Convection-friendly mini cases

Our selection of mesh-laden mini-ITX chassis, perfect for fanless Gemini Lake motherboards.

Chieftec IX-01B-OP ($69.99)

MINI-BOX M350 Universal Mini-ITX Enclosure ($44.95)

MITXPC MX500-USB3 Compact Mini-ITX Case ($49.95)

IN-WIN BQ656 ($67.99)

Antec ISK110 VESA ($87.50)


Passively Cooled PC with 65W CPU & 47W Workstation Graphics Card

By John J. Motzi, Dowingtown PA, USA

The aim of this project was to create a fully passively cooled PC sufficient for use in image processing. Since image processing requires a powerful PC with workstation graphics and a lot of RAM, the passive cooling capability would have to be much greater than for 35W passive PCs. Commercially available “fanless” PC cases which are used most often for up to 35W processors are not optimal in providing convection cooling for motherboards, memory and storage drives. The result when using the closed cases is high temperatures which can lead to premature failure of PC components. These higher case temperatures also increase the ambient temperature of the heatsinks relative to the environment which reduces the efficiency of the heatsink to cool the CPU. After some experience with building 25W and 35W passively cooled PCs, It was decided that a different case design would be necessary to provide optimal cooling for more powerful components. The design criteria were as follows:

• Motherboard capable of 64 GB RAM and at least one NVMe SSD
• Full size power supply
• 300 Series Intel processor I7-8700 @ 65W
• Workstation Graphics card
• Three SSDs, two of which would be combined in a RAID-0 array
• Full passive cooling

Selected Components

• Gigabyte H370M-D3H microATX motherboard
• 2 x G.Skill Ripjaws DDR4 Memory F4-2400C15D-32GVR (64 GB)
• Intel i7-8700 processor (65W)
• PNY Nvidia Quadro P1000 Workstation Graphics Card (47W)
• Seasonic 600W Fanless PSU SSR-600TLR
• 2 x Streacom DB4 GPU Cooling Unit
• 2 x DIYAudio Store Heatsinks 300 x 210 x 40mm 0.18°C/W
• Samsung NVMe SSD 960 Pro 512 GB (as the OS drive)
• EKWB EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink
• 2 x 2.0 TB Micron 2.5” 6 GB/s SSD MTFDDAK20T0TBN
• 1.0 TB OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD 7mm
• Thermaltake PCI-E 3.0 Extender 300 mm AC-045-CN10TN-C1

Design & Construction

An open case design was chosen. Actually, it’s no so much a case as a framework to which the components were mounted. The frame was constructed from 20x20 mm aluminum extrusions salvaged from a mining rig. The same components are readily available and even can be custom ordered from internet vendors. The only customization required was some cutting and end tapping.

The motherboard/CPU and graphics card were directly attached to the large heatsinks using the Streacom DB4 GPU Cooling Units. The DB4 GPU cooling units are designed for graphics card use with a specified GPU TDP of 65W nominal, 75W max. A custom bracket was made from 4mm anodized aluminum in order to mount the cooling unit to the motherboard. The supplied spring-loaded screws were attached through the backside of the motherboard directly into threaded holes in the custom bracket. The cooling unit was mounted to the graphics card using the supplied mounts. Each cooling unit was mounted to the heatsinks via bolting into 3mm drilled and tapped holes in each heatsink. Likewise, the standoffs for the motherboard were mounted in 3mm drilled and tapped holes in the CPU heatsink. The SSDs were mounted on a 4mm anodized aluminum plate which was mounted behind the motherboard on standoffs. This method promotes convection cooling by allowing for air circulation around the SSDs.

The heatsinks were mounted to the aluminum framework such with the fins oriented vertically for natural convection cooling. Likewise, there is vertical convection airflow on both sides of the motherboard to promote passive cooling of the chipset, memory and other motherboard components. Also because of the height of the DB4 GPU cooling unit, there is sufficient airflow on both sides of the graphics card. The fanless power supply was mounted on the framework in the recommended orientation and was positioned at the bottom of the chassis. The PSU was mounted to the framework using the universal bracket salvaged from the DB4 cooling units. The mesh construction of the PSU allows for cooling air from all sides to flow over the components. The PC is suitable for placement on the floor or other surface, since the framework elevates all components which promotes cooling airflow.

The orientation of the motherboard on the heatsink is such that all I/O connections are at the top of the PC. This facilitates attaching peripherals when the PC is located next to a desk or on a rack. This orientation also allowed the motherboard PSU connections to be slightly below the heatsink, which allowed easy connection after mounting. The orientation of the graphics card on the heatsink is such that the connections are facing downward. This was necessary due to the length of the previously purchased PCI extender cable. A longer cable would facilitate other orientations.

Overall dimensions of the PC are 276mm (W) x 300mm (D) x 420mm (H) (10.9”W x 12”D x 16.5”H)

The installed operating system is Windows 10 Pro on the NVMe drive.

Performance Test 1 – PRIME95

A stress test was performed using the PRIME95 Torture Test at the default settings for 3 hours. Ambient temperature was 20.5 ± 0.3 °C. The graphs show that the maximum CPU temperature was 64 °C. The steady state temperature of 61 °C was reached after approximately 30 minutes of testing. The maximum VRM MOS temperature was 73 °C. The heatsinks were warm to the touch. The PSU emitted no noticeable heat, so the location of the PSU under the motherboard did not hamper cooling of the motherboard or drives. The test was also conducted on a day with higher ambient temperature (25.0 ± 0.5 °C) resulting in a maximum CPU temperature of 68 °C

Performance Test 2 – ADIA64

A stress test was performed using the AIDA64 Stress Test (CPU, FPU, Cache, GPU) for 2 hours. Ambient temperature was 20.5 ± 0.3 °C. The graphs show that the maximum CPU temperature was 73 °C which was reached within the first hour. The maximum VRM MOS temperature was 80 °C and the GPU reached 65 °C within the first hour and both held there throughout the test. The heatsinks were warm to the touch. The PSU emitted no noticeable heat. Based on these results, it is likely that the graphics card could be increased to a P2000 (75W) and still perform adequately. Both performance tests show that the passive cooling is adequate for this PC.


Rooting the Nucleus?

The Nucleus is a high-end music server with a mandatory subscription that costs $119 a year or $499 for a lifetime membership. It's also a regular Kaby Lake NUC in a massive heat sink case that could potentially run any OS and become a stylish HTPC although an expensive one, the i3 Nucleus retails for $1400.


Athlon 200GE review (passive mode)

Damon Bailey over at ProClockers was able to review the latest Athlon inside Streacom's best-selling FC8 case, and the 35W APU is a keeper.

"For media purposes, it’s hard to get much better. The $60 processor sips a tiny amount of power but thanks to Vega’s built-in Video Core Next ASIC, the Athlon 200GE can chew through video decoding and playback tasks without breaking a sweat. It’s nice to see hardware decode of VP9 supported finally since Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and other streaming services use it heavily.

AMD has a really fun little CPU here. It’s awesome to be able to easily have a 0dB system for home theater as well as be able to slide in some light duty gaming when you aren’t working or surfing the web."

Source: ProClockers


MonsterLabo's The First is available for 429 euros

This is not a drill. This is not a crowdfunding campaign either. 100 units of MonsterLabo's chassis are available for 429 euros and shipping to Europe, the US, and several Asian markets including Japan and South Korea. According to MonsterLabo, the included 2.7 kg heat sink can handle the i7-8700K / GTX 1080 duo passively. A second batch of 300 units is expected early 2019.

Source: MonsterLabo


Athlon 200GE gaming performance

What is it like to play with a $55 (and potentially fanless) 35W APU? Nothing that will impress hardcore gamers considering the quasi-mandatory 720P resolution, but a tremendous bang for the buck if you ask us.

Courtesy of TechEpiphany


HP t430 Thin Client listed on Amazon

HP's t430 is the world’s first desktop thin client with single-cable USB-C power and video : one cable powers the device from the display while sending video and audio back. Featuring the 6W Celeron N4000 (Gemini Lake), the t430 is available running HP's Linux-based HP ThinPro OS ($250) or Windows10 IoT Enterprise ($335).



Coffee Lake NUCs are available

The most powerful 4 x 4" NUCs ever feature 28W processors and Intel's Iris Plus Graphics 655, good enough for light gaming and gorgeous 4K visuals. Available for about $400 (i5-8259U) and $500 (i7-8559U) the mini desktops are actively cooled but a fanless case is still in the cards according to our sources. For something fanless out of the box, check out ASUS PN40 (Celeron N4000) or MSI Cubi N (Pentium N5000).


MonsterLabo – The First

MonsterLabo, a French/Belgian company, introduces its first commercial product – The First – a compact chassis with a 200 mm x 200 mm footprint and an integrated passive dual cooling solution.

Designed with an innovative approach focused on cooling, it can passively handle standard components up to the i7-8700K and GTX 1080.

Fully customisable, The First's aesthetic skin can be easily replaced without changing the cooling and electronics inside. Chassis, skins, and many other options will be available starting on the 9th of October.

The First can be ordered on