Aleutia Relia Industrial PC Review: Ivy Bridge & Q77 in a Fanless Chassisby Ganesh T S on December 4, 2012 10:00 AM EST
- Posted in
- Industrial PC
- Ivy Bridge
Industrial PCs come with stringent requirements that are not satisfied by generic PCs. It is customary for builders to use active cooling in order to ensure that the components are in proper working order. Ventilation slots are also provided to keep airflow up. Chassis size is also not always a concern. However, these flexibilities are not always possible in industrial PCs. Operating environments for such systems usually call for passive cooling, dust resistance, rugged nature and minimal size (read, mini-ITX).
We have already covered the launch of a few industrial PCs including that of the Aleutia Relia which is being reviewed today. The specifications of the Aleutia Relia also make it attractive to users who are picky about having a completely silent machine in their media center.
The Aleutia Relia is a fanless mini-ITX system based on the Q77 desktop chipset. The Q77 chipset enables business / enterprise oriented features such as dual GbE LAN ports, Intel Active Management Technology (for remote troubleshooting and recovery), PXE network boot and auto-boot after power loss. A point to note about the Q77 Express chipset is that it comes with a long life cycle (with assured support at least through 2017).
Before proceeding with the rest of the review, let us take a look at the configuration of the review system.
|Aleutia Relia Industrial PC Specifications|
Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3770T
(4 x 2.50 GHz (3.70 GHz Turbo), 22nm, 8MB L2, 45W)
|Chipset||Intel Q77 Express|
|Memory||2 x 4GB DDR3-1333|
Intel HD Graphics 4000
650 MHz / 1.15 GHz (Turbo)
|Disk Drive(s)||128 GB mSATA SSD + 2 x 500 GB 7200 rpm 2.5" HDDs|
2 x Gigabit Ethernet
802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz 1T2R)
Microphone and headphone/speaker jacks
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI / DP)
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (Retail unit has choice of OSes including barebones option)|
|Pricing (As configured)||$1458 (cheapest configuration is $638)|
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ganeshts - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkNope, we could clearly hear the noise from the hard drives.
deltaTdawg - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkThis article makes it clear that the author has very little experience reviewing fanless systems.
From an engineering perspective, there are 3 elements of interest in the thermal system - the CPU block, the heatpipes, and the heatsinks.
1. The author never looked at the thermal block, never took it off, never examined the thermal paste, never checked how flat or smooth the block surface was. Flatness and roughness play a HUGE role in cooling. Most importantly, thin metal mounting systems tend to flex when overtightened. This leads to a bowing of the CPU block, causing very poor contact with the CPU.
2. These heatpipes are 6mm diameter. Heatpipes have thin walls, so if they are bent too tight they can crimp and severely impact the flow of evaporated fluid which actually dissipates the heat. Look at the gallery. See the heatpipes? In the 5th image especially it is clear how many bends and crimps exist. Each crimped point severely impacts cooling performance. To examine this, the author could use an IR thermometer to look at the heatpipe temperature before and after each crimp. The flaws would be immediately evident as the heatpipe would be significantly lower temperature after each crimp. This indicates the heat is not dissipating properly.
3. Simple: Finned heatsinks are not ideal for convection cooling. Also, the mounting bracket does not apply even pressure, and no effort is made to distribute the heatpipe condenser evenly over the heatsink surface.
From an engineering standpoint, this is a disaster. My conclusions are supported by the experimental findings in this review. A cooling system that causes an ULV CPU to throttle. Hmm. I have personal experience with completely passive systems that can easily cool a i7-3770K under full CPU+GPU load - under 80C.
ganeshts - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkThe point of the review's thermal performance section was to present to readers whether / how much the CPU gets throttled under different ambient temperatures and not meant to go into a thesis on how Aleutia could improve the thermal performance.
Anyways, responding to your points:
This is a loaner sample and meant to get back to the manufacturer in working condition. Not all systems that reach our labs can be subject to full teardowns. So, even assuming that I took out the thermal block and judged the smoothness of the block surface, those stats matter zilch to the reader once the thermal performance stats (how long it takes for the system to get throttled under load) is presented. FWIW, the loading process was repeated countless times before the system made it to the temperature chamber. In effect, taking out the thermal block and analyzing it would have probably made sense in a dedicated review of the Streacom cooling solution and not for the Relia itself.
Btw, the i7-3770T is NOT officially a ULV CPU. It is just power optimized and operates at lower base clocks (2.5 GHz) instead of the default i7-3770 (3.4 GHz) to bring down the TDP from 77 W to 45 W.
We would like to definitely hear about the components used in your passively cooled system. What is the size of the system, and how long does it operate at max performance without throttling and at what ambient temperature?
deltaTdawg - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkFair enough.
I didn't mean to come off aggressively, and I apologize if I did. Certainly there is a limit to what testing can be performed. The reason the cooling system matters, in my mind, is because it is performing so poorly. SPCR reviewed a unit from the OEM chassis provider - Streacom FC5 OD - using a 65W i3-2100 processor. In that review, the system didn't throttle; rather, it hit 74C (53C above ambient) on full CPU+GPU load. This is not terrific performance - but it is much better than the Aleutia system.
So from that I can only conclude that Aleutia's particular design is what has negatively affected results - which is why I feel it is of interest for this review, not for a Streacom review. In my mind, a system whose cooling system can't handle a burn-in load is not fit to ship. Most vendors do a burn-in/stress test prior to shipping, to ensure the system components are not faulty. Aleutia obviously wasn't able to do this; so how can they ensure the components are stable? From an industrial market perspective, stability and performance in a hot environment should be the utmost concern.
My system is 13"x10"x5" (WxDxH). It is running a Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WIFI, an i5-3750K, 8Gb DDR3 1600MHz, and a 128GB Intel 520. It is using a custom chassis and custom cooling system, and has zero moving parts. Ambient is 18C. The system idles at 31C, and full CPU+GPU load stabilizes at 56C. Return to idle temps when the load is removed occurs in under 30 minutes.
The system runs overclocked at 4.1GHz. Idles at 37C, full GPU+CPU load at 78C, which stabilized after 45 minutes and stayed stable thereafter. Return to idle temps occurs in under 30 minutes.
Overclocking is limited by the motherboard's lack of voltage control. The hardware maintains stable temperatures around 80C at 4.3GHz - but the system is not stable. I will be testing next with the Asus P8Z77i motherboard, which is overclocker friendly.
One last question: Why did you unlink the gallery? And why, if you find the gallery link (http://www.anandtech.com/Gallery/Album/2429) did you remove all the inside photos? This seems to come right on the heels of my remarks on their cooling system.
ganeshts - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkThe Streacom FC5 OD is a uATX chassis while this one is mITX. I guess the larger surface area of the FC5 OD will definitely contribute to better cooling.
Streacom is planning to introduce a modified version of this chassis in the market as the FC2 (with an open backplate, obviously). I am looking forward to someone making a better performing system with the FC2 (not that I am defending Aleutia here, but I just want to see how much of the issue is with Streacom rather than Aleutia).
Your system definitely sounds interesting and I am sure readers would appreciate some pictures of the internals to understand how to design their own passively cooled systems.
Btw, the gallery is still there in the piece and was never 'unlinked'. The URL you are referring to:
http://www.anandtech.com/Gallery/Album/2429 : This is from the previous pipeline piece where I covered the launch of the Relia.
The inside photos are in this gallery:
deltaTdawg - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkYeah, sorry about that. That's what happens when you sit down at the computer before you have your morning coffee :)
Interestingly, the chassis dimensions are not really relevant. What actually matters for heat dissipation is the heat sink surface area. I can't account for the size of the fins, but the mounted surface area on the two systems is virtually identical, as the FC5 uses only one heatsink to dissipate, whereas this unit uses both. The FC5 heatsink spans 30.2 square inches, while the Relia spans 31 square inches.
I would love to show off my system. However, it's a near-launch unreleased product, so I can't share photos online yet. I'll email you separately, if you're interested. Suffice to say, silent cooling like I've described is challenging, if not impossible, to achieve with consumer parts. But it's a real passion for me, so I'd be happy to continue the conversation by email.
ganeshts - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkSure, feel free to send over the details to my e-mail ID (can be got from the author by-line). I can keep it under wraps till launch.
zilexa - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkSeriously?? Who the HELL is going to spend >600 on this device?
People who do that clearly do not have a clue what to do with their money.. *sigh*
I love the fact it uses mSATA and has enough options to connect. But as HTPC, just buy a Zotac AD12 or AD06 or similar and you are done (preferrably the AMD option since they support out-of-order execution and feel faster then the Atoms, and have better graphics built in).
There is absolutely no use for a Core i7 in a HTPC. It doesn't have a dedicated GPU so it is also not meant for gaming. This thing is really to shake money out of peoples pocket.
ganeshts - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkHmm.. This is an 'enterprise' play. You pay for quality and support too.
I can't find any other pre-built PC with similar configuration for a lower price (read, fanless mITX with dual GbE and i7- class processor). People looking for industrial PCs will know the value :)
Btw, usage as a HTPC is just an additional application. There are use-cases such as hotel room TVs and signage applications where reliability is key and the benchmarks I have presented in the review are helpful.
Would I recommend this for the standard living room HTPC? Probably not.. The target market, as I explained in the final section, is something different.
Sikku - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - linkDoes this system use a PicoPSU??
Would like to see reviews of this type of PSU...