You are here

Akasa Galileo Ultra-slim Fanless Thin ITX Case

Akasa Galileo Ultra-slim Fanless Thin ITX Case

August 18, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Akasa Galileo

Fanless Thin ITX Case (AK-ITX09-BK)
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$120

Thin is in. This is one of the biggest trends in modern technology. Anyone
who follows the phone, tablet, and notebook markets can attest to their continuous
slimming and miniaturization. Smaller and slimmer are marketed as more elegant
and futuristic, even if functionality and reparability is lost along the way.
Shrinkage is happening in the desktop PC as well, especially with the accelating
popularity of the mini-ITX form factor. If that's not enough, Intel is now promoting
their Thin Mini-ITX standard. As we've detailed in the past, Thin Mini-ITX is
a low profile, high feature density version of mini-ITX, one designed to power
tiny PCs, mini-HTPCs, and all-in-one-PCs integrated into the backside of a flat
panel monitor.

For the DIYer, there's little point in a thin, compact motherboard without
a case built in the same vein. But with the limited space and size comes limited
cooling options. Naturally, such a small form factor demands a processor with
a low power envelope. In the past, this role has been filled by low performance
embedded solutions, mainly Intel Atom and AMD's C/E/G series of entry level
APUs. Today, Intel's multitude of sub-65W LGA1155 desktop CPUs fit the bill,
and that's part of what Thin Mini-ITX is all about. Ostensibly, it's a platform
for Intel to show off — being able to drop in a off-the-shelf a high performance
Sandy/Ivy Bridge processor into such a compact system is an exciting prospect.



The box.

One thing that would make such a system even better would be to have it cooled
passively. We've covered a handful of fanless Thin-ITX cases over the last couple
of years. Akasa did this already with the Euler,
a 62 mm tall case with a footprint barely larger than the standard 17x17cm size
of the mini-ITX board. Late last year, we paired it with a 55W Pentium G2120
(Ivy Bridge, 3.1 GHz) and put it through a thermal torture test, which it passed
with ease.

The Galileo is an even thinner alternative from Akasa, not much taller than
the motherboard it's designed to support. At 37 mm, the Galileo represents a
40% height reduction from Euler, offset by an increase in length of 7.9 cm or
just over 3 inches.



Package contents.

Inside the box is a brief installation guide, the case itself, two packets
of thermal grease, two short 6 mm thick copper heatpipes, and the rest of the
components needed to assemble the cooling system. One thing about the Euler
that stood out was the simplicity and effectiveness of the cooling solution.
An aluminum heatsink was stuck on to case floor and it mounted directly to the
CPU socket. The execution was not to a very high standard, as many uasuers reports
issues with fitting the motherboard properly, particular with the poor alighment
of the opening for the I/O panel, which could cause some annoying and occasionally
potentially harmful problems.

The Galileo uses a more traditional heatpipe scheme, and the way it's implemented
makes it easier for DIYers than most heatpipe-cooled fanless cases. I'll get
to that later on.

Specifications: Akasa Galileo

(from the
product web page
)
Material Aluminum and heatpipes
Motherboard types Thin Mini-ITX 6.7" x 6.7"
Dimensions 307 x 190 x 36.8 mm (W x D x H)
Weight 1730 g
Antenna fitting holes 2
Security Kensington lock
VESA mounting Support
Product code AK-ITX09-BK

The spec rundown is very brief. There's antenna support, a Kensington lock port, and VESA mounting, but no front USB, and notably, no drive support. In the past, cases of this size would have a small bay for at least one 2.5 inch drive. The Thin Mini-ITX standard relies on slimmer notebook components, namely SO-DIMM memory and mSATA drives.

Akasa also failed to include any information regarding CPU support. When Akasa sent us the Euler they suggested a 25W processor but it did well enough with a 55W model. Judging the volume of the Galileo, the limited number of fins on the exterior, and the length and number of heatpipes I suspect it has similar capabilities.

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Akasa Galileo measures 30.7 x 19.0 x 3.7 cm or 12.1 x 7.5 x 1.5 inches (W x D x H) for a total volume of 2.1 L. It weighs 1.73 kg (3.8 lb) and approximately 2.15 kg (4.7 lb) when fully assembled. The body is composed of aluminum with a coarse grain, brush, anodized finish for the front faceplate and top access panel.



The chassis is slim, long, and asymmetrical. Rather than placing cooling fins on both sides or all around the body like most fanless cases, they are segregated to one section on the left side, making it heavily unbalanced.



The ribs or fins that help cool the case are 1.4 mm thick, spaced 3.4 mm apart, and run from the front all the way to the back. The access panel is 1.3 mm thick and picks up fingerprints, etc. very easily.



The cooling system extends underneath, though it's less effective on this side. The Galileo does ship with some add-on rubber feet but they are rather short, limiting the amount of ventilation. The VESA mounting holes are noticeably off-center to compensate for the uneven weight distribution.



The top cover and heatsink are affixed using small Philips head screws. The interior is unremarkable, just an empty space with standoffs for the motherboard. There is no circuitry other than the front panel button/LED hookups.



The heatsink section of the case splits in half. The longer side of the heatpipes are laid in the grooves, then the two portions are secured to one another, squeezing the pipes between them.

ASSEMBLY

For a fanless heatpipe-cooled chassis, the Galileo is not difficult to assemble
at all. Unlike cases from Streacom and HDPLEX, there are no metal blocks to
pin the heatpipes to the interior case walls to facilitate heat transfer. This
messy procedure often left our fingers covered in thermal compound as we struggled
to position the pipes correctly. In this case, the heatpipes have only one place
to go, making it fairly idiot-proof.



As the Galileo supports only thin mini-ITX motherboards, we used a GA-H77TN kindly provided by Gigabyte. To maintain this Intel LGA1155 board's low profile, it's equipped with a pair of SODIMM memory slots, a mini PCI Express slot, and an mSATA connector.



For power, the board's DC-IN jack is of the 19V variety rather than the typical 12V used in most AC bricks designed for picoPSUs and other DC-DC power supplies. A 90W adapter from a Dell notebook fit the bill nicely.



The nuts attached to the Galileo's backplate slide freely between the LGA115x and LGA775 mounting position and they are also rather shallow, not going through the mounting holes. As a result, you have to hold it in place as each screw is secured.



Thermal compound is applied to the processor, then the bottom half of the base with the affixed mounting bracket is laid on top and secured to the backplate. More compound is applied to the grooves and the two heatpipes are positioned on the outer furrows.



Because the brackets are attached to the underside of the heatblock, when the screws mating the heatblock to the board are tightened, the brackets bend and pull away from the heatblock, leaving a gap. This could have been avoided (somewhat, at least) by having the bracket attach to the top side of the heatblock.



The second half of the base is placed on top and screwed into the first. The other end of the heatpipes are sandwiched between the two heatsink portions, disappearing into the bulky black mass.



From an aesthetic standpoint, the asymmetry of the chassis and smudge attracting access panel are overshadowed by the blinding blue power LED.

TESTING

System Configuration:



Test platform device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPU-Z,

    used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when/if overheating occurs.

  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures.
  • Cyberlink
    PowerDVD 13
    to play H.264 video.
  • TMPGEnc
    Xpress
    video encoding software as a load test.
  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the GPU.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • Thermometers to measure the air temperature around the test platform
    and near the intake of the heatsink fan.

Testing Procedures

Our testing procedure is a simple one involving placing the test system in various states until temperatures remain stable for 5~10 minutes. The test states are idle, playing H.264 video, encoding video with TMPGEnc, full CPU load using Prime95 (small FFT setting), and full GPU loading using FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Temperatures were recorded with various software tools and an infrared thermometer
on the hottest point of the exterior. AC power draw was also monitored.

TEST RESULTS

Given the two cases' similarities, the Galileo was paired with the same 55W
Pentium G2120 used in the Euler review. Akasa does not specify the maximum CPU
support of this case but the Euler handled the G2120 without any problems.

System Measurements
System State
Temperatures
System Power (AC)
CPU
Chipset
External*
Idle
33°C
49°C
30°C
12W
H.264 Playback
39°C
53°C
32°C
15W
TMPGEnc
66°C
67°C
50°C
32W
Prime95
72°C
68°C
56°C
38W
Prime95 + FurMark
87°C
82°C
69°C
54W
Ambient temperature: 23°C.

*External temperature measured using an IR thermometer pointed at the hottest portion of the chassis.

Under normal operating circumstances, the Galileo does a more than adequate
job cooling the CPU. When idle or playing H.264 video, the CPU temperature remained
under 40°C. Our TMPGEnc video encoding test pushed it into the mid 60's,
a perfectly acceptable result for a realistic load test. A system like this
is unlikely to be pushed further, though it also passed with Prime95 running
and survived our ultimate synthetic torture test: Prime95 with FurMark running
simultaneously. Our test chip throttles at over 100°C so there was a bit
of headroom left.

The exterior of the case heated up considerably, becoming too hot to touch for more than a moment during Prime95. The chipset (PCH) also got quite toasty as its heatsink is not designed for fanless operation. Near the end of testing, we popped off the cover and saw the PCH temperature drop immediately, going down by 6°C after just a couple of minutes. If aesthetics are not important or the system is going to be VESA mounted, it might be advisable to punch a few holes in the cover to give the chipset some ventilation. The CPU temperature did not change at all with the panel removed; We sampled temperatures at various points along the cooling system and they were similar, having reached equilibrium.

System Measurement Comparison (Prime95):

Akasa Euler vs. Akasa Galileo
System State
Temperatures
System Power (AC)
CPU
Chipset
External*
Akasa Euler
54°C
63°C
39°C
41W
Akasa Galileo
71°C
67°C
55°C
38W
Results adjusted for an ambient temperature of 22°C.

*External temperature measured using an IR thermometer pointed at the hottest portion of the chassis.

Compared to the Euler, the Galileo is thermally inferior. The Euler has a very
simple cooling solution, a big aluminum block, acting as a go-between between
the processor and the rest of the case. The Galileo has a "proper"
heatpipe setup but with only two pipes and half of the cooling area located
underneath the case where it gets very little airflow, I can see why it's not
quite as effective.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Like the Euler
before it, the Akasa Galileo is a decent chassis for those looking for a basic,
tiny, completely silent PC. The two cases seem to be embodiments of different
philosophies, however. The Euler is simple and pragmatic and quite inexpensive,
while the Galileo demonstrates more style over substance. Surprisingly, despite
this, it's actually not that attractive. It has less of an industrial look than
the Euler due to the sleeker front faceplate, but its asymmetry, along with
its unusually long body, is a bit off-putting. The Galileo's key selling point
is its thickness, or its lack thereof. It's amazing that a case measuring 37
mm from top to bottom can passively cool an off-shelf desktop CPU with a TDP
of 55W. Still, there are no functional benefits to the fascia compared to the
Euler: No addtional ports of any kind, which might sway us towards the Galileo.

Whether its ultra slim profile is a selling advantage is a question we can't
answer fully, but it's hard to think of many usage scenarios for a simple SFF
PC where it would be a huge advantage to have a 37 mm rather than a 62 mm thick
case. If you disregard the form factor, say you're looking for a fanless case
to VESA mount for example, the Euler seems to have every angle covered. It's
dead simple to assemble, boasts lower temperatures (both inside and out), it
supports 2.5 inch drives, and it's also considerably cheaper. Among the few
US retailers selling Akasa gear, the Euler can be found for US$95 compared
to the Galileo's US$120. The Euler's existence really undercuts what
otherwise would have been a clear recommendation for the Galileo.

Our thanks to Akasa for the Galileo case sample and Gigabyte for the GA-H77TN motherboard used in this review.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

Streacom FC8 Evo Fanless Mini-ITX Chassis

Akasa Euler Fanless Thin ITX Case

Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC)
Kit DC3217BY


Giada A51 Mini PC

Jetway
AMD G-T40E Fanless Barebones Nettop


Logic
Supply LGX AG150 Fanless Mini PC


* * *

Discuss
this article in the SPCR Forums.

Sections: 

Google

www SPCR