Unboxing and Setup Impressions:

Aleutia doesn't bundle input accessories (keyboard / mouse / IR remote etc.) with the system. We also don't find any detailed operating manuals. The package is pretty barebones as it can be. This is perfectly acceptable given the target market. There is a single welcome note which lists the package contents and also provides the initial login details for systems with pre-installed operating systems.

The contents of the package include:

  1. 90W AC adapter (with country-specific power plug)
  2. Driver and software CD from Intel for the DQ77KB motherboard
  3. OEM Windows 7 Home Premium installation DVD
  4. HDMI to DVI adapter
  5. Two TP-Link 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n compatible antennae
  6. Main unit

One of the most interesting aspects of the package is the main unit itself. The chassis is solidly built and meant to act as a giant heat sink. The industrial design is extremely pleasing to the eye. The rounded corners and the curved heat sink base on either side add to the aesthetics.

We would have liked the rubber feet at the bottom of the unit to be thicker in order to give more clearance to the ventilation slots at the bottom. A number of screw slots for mounts of varying sizes is also provided. The rear panel of the unit has the DC-in jack, four USB 3.0 ports, a full-size Display Port output as well as HDMI, two GbE LAN ports, analog audio out and microphone jacks and a Kensington lock slot. On the top side of the rear panel, we have ventilation slots interrupted in two places by Wi-Fi antenna holders.

The front panel is relatively bare, with a single power button and an LED indicator (which lights up blue when the system is powered up) on one side and two USB 2.0 ports on the other.

The top cover has ventilation slots running on either side close to the heat sink base. All the ventilation slots are covered by a thin gauzelike layer underneath which provides a certain degree of protection against internal dust build up.

Our review unit came with a pre-installed copy of Windows 7 Home Premium x64. Fortunately, there was no bloatware to uninstall. All our benchmarking programs were installed fresh. LAV Filters 0.52 and madVR 0.81 were used to test out the HTPC aspects in conjunction with MPC-HC v1.6.4.6052. Since the system has no in-built optical drive, we didn't have to worry about Blu-ray playback software.

We conclude this section with a summary of the data and A/V connectivity options for the Aleutia Relia review unit.

A/V Connectivity Options for the Aleutia Relia
Option Status
   
HDMI Yes [v1.4a]
Display Port Yes
Component No
Composite No
VGA Yes
SPDIF Yes [Optical]
Stereo Yes
Data Connectivity Options for the Aleutia Relia
Option Status
   
Optical Disk Drive No (DVD Slimline Drive Optional)
USB Yes [4 x v3.0, 2 x v2.0]
eSATA No
LAN Yes [ 2 x 1000 Mbps GbE ]
Internal HDD Yes [ 2 x 500 GB ]
Internal SSD Yes [ 128 GB mSATA ]
WiFi Yes [ 300 Mbps 1T2R 802.11b/g/n (Single band)]
Bluetooth No
Card Reader No

 

Introduction System Teardown and Analysis
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  • ganeshts - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    Nope, we could clearly hear the noise from the hard drives. Reply
  • deltaTdawg - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    This 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.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    The 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?
    Reply
  • deltaTdawg - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    Fair 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.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    The 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:

    http://www.anandtech.com/Gallery/Album/2473
    Reply
  • deltaTdawg - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    Yeah, 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.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    Sure, 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. Reply
  • zilexa - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    Seriously?? 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.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    Hmm.. 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.
    Reply
  • Sikku - Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - link

    Does this system use a PicoPSU??
    Would like to see reviews of this type of PSU...
    Reply

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