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Streacom FC5 OD Fanless HTPC Case

Streacom FC5 OD Fanless Case
Product
FC5 OD Fanless Chassis
Manufacturer
MSRP
€ 239.90

A computer with no moving parts is still the ultimate silent PC, and a chassis
that allows operation without fans has always been of high interest at SPCR.
The FC5 OD, from the relatively new brand, Streacom,
is a low profile, fanless chassis that employs built-in cooling for the CPU.
It is a classic "heatsink case"; the heat of the CPU is conducted
via heatpipes to an external heatsink that also acts as a side panel. It is
obvious from the promo photo below of the FC5 OD in natural aluminum finish
that the case is aimed at the audio/video market.


"Designed to complement the style of your existing audio equipment.
All aluminum, sandblast finish in black or silver."

Streacom appears to have a working relationship with Wesena,
and part of its design team is said to have come from OrigenAE,
a high end Korean media PC case company.

The concept of a passively cooled, high-end audio style computer case is not
new, going all the way back to the Hush
Mini-ITX PC
that SPCR reviewed nearly a decade ago. Similar computers have
been few in number, but always represented in the market since then. Current
fanless AV style cases include those used in systems and/or offered by Logic
Supply
, Tranquil
PC
, A-Tech Fabrication,
and HDPlex; there are
a handful of others.

The Streacom FC5 OD is designed to house motherboards up to micro-ATX size,
a slim slot style optical drive, and up to three 2.5" drives with a m-ATX
board, or two 2.5" drives and one 3.5" drive with mini-ITX board.
Its cooling system is recommended for use with CPUs that have a TDP of 65W maximum.
A horizontal add-on slot mount is provided, but the unit ships without any riser
card adapter for that slot to be used. Streacom currently offers no power supply
options for the case, and since its profile is so low, standard power solutions
cannot be used. Streacom recommends a picoPSU power supply with an external
AC/DC adapter, which is the most obvious choice. Long time readers of SPCR know
that picoPSU is a
miniature, high efficiency, DC/DC power supply not much larger than the size
of an ATX12V connector. Current versions are capable of >150W when joined
with a suitable AC/DC power adapter.

Streacom's products appear to be sold only in the EU at this time, although
the company is making efforts to reach retail markets in the US and Canada.
The MSP of €239.90 seems high, but perhaps resellers offer it for less
or offer it as part of a system package which includes discounts.

FC5 OD Fanless Chassis Specifications

  • Chassis Material: All aluminum, 10mm thick front panel
  • Available Colors: Silver / Black – Sandblast Finish
  • Motherboard Support: Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX – Please see list
    of tested boards
  • Hard Drive Bays: 1 x 3.5" Drive + 2 x 2.5" + 1 Shared 3.5"
    or 2.5" (Shared 3.5" only with m-ITX)
  • Optical Drive Bays: 1 x Slim slot loading drive, left side eject
    button
  • Expansion Slot: 1 x Full Height Expansion Slot PCI/PCIE Card (Riser
    Card Required)
  • Cooling: Passive Heatpipe Solution – Recommended CPU Thermal
    Design Power: 65W
  • Dimension: 435 x 325 x 60mm (W x D x H) – 8.8 liters
  • Power Supply: PicoPSU & AC Adapter (not Included)
  • Remote Control: MCE Compatible IR Receiver & Remote (not Included)
  • Net Weight: 5.2KG

Our sample arrived in a plain brown carton which contained a black retail-finish
box with a handle.


Sturdy packaging.






The case itself is well protected in closed-cell foam, with a cutout for
the heatpipe cooling kit.




The actual contents: Black finish case + heatpipe cooling kit.

The Streacom FC5 OD case feels sturdy, with a nice, contour-machined, 10mm
thick front panel. The top, bottom and back panels are around 2.4mm thick, and
sturdy enough not to flex under some pressure.

The sandblasted black finish is not the most attractive I've seen. Unlike the
sandblasted natural aluminum finish on Silverstone and Apple cases I've examined
closely, minor routine handling often left visible smudges on this very lightly
pebbled finish, as if it somehow magnified any dry skin or skin oil residues.


As you'd expect. it's quite nice looking, with subtly rounded corners
on the front panel corners and all the side heatsink fins. The front panel
is minimalist, with only an optical disk slot, power button with tiny
LED light above it, and a small round window that's probably a sensor
for an optical remote receiver. The top panel is vented in the area over
where the CPU would be.





The side view shows the thick front panel, and the multiple holes through
which screws go in to clamp the heatpipes to the heatsink. Note that the
side heatsink is actually not a single piece, but two half-length pieces
clamped together with two screws in the middle.




The back panel features the 1/O cutout for the motherboard, a single slot
cover with some vent holes below it, and a removable rectangular cutout
meant for routing a power connector.





The bottom panel has plastic damped feet in the corners, and like the
top, it is vented with a pattern of holes, but nearer the other back corner,
where there are mounting holes for a 3.5" drive.





Not much to see inside except mounting tray for the optical drive, mounting
points for the hard drives and motherboard, and cables from power switch,
LED, and that IR remote sensor. None of these cables are identified in
the downloaded PDF installation manual. There are extremely thin grommets
for the HDD mounting holes; they don't look like they'd do anything to
damp vibration.






Closeup of the joint on the side heatsink. Both sides have the same 2-piece
assembly. Presumably, as the heatpipes are clamped to both halves of the
heatsink, the impact of any thermal resistance at this joint should be minuscule.

The Streacom FC5 OD is fairly close in overall design to the HDPLEX
H10.ODD
fanless microATX case we reviewed about a year ago, the main
difference being the latter's greater depth, which allows the use of a standard
size optical drive.




Strong resemblance of overall design to HDPLEX H10.ODD case.



In both the FC5 OD and the H10.ODD, the heatpipes for the CPU are meant to be
clamped to the right side heatsink. The distance to the left side heatsinks is
much greater, and the horizontal card slot would get blocked if the heatpipes
were oriented to that side. This demands a certain type of layout for the board:
Ideally the CPU socket should be very close to the right side heatsink, and there
should be no ports or tall motherboard components between the CPU socket and that
edge of the board.

This is different from the HDPLEX
H3.SODD
fanless mini-ITX case, which forgoes the horizontal card slot
and gains the option to use either left or right heatsinks to cool the CPU.



Asus P8H67-I Deluxe socket 1155 mini-ITX board fits in HDPLEX H3.ODD
case, with CPU heatpipes running to the left side heatsinks. The
heatpipes cannot run to the right side heatsinks because the SATA ports
would be blocked.

SYSTEM ASSEMBLY

There's really only one way of testing a "heatsink case": Assemble
an appropriate system in it with a thermal signature that's as high as recommended,
then run stress tests to see whether it cools well enough.

The first task was to scan through the list of compatible motherboard and identity
one that's here in the lab, with a suitable 65W TDP processor. Streacom's
Motherboard Compatibility List
looks promising at first, as motherboards
from many brands are listed. Alas, despite the long lists, it was a challenge
to find a board and CPU that was suitable. I was hoping to use a newish socket
1155 Intel mini-ITX board (like the Asus P8H67-I Deluxe in the HDPLEX
H3.ODD shown on the previous page) with a Sandy Bridge i3 or i5 processor, but
virtually none of these types of boards were compatible with the Streacom FC5.
The issue is that all of those boards position the CPU socket further to the
left, and feature components on the right that would interfere with heatpipes.

In the end, an Intel DH67-BL micro-ATX motherboard was chosen. This boards
has no ports on the right side of the CPU socket, which is quite close to that
edge, and all the board components on that side are low.

The chosen components:

Assembly is not difficult, but in order to avoid getting thermal interface
material (TIM or messy goop) all over your fingers and on the components, you
do need to plan ahead and think the assembly procedure through. The PDF
instructions
are pretty good.

  1. Step one is to install the CPU in place, and mount the bottom portion of
    the main CPU "evaporator block" atop the CPU. (If this terminology
    confuses you, see Thermacore's
    notes on heatpipe technology
    .)
  2. Slip the heatpipes on the "condensor blocks" for a dry run to
    ensure fit.
  3. Apply TIM on the heatpipes in the condensor blocks, align them, then secure
    them to the inside wall of the heatsink. Don't tighten everything all the
    way yet.
  4. After ensuring good fit of the heatpipes on the evaporator block as well,
    apply TIM there, then secure the top half of the evaporator block.
  5. Now tighten up all the screws.


The three condensor blocks clamp one end of the heatpipes to the heatsink;
the condensor block clamps the other end to the CPU. It is all made of
aluminum rather than copper. Some of you may recall that the Zalman
TNN fanless cases
had far more robust heatpipe cooling hardware using
big blocks of copper... but they were a lot pricier, and they were meant
to cool much hotter CPU and GPU components.





The round nuts have adhesive to stick them on the underside of the motherboard,
and screws to the nuts secure the evaporator block atop the CPU. This
is clumsy, the adhesive doesn't stick well, and the round nuts spin. A
one-piece back plate like the kind used by so many aftermarket heatsink
makers would be much better. The screws are small, too, and don't inspire
confidence, though they work.






Here's a condensor block with heatpipe ends inserted from one end. The
grooves are like tubular tunnels with an open strip which allows part
of the copper heatpipe to make contact with the heatsink directly.





Dry run on one side.





The TIM got a little messy; it takes less than you'd think, because it
spreads out when parts are screwed and compressed together. The heatpipe
farthest left needed slight bending to fit properly.





Cooling system installation finished.






Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB drive mounted on the far left, back corner, over
the bottom vents.

Power Problems

There was a problem with the lone picoPSU in the lab that could not be resolved,
so an alternative had to be found. Nothing small enough to fit into the case
was readily available, so improvisation was required.

A picoPSU, the recommended power solution, adds virtually no heat to the case,
as it's highly efficient, and all the real heat-producing conversion of AC to
DC is done outside the case, in an AC/DC adapter. So I decided to run cables
from a conventional ATX12V power supply through the opening for the horizontal
add-on card slot. A fanless Seasonic X-460 was used.


Not pretty, but The Seasonic X-460 provided power, and the cover to
the case could be installed.

With physical installation completed, Windows 7 64-bit was installed as the
OS, all the drivers, updates and other software fixes were done. Time now for
thermal testing.

TESTING

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    processor stress software
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU
  • ATITool,
    also for GPU stress
  • SpeedFan
    and Intel Desktop Utilities to monitor system temperatures
  • Extec
    380803
    AC power analyzer, to measure power consumption

The case was tested with two different processors, the low power i3-2100T (35W
TDP) and the standard i3-2100 (65W TDP). Temperature and power data for four
different states were and recorded the temperatures after they stabilized, and
up to about an hour of full continuous load. Internal component sensor readings
were noted and an external thermometer was used to measure the hottest points
on external casing. No effort was made to measure noise.

The only source of noise in this case will be hard drives, so they are what
you need to pay attention to for noise here. Use SSDs and there will be no noise.

TEST 1: with i3-2100T

TEST 1: Streacom FC5 OD with i3-2100T CPU
Temps
Idle
H.264 Playback
CPU Load
CPU + GPU Load
CPU
32°C
38°C
60°C
62°C
PCH*
48°C
52°C
60°C
62°C
HDD
32°C
35°C
35°C
35°C
Heatsink
27°C
30°C
50°C
53°C
AC Power
32W
38~41W
62W
67W
Ambient temperature: 21°C

The case cooling system is perfectly able to handle the thermal load of this
low power CPU. At idle and during video playback, the system ran cool with exterior
temperatures stabilizing at around 30°C, while the internal CPU and hard
drive temperatures stayed below 40°C. On load, the exterior became warm
to the touch but never hot, while the CPU heated up to modest levels. The right
heatsinks (to which the PSU is clamped) always stayed at least 5°C cooler
than the left heatsinks (which handle the CPU heat). These are excellent cooling
results, though thermal load is low.

TEST 2: with i3-2100

TEST 2: Streacom FC5 OD with i3-2100 CPU
Temps
Idle
H.264 Playback
CPU Load
CPU + GPU Load
CPU
32°C
38°C
69°C
74°C
PCH*
48°C
52°C
63°C
65°C
HDD
32°C
35°C
36°C
36°C
Heatsink
27°C
30°C
55°C
57°C
AC Power
32W
38~41W
72W
91W
Ambient temperature: 21°C

There was no appreciable difference in cooling between the standard 65W TDP
i3-2100 and the low power version in idle or HD video playback. But at load,
there was a substantial difference which grew wider the longer the test was
run. At the start of the CPU + GPU stress test, the AC power draw was around
85W, but as things heated up, the board's efficiency seemed to decline so that
at the end of an hour, power reached 91W. At 74°C, the standard i3-2100
ran 12°C than the T version. It did not actually throttle, but I bet it
was close.

Keep in mind that the last test, simultaneously running Prime95 and Furmark
maxed out on all cores, is a totally over the top, extreme test. Nothing anyone
does on a HTPC will push the system so hard. The most demanding task you are
likely to ask of a HTPC will be to encode H.264 video to 1080p MP4, either from
a true 1080p HD video camera or a Bluray rip. Using an application like Handbrake
for this purpose will max the load on all CPU cores, and if it is a long video,
it will definitely take a while. This might bring power demand to about 90%
of Prime95. In other words, on our test system here with the standard i3-2100,
maximum actual use power will not exceed 65~67W AC. This means the Streacom
FC5 OD can, in fact, be used safely with a CPU of up to 65W TDP.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Streacom FC5 OD is an obvious option for those seeking a silent HTPC case
to match high end A/V gear. The dimensions of 435W x 325D x 60H mm (17"
x 13" x 2.4") are just about right for use with full size audio video
gear or to fit in a slim shelf in a TV cabinet. Its fanless cooling system works
as intended with processors up to 65W TDP, which is well within the power envelope
of the picoPSU
power supplies
recommended by Streacom. As with any low profile, fanless
cooling case, you need to choose the motherboard with care, because compatibility
can be tricky.

The port for an IR receiver is a good idea. I can't report on its functionality,
however, as Streacom did not include a remote control with the sample case,
despite it being equipped with an IR receiver.

The mounting hardware for the heatpipe cooling system is more cumbersome to
use that it needs to be, and its overall quality grade is only as good as it
needs to be. The good thing for most users is that it only needs to be used
once, and if you take your time, using only correctly sized tools (screwdrivers,
mostly), it's not an odious task. In actual use, my single biggest quibble is
the absence of any front panel USB ports. Trying to access the back panel of
any PC is almost always a hassle, and using a typical external expansion port
spoils the smooth sleek look, which is what attracts many a buyer to the FC5
OD in the first place.

Because of its passively cooled design, it is important to leave space above
the unit for the rising heat, rather than sandwich it between other gear, especially
hot gear. Taller feet for this case — and any equipment if you must stack
them on top — would be a good idea.

Any HDD used in this case should be chosen for minimal vibration. The rubber
grommets provided for HDD mounting are useless to prevent conduction of vibration.
Thicker, softer grommets would make a big difference here. You can probably
repurpose better grommets from other cases... or go for a small SSD and access
your media content via a wired network (or high speed wifi) on a home server.

The closest alternatives for DIY system builders to the Streacom FC 05 OD are
the H3.SODD, H5.ODD and H10.ODD fanless cases from HDPLEX,
which all have similar designs. Other current fanless "heatsink cases"
are either sold only in systems (HFX
and Tranquil PC),
styled for industrial rather than home A/V use (Logic
Supply
), or priced way higher (A-Tech
Fabrication
).

The H10.ODD is a bit too deep a case to be as practical as the others, while
the H3 and H5 only take mini-ITX boards. The H3.ODD at least has one USB port
on the front panel, however. Having reviewed both the H3.SODD and H10.ODD, my
impression is that the front panels and cooling system mounting hardware of
the HDPLEX is somewhat more robust, but there probably isn't much (if any) impact
on actual performance. Pricing of the Streacom is a bit higher than the H10,
but it's close:

  • Streacom FC 05 OD - €239.90 or ~$318
  • H10.ODD - $298
  • H5.ODD - $278
  • H3.SODD - $248

Overall, the Streacom FC5 OD is a good case for a silent HTPC.

PS — For those seeking fanless case for mini-ITX only, and don't need
a "classic" AV style, Streacom also offers the slightly smaller but
taller FC8,
a 6-liter case that also has the convenience of USB and SD card ports on the
front panel. I expect to receive a review sample of the FC8 shortly.

Our thanks to Streacom
for the sample.




Streacom FC5 OD is Recommended by SPCR

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

HDPLEX H3.SODD Fanless Mini-ITX HTPC
Case


HDPLEX H10.ODD Fanless microATX Case

Silent SFF Home Server Build Guide


Coolermaster's
Fanless TC-100 mini-ITX case



mCubed's HFX mini: Fanless
HTPC "heatsink case"


Logic Supply SolidLogic Montivina
Fanless Mini-ITX System

* * *

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