To show off the capabilities of their H10.ODD passively-cooled microATX case, HDPLEX sent us a sample with a fully assembled system consisting of a Core i3-530, SSD, Blu-ray drive, and fanless 150W power adapter. Read on to see how this minimalist, super slim, fanless PC case performs.
February 24, 2011 by Lawrence Lee with Mike Chin
Fanless MicroATX Case
HDPLEX is a new company offering a series of interesting fanless PC cases. They recently sent us a sample of their H10 case, a microATX model with support for Intel LGA775/1155/1156 and AMD AM2/AM3 boards (see the compatibility list), a full-sized optical drive and two hard drives. They offer two different power supplies for the unit, a 150W power adapter or an 80W “open frame” power supply, both fanless but sold separately. The other case models, H5 and H3, are both mini-ITX and considerably smaller, especially the H3, which excludes any type of internal optical drive.
Interestingly, HDPLEX actually posted information about their case concepts in the SPCR forum, seeking feedback nearly two years ago. Active long time members of the SPCR community can rightly feel that they’ve played a small part in shaping the design of this case.
Like every other passively cooled case, the H10 accomplishes fanless operation by using long heatpipes to carry the heat away from the processor to the sides of the enclosure that act like a giant heatsink array. It’s effective as the case exterior has so much surface area at its disposal that convection to ambient air on all sides is enough to cool the system down.
The HDPLEX H10.
Being a rackmount style case, it is impressively thin, measuring only 6 cm tall (7.2 cm including the feet). However, what it lacks in thickness it makes up for in footprint, being 45.0 x 43.8 cm or 17.7 x 17.2 inches, not including the front panel. If you stack it with many other home theater gear, the depth in particular will stand out; most AV (audio video) gear tends to be shallower. The faceplate comes in both silver and black.
The case is meant to be sold directly to the DIY end-user, or to a system integrator who will configure systems as they deem appropriate for their customers. For the convenience of SPCR reviewers, HDPLEX kindly shipped our H10 sample case with a fully assembled system that includes a Core i3-530, H55 motherboard, Blu-ray drive, SSD, 1.5TB hard drive, and a 150W adapter. It’s a configuration suggested for use as a home theater PC.
The power button.
The power button is unobtrusively mounted on the front left corner of the top panel, next to a tiny hole that hides an LED which lights up to show when power is on. The location of the power switch could be problematic if some other AV component is placed atop the H10.
The retail version of the H10 case ships with a power cable, a hexagonal screw driver 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 sections that sandwich them, along with mounting hardware for Intel LGA775/1155/1156 and AMD AM2/AM3 sockets. There is a nicely illustrated installation guide that is easy to follow. In addition, we received a PCI-E riser card and a standard Windows Media Center remote control, both of which are sold separately on their site.
Specifications: HDPLEX H10
product web page)
|Type||Super Low Profile Full Length Fanless Chassis|
|Chassis||Material 6063T Aluminum|
|H10.ODD Body Internal||450mmx370mmx55mm (L x W x H)|
|H10.ODD Body External||450mmx438mmx60mm (L x W x H)|
|Faceplate||460mmx68mmx20mm (L x W x H)|
|Aluminum feet Color||Black|
|Faceplate Color||Black or Silver|
|Motherboard Compatibility||Mini-ITX / microATX|
|Cooling System||HDPLEX Six heatpipe passive fanless heatsink System for LGA775/LGA1156/AM2/AM3 Socket CPU* |
*Utilize Four heatpipe for AM2/AM3 socket.
|With Power Supply||No|
|150W Fanless Adapter+DC-ATX Converter||Supported, Internal or External Mounted|
|80W Fanless Open Frame Fanless Power Supply||Supported, Internal Mounted|
|Internal 5.25″ Drive Bays||1 Center Mounted with Aluminum faceplate.|
|Internal HDD Drive Bays||One 2.5″/3.5″ HDD/SSD bay+one 2.5″ SSD bay (both bottom-mounted)|
|Expansion Slots||1 Full Height Card Single Slot Card (Riser Required)|
|Internal MCE IR Reciever||Supported|
|Parts||1 year limited|
|Labor||1 year limited|
PHYSICAL DETAILS & POWER SUPPLY
The chassis of the H10 measures 45.0 x 43.8 x 6.0 cm (L x W x H) but we measured the overall dimensions to be 47.6 x 46.2 x 7.2 cm including the faceplate and feet. The case has an internal volume of approximately 11.8 L and weighs about 12 lb.
Like most fanless cases, a series of aluminum fins stick out at the sides to dissipate heat. They are 5.0 mm thick at the base and 3.1 mm at the tip. There is a vent on the top cover above the motherboard and graphics card area.
Being such a slim chassis, there is only room for a single full-height card using a riser expansion slot.
Underneath there are three rows of slot vents underneath the motherboard and screws used to secure drives.
Hex screws are used to install the CPU heatsink and to hold on the 2.4 mm thick top panel. The rest of the case is put together with Phillips heads.
The AC/DC power brick is located inside the case, held on with clamps secured by nuts and bolts. On our sample the clamps had become loose after going through shipping and had to be re-tightened. This is somewhat difficult to do as the nuts are very small.
The power adapter was manufactured by FSP and rated for 150W.
Given its low profile, the layout inside the H10 is basic. The drives are mounted at the front using screws that enter from underneath. The CPU is connected to heatpipes that funnel heat to the fins on the right side of the case. There are also fins on the left side, but they do not have heat directly conducted from any of the other components.
The main components in our demo system included a Core i3-530 processor, a Gigabyte GA-H55M-S2H motherboard, and a single 4GB stick of G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1333 memory.
The drives provided consisted of an OCZ Vertex 2 60GB SSD, a WD Caviar Green 1.5TB hard drive, and an Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray drive.
The heatpipes are clamped on one side to a copper base and an aluminum heatsink on the CPU socket, and the other side is secured to the right side of the case with a series of plates.
Rubber grommets are used on both the exterior and interior of the case floor to dampen hard drive vibration. The square formation is used for 2.5″ drives and the rectangular one for 3.5″ models.
Normally, installation of a system is part of our case review routine. This part was skipped for the H10 simply because it was shipped with a system preinstalled. However, we took a close look at the manual and the procedures outlined for installation. It should be no trouble for anyone with a modicum of screwdriver handling skills to install a PC system into the H10. Perhaps a fumble-fingered newbie could have trouble, but the layout and overall procedures are so straightforward that it would be no more trouble than with any conventional case.
Core i3-530 processor – 2.93 GHz, 32m, 73W
- Gigabyte GA-H55M-S2H
motherboard – Intel Express H55 chipset
- G.Skill Ripjaws memory – 1x4GB, DDR3-1600
- OCZ Vertex 2 solid state drive – 60GB
- WD Caviar Green hard drive – 1.5TB
- Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray drive
Windows 7 operating system – Ultimate, 64-bit
GMA 15.21 graphics driver
Measurement and Analysis Tools
processor stress software.
stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
- GPU-Z to
monitor GPU temperatures and fan speed.
to monitor system temperatures.
Power Angel AC power meter, used to measure the power consumption
of the system.
- Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
fan speeds during the test.
- PC-based spectrum analyzer:
SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digitalaudio interfaces.
- Anechoic chamber
with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
- Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
standard fan testing methodology.
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.
We tested the system in four different states and recorded the temperatures after they stabilized. We noted internal sensor readings and used an external thermometer to measure the hottest point on the left, top, and right sides of the case.
CPU + GPU Load
Ambient temperature: 21°C.
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.
System noise level: 13 dBA@1m.
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 not uncomfortably so, while the CPU heated up considerably, though not enough to cause the processor to throttle. For a fanless system, these are pretty good results.
Given that there was only one component in our system with moving parts, a single 1.5TB Caviar Green hard drive, the machine was almost silent when idle. It measured only 13 dBA@1m and had a slight hum audible at closer distances.
However, when we induced seeking activity using HD Tune’s random access test, the noise level increased to 24~25 dBA@1m. The thumping of the hard drive was clearly audible and incredibly distracting. Seeking with the drive’s AAM setting at minimum brought it down by 4~5 dB but it was still fairly loud. The WD Green drives are noisier during seek than in idle, but when tested by themselves, they do not exhibit this kind of increase in noise during seek. We conjecture that the large top and bottom panels may be vibrating in sympathy with the seeking drive. The rubber grommets used to isolate the drive may not be soft enough for effectively mechanical decoupling. Excitation of air resonance in the case could also be a factor.
You should note, however, that audible as HD Tune’s random access test is here, the test is hardly representative of typical HDD seek. It would have to be an immensely large file read/write for any drive to work at this intense level of seek activity.
These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
- HDPLEX H10 with WD Caviar Green 1.5TB at 1m
— idle (13 dBA@1m)
— AAM seeking (20~21 dBA@1m)
— seeking (24~25 dBA@1m)
The HDPLEX H10 is designed to cool a home theater style system without the use of active cooling and in this role, it is definitely a success. The case can fit a pair of hard drives for filling up with downloaded or ripped content, a full-sized optical drive for playing DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and supports a full height single-slot PCI-E expansion card via a riser card, perfect for a low-end graphics card for gaming or perhaps a sophisticated HD tuner card.
The heatpipe cooling system does a good job at fanlessly dissipating the heat of the sample system’s processor. We would not recommend using a chip with a TDP of more than 95W, at least not if you plan to push the CPU as hard as we do in our torture tests. However, for general HTPC use (rather than for lab torture testing), a hotter CPU should work fine as long as you’re not trying to encode hours of HD video in a single session during a summer heat wave.
Fundamentally the H10 case works, the workmanship seems good, and it looks pretty sexy, but we have some quibbles:
- The aluminum fins on one side of the case have no purpose except for making the case look symmetrical; it’s a lot of wasted material that has to add to the price-tag. OK, maybe the AC/DC adapter gets the benefit of some cooling by being pressed up against it.
- There are no ports on the front panel. We imagine it would be a pain to reach around the back of it to plug in a USB device.
- There is the issue of loud hard drive seeks, but given the size of the case, perhaps there isn’t a lot that can be done about it. We’d love to see a suspension system in every case, but that simply isn’t realistic.
- By far our biggest issue with the H10 is its size. While quite slim, it has a very big footprint, far larger than necessary in our opinion. It could be slimmed down with a few simple changes:
- Take the AC power adapter and make it external rather than internal to save space on the left side.
- Ditch the full-sized optical drive for a slim one. A more expensive option, but this would allow you to place an existing hard drive mount underneath sideways, reducing both the width and depth of the chassis.
- Make the case taller and hang some components above the motherboard to reduce the depth. Thin is good, but does anyone need an almost silent rackmount case?
Here are some comments by Larry Liu, the principal of HDPLEX, concerning our quibbles and about HDPLEX cases in general.
- “Thick front panel and no I/O ports is my aesthetic preference. Blame my sense of minimalism. But on the H5 and H3 series, there is one USB 3.0/2.0 port.
- “H10.ODD is indeed very deep. We debated this a lot. We originally thought about mATX + slim ODD solution for H10.ODD. But since we already have the H5.SODD for mini-ITX + Slim ODD, why not go all the way with H10 to accommodate 5.25″ ODD + 24×24 cm mATX board? Otherwise, we would not have a product for mATX + 5.25” ODD. If customers want a shorter case, the H5.SODD or even H3.SODD are there for them, and mini-ITX mobo is so popular now. MicroATX + slim ODD is a compromise which might not be received well by customers on either side of the spectrum.
- “The width is due to 3.5″ HDD placement with 5.25″ ODD in the middle. The 3.5” drive is almost touching the side panel at current width.
- “The heatsink is used more when the user chooses the 80W internal open frame PSU. [Available from HDPLEX.] That PSU needs the left side panel to dissipate heat. For picoPSU users, the left side heatsinks are purely for aesthetics.”
The H10 is listed on HDPLEX’s site at US$258. Compared to similar products from HFX, it is certainly competitive in price, and its cooling hardware seems better thought out. If you love the slim minimalist approach and don’t mind the large footprint, it is certainly worth considering to slip into the shelf under your big screen TV. If like us, you would prefer a smaller case, the $248 HDPLEX H5.ODD appears to be nearly everything that the H10 is, in a smaller mini-ITX format.
Our thanks to HDPLEX for the H10 fanless case sample.
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