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 Post subject: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 8:53 pm 
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http://www.silentpcreview.com/Zotac_ZBOX_CI540_Nano


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 8:13 am 
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Thanks for the review. The C1320 with a Celeron N2930 is probably the better choice for this enclosure - 7.5W TDP vs the 11.5W of the i5. Should lower the stress temps to a non-throttled state.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 8:22 am 
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I inserted a link in Larry's review to this recent hardware article at Puget Systems -- yea, the SPCR certified silent PC seller, they do a very good hardware blog. Better than most HW review sites. Anyway, the piece looks at what happens to Intel CPU performance as temps climb past 100C.

Impact of Temperature on Intel CPU Performance
http://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articl ... mance-606/

In a nutshell:
Quote:
The results of our testing can pretty much be summarized with the following three points:

Modern Intel CPUs run at full speed (including the full Turbo Boost allowed based on the number of cores and workload) all the way up to 100 °C
Even after the CPU hits 100 °C, the performance is not greatly affected until the CPU spends about 20% of the time > 99 °C

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 3:41 pm 
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...followed by a paragraph on why you shouldn't subject the CPU to these high temps :D

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 5:29 pm 
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CA_Steve wrote:
...followed by a paragraph on why you shouldn't subject the CPU to these high temps :D

True enough, but it ends...
For the average system, our rule of thumb at Puget Systems is that the CPU should run around 80-85 °C when put under full load for an extended period of time. We have found that this gives the CPU plenty of thermal headroom, does not greatly impact the CPU's lifespan, and keeps the system rock stable without overdoing it on cooling. Lower temperatures are of course better (within reason) but if you want a target to aim for, 80-85 °C is what we generally recommend.
In TMPGEnc Video Encoding, which is likely the most demanding app a Nano user will run, CPU temp peaked at 81°C. The >90°C temps only occurred under more extreme tests.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 7:46 pm 
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I think you need to take it apart more to check if it has the plastic sheet thing still on there:

http://www.01net.com/images/produit/ful ... i540-4.jpg


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2014 8:43 pm 
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DAve_M wrote:
I think you need to take it apart more to check if it has the plastic sheet thing still on there:

http://www.01net.com/images/produit/ful ... i540-4.jpg

That's proven to be irrelevant -- the plastic was on the side opposite to the thermal path.
Quote:
Update 6/24/2014: After some controversy over the Net on the plastic film that we found on the thermal pad of our sample: Zotac Hong Kong has made ​​it clear that this oversight only concerns our sample test. According to our findings, the presence of the plastic film had no major impact on the stability of the machine, or the temperature of the processor (which has not changed after removing the plastic film). The reason is simple: the radiator which provides the vast majority of heat dissipation is below the thermal pad. This pad provides a residual dissipation with a thin aluminum whose role is minimal in terms of cooling plate. Moreover, for a passive cooled (no fan), an internal temperature of 80 ° C CPU load remains, we believe, all at reasonable.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:49 pm 
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Are there any mini PCs like this with the PSU fully inside the case? Passive or low noise active cooled.
Besides the model made by a certain fruity company, I mean.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 6:41 am 
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torp wrote:
Besides the model made by a certain fruity company, I mean.

Image

:?:

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 7:36 am 
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That's an old Mac Mini in your pic. They introduced a slimmer model in late 2012 that tossed out the ODD and internalized the power supply.

I don't know of any palm-sized PCs with internal PSU....you can drop down something like the ECS LIVA with dual core Baytrail CPU - it powers off of a wall wart via USB.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:38 pm 
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torp wrote:
Are there any mini PCs like this with the PSU fully inside the case? Passive or low noise active cooled.
Besides the model made by a certain fruity company, I mean.


Closest thing I've seen is a Dell FX160 thin client PC, there are folks converting these (doesn't take much effort) into low power desktops(super cheap and plentiful) for Linux and legacy XP boxes that I've seen. It has a 50-60W ac-dc adapter with a single 4-pin 12V molex type connector to the motherboard. Too bad they never applied that to a uSFF PC. You could probably do similar with a Q1900DC motherboard and one of these PSUs which go for about $8 or less. There's a small but really quiet fan on the HDD but with an SSD could be fanless (not even sure the HDD really needs it with the open case).


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 7:48 pm 
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CA_Steve wrote:
That's an old Mac Mini in your pic. They introduced a slimmer model in late 2012 that tossed out the ODD and internalized the power supply.

I don't know of any palm-sized PCs with internal PSU....you can drop down something like the ECS LIVA with dual core Baytrail CPU - it powers off of a wall wart via USB.

thx, steve. forgive me for that. i don't know, or care to keep up with apple's offerings. i mistakenly thought they still used a brick.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:50 pm 
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It's been reported by various owners that this line produces a very annoying high-frequency coil whine noise. Have you guys noticed any unusual noises from the unit or PSU brick?


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 4:02 pm 
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My sister's been running the i3 version (CI520) since June with Windows 8, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. I think it runs disappointingly hot, but it's been holding up well so far. She uses it with dual monitors writing papers, watching hulu/netflix, web surfing, and skyping. It's plenty fast enough.

It's made of sturdy plastic, but it doesn't have a premium feel to go with its high cost. I also don't like that there's no audio jacks on the back.


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 5:51 pm 
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wizziwig wrote:
It's been reported by various owners that this line produces a very annoying high-frequency coil whine noise. Have you guys noticed any unusual noises from the unit or PSU brick?

No noise noted. You know us, we'd be all over it if it whined!

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:33 pm 
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Invisiblemoose wrote:
My sister's been running the i3 version (CI520) since June with Windows 8, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. I think it runs disappointingly hot, but it's been holding up well so far.

I'd be tempted to velcro a low rpm, silent 120mm fan to the top :D

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:46 am 
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wizziwig wrote:
It's been reported by various owners that this line produces a very annoying high-frequency coil whine noise. Have you guys noticed any unusual noises from the unit or PSU brick?

I just booted one for the first time, and mine definitely has an annoying whine that I can hear from across the room (and my ears are 74 years old). It's coming from the unit not the PSU, as I also tested it with a NUC brick just to make sure.

I'm not sure whether to try to exchange it for a silent one (got it from Rakuten) or just get my money back. It certainly doesn't qualify for the "silent" that Zotac advertises.


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:58 am 
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Bummer that it happened to you - but thanks for reporting it here.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2014 11:50 am 
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hmsrolst wrote:
wizziwig wrote:
It's been reported by various owners that this line produces a very annoying high-frequency coil whine noise. Have you guys noticed any unusual noises from the unit or PSU brick?

I just booted one for the first time, and mine definitely has an annoying whine that I can hear from across the room (and my ears are 74 years old). It's coming from the unit not the PSU, as I also tested it with a NUC brick just to make sure.

I'm not sure whether to try to exchange it for a silent one (got it from Rakuten) or just get my money back. It certainly doesn't qualify for the "silent" that Zotac advertises.


As I posted before, this does not appear like an isolated incident. I saw several owners on a German forum complain about it on every model in the line: CI540, CI520, and CI320. It was even measured in a very technical magazine review as producing a 12 KHz tone that was audible at less than ~8 inches. I'm not sure why many are hearing it even farther away. Might be related to age since sensitivity to high-frequency sounds drops off as we get older. I can only hear such sounds from one ear now.

Disappointing that Zotac didn't use higher quality components on a unit specifically built for absolute silence.

Does the equipment used by SPCR to measure noise have enough range to pick such high frequencies?


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2014 12:28 pm 
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wizziwig wrote:
Does the equipment used by SPCR to measure noise have enough range to pick such high frequencies?

Absolutely, 20~20,000 within 1 dB, down to 10 dBA.

In our chamber, the overheard CFL bulb began to buzz a bit a while ago, and rather than go up and change it, we've taken to turning out the light and leaving the room when measuring. The noise shows up as a 3-4 dB spike at ~15kHz, iirc, but the noise floor at that freq is like -20 dBA! And we also have our hearing, which is still pretty good. ;)

I just finished installing the review sample as a 2nd PC on the back of my darling's monitor; she's been using just a laptop for some years but decided she wants the convenience of a big keyboard & screen again. Having worked with it to install Windows updates ad nauseum and all the other tasks that have to be done to synchronize 2 PCs, I have to repeat that we heard NO whining or other electronic noise from either the NANO itself or the power brick it came with. at any time, under any load.

And before someone suggests it was cherry picked for SPCR, it came in a standard retail package, factory sealed with no sign of tampering.

It could have been a production batch issue -- ie, ours may have come from a later production run where the problem component(s) were not present, whether by design or accident. In manufacturing, all kinds of minor changes are made constantly due to supply/availability issues -- and reliability/performance issues as they are discovered -- and a few component substitutions on the power portion of the PCB may have been enough to reduce or eliminate the electronic noise that seems to have affected many NANOs.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2014 6:24 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
wizziwig wrote:
Does the equipment used by SPCR to measure noise have enough range to pick such high frequencies?

Absolutely, 20~20,000 within 1 dB, down to 10 dBA.

In our chamber, the overheard CFL bulb began to buzz a bit a while ago, and rather than go up and change it, we've taken to turning out the light and leaving the room when measuring. The noise shows up as a 3-4 dB spike at ~15kHz, iirc, but the noise floor at that freq is like -20 dBA! And we also have our hearing, which is still pretty good. ;)

I just finished installing the review sample as a 2nd PC on the back of my darling's monitor; she's been using just a laptop for some years but decided she wants the convenience of a big keyboard & screen again. Having worked with it to install Windows updates ad nauseum and all the other tasks that have to be done to synchronize 2 PCs, I have to repeat that we heard NO whining or other electronic noise from either the NANO itself or the power brick it came with. at any time, under any load.

And before someone suggests it was cherry picked for SPCR, it came in a standard retail package, factory sealed with no sign of tampering.

It could have been a production batch issue -- ie, ours may have come from a later production run where the problem component(s) were not present, whether by design or accident. In manufacturing, all kinds of minor changes are made constantly due to supply/availability issues -- and reliability/performance issues as they are discovered -- and a few component substitutions on the power portion of the PCB may have been enough to reduce or eliminate the electronic noise that seems to have affected many NANOs.


Thanks for confirming. Given everything you posted above, I fully trust your results.

I agree that there is probably a bad batch of motherboards with this defect. They had another issue on this model where they forgot to remove the backing paper from the thermal tape that attaches the heatsink to the case:

http://www.fanlesstech.com/2014/06/zota ... l-pad.html

I just ordered a CI520 from Staples using some expiring reward cards. I will let you guys know when I receive it on Wednesday.

I'm new around here so hopefully I'm not breaking any rules by linking to another forum. Here is a German owner thread where a couple guys mentioned the noise. Use google translate.

http://www.hardwareluxx.de/community/f8 ... 48536.html

C't magazine review (unfortunately, they charge $ for the full ebook version):
http://www.heise.de/ct/ausgabe/2014-19- ... 95568.html


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 1:16 pm 
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wizziwig wrote:
They had another issue on this model where they forgot to remove the backing paper from the thermal tape that attaches the heatsink to the case:

http://www.fanlesstech.com/2014/06/zota ... l-pad.html

Actually, this turns out to have been "reviewer error": the plastic sheet was not on the side through which the heat transfer occurs. Go to the original site which reported this -- http://www.01net.com/fiche-produit/pris ... ano-ci540/ -- and you find the errata correction staTEment which I cited somewhere earlier in this thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:07 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
wizziwig wrote:
They had another issue on this model where they forgot to remove the backing paper from the thermal tape that attaches the heatsink to the case:

http://www.fanlesstech.com/2014/06/zota ... l-pad.html

Actually, this turns out to have been "reviewer error": the plastic sheet was not on the side through which the heat transfer occurs. Go to the original site which reported this -- http://www.01net.com/fiche-produit/pris ... ano-ci540/ -- and you find the errata correction staTEment which I cited somewhere earlier in this thread.


Well, Zotac supposedly admitted there was a problem with early batches and emailed the XBMC team a bunch of affected serial numbers. See here:
http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid ... pid1745943

In any case, I got my CI520 and ran some quick tests. For all intents and purposes, my unit is essentially silent. If you're within 4 inches of the case, you can hear a faint ticking sound similar to a 2.5" hard drive seek noise. Nobody is going to use the unit at such small distances and it's totally silent at any distance above that. My serial number is G1426xxx - most likely week 26 of 2014. If anyone experiences noise problems, please post your serial number.

I can confirm that it gets very hot. Running some demanding 1080i H.264 Blu-Ray concerts with motion-compensated deinterlacing enabled caused it to hit 79 C in openelec. My kill-a-watt showed 15W. When idling, it hit 46 C and about 6-7W. It was running from USB thumb drive with nothing else but 4GB RAM installed. Used ethernet only with wifi disabled.

While I accept that the CPU will probably be OK running at such high temperatures, I'm not so sure about the rest of the components on the motherboard. Can the wifi card take such abuse? What about an SSD? (mine is only rated up to 70 C).


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 3:42 pm 
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Quick update.

I was able to reproduce the audible coil whine noise on my unit after all. In my case, it started immediately when I plugged in a USB 3.0 Flash Drive into any of the USB ports. This noise occurs even when the device is powered off. Apparently the DC power regulator in the unit is generating this noise when it needs to supply power to the USB ports. Just a keyboard/mouse were not enough power draw to trigger it. I also noticed that the frequency of the noise changes depending on how many USB devices you have connected. When I connected a second USB drive, the noise got much quieter. I think this explains why there are mixed reports/reviews regarding this noise - it all depends on what you have connected.

Luckily for me, I won't be using any of the USB ports on this unit. If you require use of these ports for things like drives, I would pass on this device or hope that your combination of devices will not trigger the noise.

Maybe this is something SPCR can add to the checklist for future reviews.


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:27 am 
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Great find! Could you please try with an external HDD?

I was just about to buy the CI540 hoping that I won't get a dud, but I would like to use an external HDD connected to it.

With the second drive connected (I could connect one just for "silent operation" :lol:), how would you describe the noise, can it be heard from 2-3 m away?


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:08 am 
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CA_Steve wrote:
Thanks for the review. The C1320 with a Celeron N2930 is probably the better choice for this enclosure - 7.5W TDP vs the 11.5W of the i5. Should lower the stress temps to a non-throttled state.

C1320 reviewed at Anandtech. Thermals look good...however, BIOS bug doesn't let the system idle.

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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2015 10:26 pm 
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florinp3 wrote:
Great find! Could you please try with an external HDD?

I was just about to buy the CI540 hoping that I won't get a dud, but I would like to use an external HDD connected to it.

With the second drive connected (I could connect one just for "silent operation" :lol:), how would you describe the noise, can it be heard from 2-3 m away?


Sorry for late reply.

When I initially got my CI520, I only added RAM and a small SD card to boot OpenElec. Accessed all storage via ethernet. The whine noise was quiet enough to be ignored at typical viewing distance.

I recently installed an internal SSD and activated the internal wifi card. The coil whine noise increased significantly - to the point where I can hear it across the room.

So basically the noise level is very dependent on power draw. It will depend on what you have installed internally and externally via USB. The noise is very similar to what you get from some poor quality AC-DC adapters and chargers. If you've never heard noises from such devices, then you are probably immune and it won't bother you. It's very high frequency.

If I could return this box, I would. For anyone on the fence, I would stay clear of this thing. There is a review at newegg confirming the same noise. Seems to affect all 3 Intel models. (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6856173105).


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2015 3:21 am 
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FYI, the Newegg review doesn't add anything to this thread regarding how widespread the problem is, as it's mine and is about the same unit I complained about here.


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2015 10:04 am 
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hmsrolst wrote:
FYI, the Newegg review doesn't add anything to this thread regarding how widespread the problem is, as it's mine and is about the same unit I complained about here.


Good to know. Didn't realize it was you because you mentioned buying from Rakuten.

I guess someone needs to try contact Zotac for an RMA to see if they can send a silent unit. If replacement is also noisy, I guess we have our answer as to how widespread it is.


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 Post subject: Re: Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano Fanless Barebones Mini-PC
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 8:08 am 
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I bought the CI320 and did a small write up. No electronic noise, btw.

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1080p Gaming build: i5-4670K, Mugen 4, Asrock Z97 Anniversary, MSI GTX 1050 Ti Gaming, 8GB 1866 RAM, Samsung 860 Evo 500GB, Crucial MX100 256GB, WD Red 2TB, Samsung DVD burner, Fractal Define R4, Antec True Quiet 140 (2 front + rear) case fans, Seasonic SSR-550FX. 35W idle, 45-55W video streaming, 170-200W WoW, 318W stress test (Prime95 + Furmark)

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