CompuLab Airtop Fanless PC First Look

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adgjlsfhk

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Feb 21, 2012
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What I don't understand is the graphics card, cpu combo. You use a out of date processor because it has iris pro graphics, and then put a discrete graphics card in that is barely better. A skylake i5 + 960 would seem to make a lot more sense.
 


I was thinking the same thing.
 

bit_user

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For all the pictures included, the view I really wanted to see was not shown. I want a top-down view of the thing, so I can see whether there are any vents in those doors. Otherwise, I'd congratulate them on making it vent-less.

Underclocking a GTX 980 until it reaches the same thermals would be faster (though even more expensive). I suppose that's what the mobile version is (not the GTX 980M, but there's supposedly a mobile GTX 980).

What really strikes me as odd is the decision to benchmark it against the i7-4790K. Since those buying something like this are placing a high premium on silence, at least try to pick a configuration that's more appropriate for a HTPC. Alternately, sticking with the same TDP and using an i5-6600 would've made sense. Were you guys just trying to make it look bad?
 

bit_user

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Since it sounds like they sell a version without the GTX 950, the Iris Pro graphics are important. Since Skylake and Broadwell have different sockets, it would be more expensive for them to design a different board just for those shipping with a discrete GPU.

I think the main issue is that the GPU is underpowered. A higher-end mobile GPU would've provided more performance within their power envelope.
 

bit_user

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FTW card are clocked high, from the factory. What's the actual power consumption, under load? That's the issue. When you're TDP-constrained, you have to look at performance per Watt, and that's best accomplished with a big GPU running at a lower clockspeed.
 

Kimonajane

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Pfft I will build my own i7-6700k about $600 less and run circles around this thing, wont hear any fan noise anyway while gaming.
 

Brian_R170

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There were rumors of a Fanless case for the Skull Canyon NUC. I don't know if they ever became available, but it sure seems like such a system would have similar performance to the Airtop with a much smaller size and a much smaller price.
 

Chris_2016

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For a PC out on a plant floor no Fans is the best thing ever. Fans just draw the dirt in and it collects on the heat sinks until it fails. Don't know haw many computers I have seen that are so caked with junk you can even see the heat sink. I don't care about graphics cards on most of these because they are chugging data or storing it.
 

synphul

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If people invested in fan control management and quality fans noise wouldn't be an issue either. There's a happy medium between an overpriced underspec'd system and chintzy $5 case fans that drive people up a wall. If the selling point is noiseless for htpc then it's overkill for that application. A nuc would serve that purpose and take up less space.

Unfortunately this unit is awkward, it's not small enough to be unobtrusive, not large enough to contain proper hardware, too much horsepower for light applications, not enough horsepower for gaming and things. It's just overpriced and in no man's land. Rarely does the middle of the road 'do it all' approach work.
 

Mobydickulous

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Having seen an Airtop in person, there are vents in the bottom. The side doors are not vented but the bottom plate, above the base, is.

 

TMTOWTSAC

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What's the target audience for this product? It doesn't lead in any category (value, performance, portability, esthetics, etc) except noise. And you can get fanless a lot cheaper from other solutions. For $1800, you could machine a set of heat sinks and case panels from solid silver and still pay less.
 

bit_user

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Right. So, you're obviously well outside the target market for this product.

No vents = nowhere to spill fluids or for dust to accumulate. And no dust filters to clean.

It also insulates against any noises, like if the graphics card has a bit of coil whine.
 

ledhead11

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I think the bottom line for most who read this is $$$. I happen to agree it's overpriced but neat. From someone who's researches enterprise options, this is not feasible for most businesses. This narrows the target market down to the individuals who may only need one computer in their lives possibly hooked up to a NAS. It looks pretty, but most admin's could build one for about 1k less.
 

bit_user

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I think you overlook noise-sensitive applications, like recording studios & high-end HTPC, and dust-sensitive applications. However, the industrial PC market has plenty of sealed options, for the latter.

So, I don't know if there's a big enough market to support this thing. It is a neat "what if", and I'm glad to see they could dissipate the better part of 200 W with a (nearly) sealed case that's reasonably small, aesthetically pleasing, and doesn't look like a giant heatsink.
 

LostAlone

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Those needs certainly exist but I think you're overstating the case a bit. Recording studios are noise sensitive but there's a limit on how sensitive they are. Plenty of guitar amps use fans in them; that's not a problem at all. Now, obviously your don't want some clapped out old desktop running at 70dB in your studio but something at say 40dB isn't much of a problem especially since it's something that's going to be in a corner or cabinet a long way from any live mic. To put it simply; it's not studio gear doesn't use fans already. Most rack mount units use fans in them. You don't need a perfectly silent system, just an adequately quiet one and those two things a hugely different. It's the same in home theater. You don't need sub-20dB operation, you just need something quiet enough to appear silent from the couch.

As for dust, eh, yes there are industrial uses for totally sealed machines but since this isn't one (it has vents at the bottom) and those industrial uses typically don't require significant CPU horsepower it's really all that great a solution there either. Why use this $2000 box instead of a single board machine built for the purpose that are cheap and plentiful and have the benefit of being designed not to need active cooling from the start. Truely dust proof systems are encased in epoxy.
 

ledhead11

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Overall it does show an evolution in a specific niche. Most PC tech is changing to use less power, less heat for more performance. Things like these will continue to grow but I think that the manufacturers need to get over their $2000 obsession. That seems to be the hanging point for many now and most consumers will balk when they become educated at the other options available to them.
 

cub_fanatic

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The difference between absolute silence and some of the decent all in one liquid coolers combined with high end 120mm or 140mm fans isn't much. The only situation that I can think of where something like this completely passive system is absolutely necessary is for sound engineers and people who are in the music business. For your typical office desk jockey, if they really want something totally passive, this thing is overkill. There are plenty of options in the lower end of the market like a Bay Trail/Braswell from Intel or the AMD Kabini series of SoC that will do everything a desk jockey would need from word processing and internet browsing to watching online videos and playing facebook games. Plus, there are many completely passive options for these SoCs available from most of the major vendors like Asus, Asrock, Gigabyte, etc. You just need the right mITX case with an external passive PSU and an SSD and you have a 0 dB PC for literally a small fraction of the price of this thing. You don't need 8 threads, over 3 GHz and a GTX-class video card for standard office tasks unless you want to sneak in the occasional GTA V session under your boss's nose.
 

wiyosaya

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I built an HTPC two years ago and it has three 120mm Scythe case fans as well as two Scythe 120mm fans on the CPU heat sink. The noisiest thing in the case is the 1TB mechanical hard drive. If they were shooting for silence, it is not all that difficult to do even with fans, IMHO.
 
Target market would be industrial\commercial IMHO. Think digital signage or advertising. Store forward boxes in remote locations that can't be easily serviced. In those conditions, any moving parts are a typical first point of failure and liability to the project.
 
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