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HDPLEX H3.SODD Fanless Mini-ITX HTPC Case

HDPLEX H3.SODD Fanless mini-ITX Case
Product
HDPLEX H3.SODD

Fanless mini-ITX Case
Manufacturer
MSRP
US$228

The H3.SODD is the second fanless media PC case submitted for review by California-based HDPLEX. As with the micro-ATX H10.ODD case sample we received a few months ago, this model is a study in minimalism, and it came fully outfitted as a complete PC. The product is intended to be sold direct to end users willing to assemble their own systems, and through partner system integrators. Asides from the difference in size, both cases offer optical drive options, but the H3 uses a slot-loading type, which explains the SODD and ODD acronyms in the model designations.

It's hard not to be impressed with your first glimpse of the H3.SODD, its massive aluminum facia, dual rows of cooling fins, and low profile look. Anyone who has ever lusted after similarly stylish high end audio gear will find the H3 appealing, and this consumer association is the precise intent of the designer. The optical disk slot, IR remote receptor pinhole and USB 3.0 port are the only departures from the smooth monolithic silver face.


The H3.SODD is undeniably stylish in a high end audio motif. The bevelled edge and rounded corners of the aluminum front panel adds to the style. It could be mistaken for a high end, minimalist audio disk player, equipped only with remote controls.

A closer examination of the case reinforces the impression of high quality design and production values.


The I/O panel on the back gives away the H3's computer core. The rounded corners of the heatsink fins make them safer to handle than sharp edged ones.





As with the HD10, the power button is unobtrusively placed on the left corner of the top panel. The center slot is meant for any slim slot optical drive; our sample featured a Bluray drive.





There are also vents on the bottom, along with nicely sized rubber-bottomed feet. The bottom and top panels appear to be of the same fairly hefty 2.5mm thick aluminum. Th small star-shaped items are part of the rubber grommets that help keep hard drive vibration from becoming audible sounds.

FYI, the sample came double-boxed, with the actual unit inside an oversized box that HDPLEX says will be replaced with a smaller custom-fitted carton. The sample and accessories suffered no damage of any kind in transit.


Oversized carton for the H3.SODD.





The product took up no more than half the available space. Packed within were a nice set of allen wrenches and special socket screwdrivers, a Windows Media Center remote control, and an AC cord,

ACCESSORIES

The retail end-user version of the H3.SODD ships with a power cable, special set of screw drivers and a cooling kit consisting of a tube of Arctic Silver Ceramique thermal interface material, 6 x 6 mm copper heatpipes, the two CPU heatsink (evaporator) sections that sandwich them, and mounting hardware for Intel LGA775/1155/1156 and AMD AM2/AM3 sockets. There is a nicely illustrated installation guide. In addition, we received a standard Windows Media Center remote control, which is sold separately by HDPLEX.





The heatpipe CPU cooling kit is very similar to the one in the H10 as are the other accessories. .

SPECIFICATIONS

Specifications: HDPLEX HD03.SODD

(from the
product web page
)
Type Super Low Profile Fanless Chassis
Chassis Material 6063T Aluminum
H3.SODD Body Internal 325 x 230 x 55mm (L x W x H)
H3.SODD Body External 325 x 298 x 60mm (L x W x H)
Aluminum Feet Ø29mmx8mm
Faceplate 320 x 68 x 15mm (L x W x D)
Weight 8 lbs
Body Color Black
Aluminum feet Color Black
Faceplate Color Black or Silver
Motherboard Compatibility Mini-ITX only
Cooling System HDPLEX Six heatpipe passive fanless heatsink System for LGA775 & 775, AM2/AM3 Socket CPU (Utilize Four heatpipe for AM2/AM3 socket.)
Power Supply
With Power Supply No
150W Fanless Adapter+DC-ATX Converter Supported, External Mount Only
80W Fanless Open Frame Fanless Power Supply Supported, Internal Mounted
Expansion
Internal 5.25" Drive Bays None
Internal Slim Optical Drive Bays 1 for 12.7mm Slot Loading Optical Drive
Internal HDD Drive Bays One 3.5" HDD or 3 2.5" Internal HDDs
Expansion Slots None
Internal MCE IR Reciever Supported
Front Ports 1x USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 (w/ USB 3.0 port motherboard)
Manufacturer Warranty
Parts 1 year limited
Labor 1 year limited

INSIDE THE H3.SODD

Undoing the four screws in the corners allows the top panel to come off. The power button at the left corner of the top panel really is a small button that falls off when the cover is removed. It works fine in normal use; a piece of adhesive tape is used to ensure it does not fall off when the cover is mounted back on.

The case was supplied with the following system installed:

  • Intel i3-2120 (dual core, 3.2 GHz)
  • Asus P8H67-I Deluxe mini-ITX motherboard
  • Samsung 2 GB DDR3-1333 SO-DIMM
  • OCZ VERTEX 2 60 GB SDD
  • G.SKILL Phoenix Pro FM-25S2S-60GBP2 SSD
  • 80W Fanless Open Frame Fanless Power Supply (Magic Power Technology MPI-706H)
  • Slim slot loading Bluray drive
  • Windows 7 Ultimate, 32-bit

With the OS and the Blueray drive pushing the price up by nearly $350, the sample system price is just under $1,000. The system is obviously very speedy, with only SSDs for storage. The boot time seemed as quick as any other system seen in our labs, and the windows menus zapped to and fro instantly.

Interestingly, a no-optical drive option is available in the H3 series, called H3.S, which eliminates the slot opening in the front panel for a $10 reduction in price. In other ways, it is the same product. This is the obvious option for those who have moved past optical media with online media services and resources.


Banks of fins from a substantial aluminum extrusion protrude from the sides to dissipate heat. They are 5.0 mm thick at the base and 3.1 mm at the tip.





Some of the cables could be a lot shorter, but they don't get in the way of any airflow.





Detail of side panel, predrilled for many heatpipe mounting options.

The CPU heat is transferred to the left heatsink fins via six copper heatpipes. The open frame power supply, whose housing is part of its cooling, is bolted directly to the right side heatsinks. The securely mounted power supply is subjectively a big improvement over the external AC/DC power supply that was custom-fitted in the H10. There is no chance of any loosening of bolts or brackets here. It gives the H3 a considerably more polished feel than the H10, even though most of the other details are similar. Cables are bundled with velcro ties, and the two SSDs are hidden under the Bluray drive. Most of the internal space is well utilized, though it is not jam-packed.

TESTING

Normally, installation of a system is part of our case review routine. This part was skipped for the H3 because it was shipped with a system preinstalled. However, it should be routine for anyone with a modicum of screwdriver handling skills to install a PC system into the H3. The layout and overall procedures are so straightforward that it would be easier than with most conventional cases. If you're needing more details about assembly, please chek out our earlier H10 review, and the HDPLEX pages on assembly. The latter shows ways in which different drive combinations can be employed in the H3.SODD case.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

The case was tested for cooling, energy consumption, and noise with the system it was supplied, described on the previous page. System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.


Thermal Performance

We tested the system in four different states and recorded the temperatures after they stabilized, and up to about an hour of full continuous load. We noted any internal sensor readings and used an external thermometer to measure the hottest points on external casing.

System Measurements
Temps
Idle
H.264 Playback
CPU Load
CPU + GPU Load
CPU
34°C
38°C
62°C
63°C
System
34°C
38°C
48°C
48°C
HDD
28°C
29°C
29°C
29°C
External Casing
30°C
30°C
36°C
36°C
System Power
25W
29~31W

Bluray: 36W
56W
60W
Ambient temperature: 21°C

Ambient noise level: 11 dBA

Basically the case cruises with the thermal load of this system. When idle and during video playback, the system ran very 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 there's no doubt of the low thermal load imposed by the system. We expect the case could easily handle double the thermal load.

Power Efficiency

It is not possible to get a precise assessment of power supply efficiency without pulling it from the case and loading it up our power supply test rig. However, our AC test measurements can give us a pretty good idea. The Asus P8H67-I Deluxe mini-ITX motherboard used in this sample was just tested and reviewed by Lawrence last week. Although the processor used in that review was the high end Intel Core i5-2500K, we know from previous testing that all the standard TDP socket 1155 chips have the same idle power. Another difference is that two 2-GB sticks of SO-DIMM were used in Larry's testing, while the H3.SODD system used just one, but this should not impact idle power at all. It should be well under 1W difference.

The estimated idle state DC power for the tested Asus P8H67-I Deluxe with i5-2500K and 4 GB RAM was 20W. The H3 sample system pulled 25W AC at idle, which suggests ~80% efficiency. This load is very low, and likely below the power level at which maximum efficiency is reached by the power supply. This means efficiency should be higher with any kind of load. You could expect 85% or better efficiency at ~60W.

Noise

Given that the Bluray drive is the only moving part, it should come as no surprise that the system is silent. By silent, we mean silent. Unless the Bluray drive was engaged, the system made not even the tiniest squeal or hum at any time during our testing or in a week of sporadic use. No noise measurements, recordings or frequency spectrum graphs are needed: The system in this H3.SODD makes no noise at all. This may be be due to a happy happenstance of cooperative parts in our sample, as we've known for years that electronics parts (such as motherboards, solid state drives, fanless power supplies, and even RAM or VRMs) often can and do make noise, sometimes insidiously nasty squealing, sizzling or buzzy noise, but this is the very first time we've actually heard absolutely nothing from a computer that is up and running. A holy grail achieved, in our view, though it's something of a letdown after so many years of inaudible computers: The difference in normal use is hardly dramatic or even audible. :D

FINAL THOUGHTS

The HDPLEX H3.SODD is designed to cool a mini-ITX based media PC system without the use of cooling fans and in this role, it is a great success. With 2.5" drives now reaching a terabyte in capacity, it's possible to store huge HD movie and music collections in a couple of quiet local drives, while maintaining super snappy performance with an affordable SSD for the OS. The Bluray option is also useful, though it comes with a sizeable price tag.

The heatpipe system cools the sample system's i3-2120 processor well, and we expect it would work well to perhaps 80~95W TDP processors. But there's no need to go up to such hot CPUs when even the modest i3-2120 is perfectly capable of handling any HD media task you can ask of it easily. About the only tasks that might benefit from more processing power is extensive encoding of long HD video clips.

The H3.SODD case works well, looks great, and its built well. The design is very attractive:

  • In contrast to the H10.ODD, which we consider too deep to be easily placed in many applications (read: shelves), the H3 has a much friendlier depth of 13.5".
  • With the PSU mounted on one heatsink bank, the coolings fins on both sides have a real purpose.
  • Compared to other fanless mini-ITX case offerings, the H3.SODD is more stylish (re: Coolermaster TC-100 or Logic Supply SolidLogic Montivina), cools better (re: Coolermaster TC-100 and mCubed HFX Micro S13) and is probably better built and cheaper than any of them.

The H3.SODD is listed on HDPLEX's site at US$228. For the option to slip a truly silent, high performance, and high end style media machine under your big screen TV or in your stereo rack, it strikes us as a modest price.


Our thanks to HDPLEX for the H3.SODD fanless case sample.




The HDPLEX H3.SODD wins an SPCR Editor's Choice Award.

* * *

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