubed T-Balancer: The Ultimate Fan Controller


mCubed offers a multiple fan control system called the T-Balancer which is sophisticated enough for even the most demanding users. The T-Balancer is a small microprocessor-controlled external hardware unit that can reside inside the PC and connects via USB. Control is via Windows-based software. We have had a model in the lab for weeks; in lieu of a full review, here's a quick preview. The feature set is so rich that only a few key elements can be touched on here:

  • 4 separate configurable fan output channels, each with independent tach signal output to mainboard
  • Accurate speed control in manual or automatic mode via editable response curves
  • Fans can be slowed to an absolute speed minimum of 2% depending on model
  • Adaptive PWM allows adjustment of frequency for every fan model, with analog smoothing and filtering for quiet smooth operation
  • Definable hysteresis allow smooth operation even at steep response curves, no "up and down"
  • 0 rpm possible: if temperature rises, the controller speeds up the fan according to the response curve
  • Up to 8 temperature sensors
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