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Logic Supply LGX ML300 Fanless NUC

A slim, silent, fanless case for an Intel NUC with room enough for a 2.5″ drive is Logic Supply’s latest passively cooled project. With the right NUC innards, it becomes a perfect ultra-mini media PC with both zippy performance and enough storage space.

Product Logic Supply LGX ML300
Fanless NUC Computer
Manufacturer Logic
Supply
MSRP Case only, $129; systems start at $566;
$1,234 as tested

Logic Supply has submitted many small, unique and mostly fanless systems to
SPCR over the past few years. The company’s primary target markets are industrial
and commercial, and these small, fanless computers are meant for use in digital
kiosks, signage, POS and other applications where minimum maintenance and power
requirements plus high reliability are keys. Being fanless, however, also means
these products are of interest to general users seeking zero noise from their
computers, which represents a big slice of SPCR’s audience. The new Logic Supply
ML300 manages to appeal not only in size, low noise and high efficiency, but
also with looks. The contrast of its silver finned top panel and the (optional)
orange front panel is striking, giving this Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing)
box an appeal that goes far beyond the industrial markets.

The ML300 is the first Logic Supply sample we’ve received that doesn’t use
a mini-ITX platform. Incidentially, the tiny NUC is the only motherboard line
Intel will be offering in the future. The industry giant still offers ATX, mATX
and mini-ITX boards, but after Haswell, there will be no more new Intel desktop
boards, and production of current models will be discontinued by 2016, with
the possible exception of the NUC line. This was announced in January 2013,
and it came as no surprise to anyone following the long term sales trend of
desktop PCs.

Meanwhile, the NUC line is apparently quite popular, despite somewhat inflated
pricing. Intel has a long tradition of creating reference boards and integrated
designs, with partners copying those designs as well as expanding beyond them.
So far, only Gigabyte appears to be taking on the NUC, with its Brix
line
, first shown back in June at Computex Taipei. This is not to say the
NUC is truly unique — there are many tiny computers offered by many brands,
including Zotac Zbox, Asus Eeebox and VivoPC, and VIA Artigo, to name just a
few — but the NUC’s dense combination of high performance parts in such
a small package seems unprecedented.

So what has Logic Supply done with the NUC? They’re using a NUC board with
its soldered CPU in their own custom-designed fanless chassis. There is enough
room to fit a 2.5″ drive in that chassis, which is a real option now that
a SATA port is appearing in some of the Haswell NUC boards.

Shortly after receiving our sample, Logic
Supply announced
that Intel had been testing many fanless chassis for the
NUC, and their ML300 chassis came out tops:

Logic Supply’s fanless NUC, the ML300, has returned from the Intel
testing lab as the clear leader in fanless Next Unit of Computing systems.
In exhaustive Intel testing, the ML300 was the first and only fanless NUC
to maintain performance in ambient temperatures exceeding 30°C. Standard
configurations of the ML300 reached 40°C and with the addition of Logic
Supply wide-temperature components the computer was verified for a staggering
50°C, without CPU shutdown, wifi failure, or data corruption. Said lead
Hardware Engineer Rodney Hill, “
The ML300 is by far and away the
top thermal performer of all fanless NUCs verified by Intel.

The ML300 sample we received:


The Logic Supply ML300 came in a small carton, with Windows 7 Pro installed,
VESA mounting hardware, an adapter for DVI video, and a Delta Electronics
65W adapter.


The ML300 is a touch slimmer than Intel’s NUC case but wider, and can
accommodate a 2.5″ drive. It is entirely fanless.

The particulars of the ML300 sample:

Mobile
DualCore Intel Core i5-3427U, 2000 MHz

Intel
Rend Lake D53427RKE

– Intel Panther Point QS77, Intel Ivy Bridge
– Transcend TS1GSK64V6H 8 GB DDR3-1600 DDR3 SDRAM x2 (16GB total)
– Emphase Enterprise MLC mSATA SSD G5 128 GB
– Delta Electronics AC/DC Power Adapter 65W, 19V
– Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
– VESA mounting kit
– Expedited Assembly & Validation Service (2 working days) -FSR
– 1 Year Warranty (Standard)
– Dimensions: 196 x 36.75 x 131.20mm (7.72″ x 1.45″ x 5.17″)
– Weight: 1.2 kg (our measurement)
– Current price: $1,236.69

This configuration may be a bit extreme; 16GB of RAM is still way more than
most applications will use, for example. This NUC board also does not have a
SATA port. Of the six NUC boards offered by Intel, only two models, D54250WYB
and D34010WYB, have a SATA port as well as an mSATA slot; they were not available
at Logic Supply when the sample for SPCR was being prepared. The D53427RHE is
an earlier board with an Ivy Bridge mobile CPU. Unfortunately, only USB 2.0
ports are featured, even though one USB 3.0 is supported by the board. Finally,
the mini Display Ports are just that, and do not support Thunderbolt, as did
our first NUC kit sample from Intel a year ago.

None of this is fixed; it is only one configuration of many that can be ordered
at Logic Supply. It’s a review sample from components available at the time.
In the ML300 case, I would prefer the D54250WYB or D34010WYB board with SATA
port (and USB 3.0 ports). Then a 120GB mSATA SSD could be dropped in for the
OS and programs, and something like a high capacity 2.5″ HDD could be added
to create a nifty full-featured media PC.


Back panel ports: 19VDC power, 2 USB 2.0, 2 mini DisplayPort, mini-HDMI,
RJ-45 gigabit LAN.

On the expanded portion of the back panel are markings and cutouts for various
other ports, including one for a built-in UPS system that Logic System can provide
for industrial applications. Again, this is only one particular back panel;
Logic Supply has others for various different Intel boards

INTEL NUC D53427RKE BOARD


The Intel D53427RKE inside the Logic Supply ML300 system.

The Intel D53427RKE board defines almost every aspect of the system’s performance
and capabilities. Its Core i5-3427U is a high efficiency 17W TDP dual-core with
3MB cache and hyperthreading, clocked at 1.8 GHz with 2.8 GHz Turbo frequency.
Built in Intel HD Graphics 4000 runs at 350 MHz, with max dynamic frequency
of 1.15 GHz. The board is normally equipped with a low profile blower heatsink
for the CPU, not used in the LGX ML300 system.

 Intel D53427RKE
Specifications
Processor Core™ i5-3427U, 17W TDP – soldered
Chipset QS77 Express Chipset
System Memory Two 204-pin DDR3 1600/1333 MHz SDRAM
SO-DIMM; up to 16 GB total RAM supported
Graphics Intel® HD Graphics 4000
Expansion Slots One PCI Express Half-Mini Card connector
One PCI Express Full-Mini Card connector
USB 4 USB 2.0 onboard; 1 USB 3.0 (external)
LAN Gigabit (10/100/1000 Mb/s) Intel
82579LM
Audio Intel® High Definition Audio
via the HDMI v1.4a and DisplayPort 1.1a interfaces
Back Panel I/O 2 USB 2.0
1 mini HDMI
1 mini DisplayPort
1 LAN
1 19-volt DC input
Front Panel 1 power switch
2 USB 2.0
Intel® Visual BIOS Intel® Visual BIOS in Interface
(SPI) Flash device
Support for (ACPI), Plug and Play, and System Management BIOS (SMBIOS)
Hardware Monitoring Nuvoton NCT5577D embedded controller:
• Voltage sense
• Thermal sense
• One processor fan header
• Fan sense used to monitor fan activity
• Simple fan speed control
Intel® Security and Manageability
Technologies
• Active Management Technology
(Intel AMT) 8.0
• Virtualization for Directed I/O (Intel VT-d)
• Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT)
• Intel ID Protection (Intel® IPT)
• IntelAnti-Theft (Intel® AT)
• Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
• Intel® Small Business Technology (Intel® SBT)
Operating Temperature 0ºC ~ 50ºC
Form Factor 4″x4″ (101.6×101.6mm)

 

OTHER DETAILS

Accessories with the sample system included:

  • Windows 7 disc
  • bracket kit for mounting the system to VESA-standard, horizontal/vertical
    surfaces, or DIN rail clips, four stick-on rubber feet,
  • Delta Electronics external 19VDC 65W AC/DC adapter with AC cable. The Delta
    runs on 100~240VAC, outputs 19VDC, and is rated for Level 5 (highest) efficiency
    as per the International
    Efficiency Marking Protocol (rev. Oct. 2008, PDF)
    , referenced by Energy
    Star
    . This rating describes efficiency to be at least 87%.


Cover/heatsink half of the ML300 chassis. Note the two raised square
portions to which the CPU and PCH of the board clamps when it is installed.

In the ML300 case, no heatpipes are used for heat transfer. Instead, on the
underside of the cover, there are two raised blocks of aluminum, one for the
CPU and one for the PCH. When the board is mounted, those chips make tight firm
contact with the aluminum blocks, covered with TIM, of course. Conduction to
the ribbed casing top enables most of the heat disspation, but the entire aluminum
casing helps with cooling.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Our first test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power
consumption at various states. To stress CPUs we use either Prime95 (large FFTs
setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces higher system power consumption.
To stress the GPU, we use ATITool or FurMark, which ever application is more
power demanding.

Our second test procedure is to run the system through a video test suite featuring
a variety of high definition clips. During playback, a CPU usage graph is created
by the Windows Task Manger for analysis to determine the average CPU usage.
High CPU usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability. If the video (and/or
audio) skips or freezes, we conclude the GPU (in conjunction with the processor)
is inadequate to decompress the clip properly. Power consumption during playback
of high definition video is also recorded.

Lastly, we run a short series of performance benchmarks — a few real-world
applications as well as synthetic tests.

All nonessential pre-installed software is removed prior to testing, and certain
services and features like Superfetch and System Restore are disabled to prevent
them from affecting our results. Aero glass is left enabled if supported. We
also make note if energy saving features like Cool’n’Quiet and SpeedStep do
not function properly.

GENERAL USE NOTES

First impressions were very positive. The first tasks undertaken was updating
of Windows 7. Compared to a full-ATX desktop system running a i7-2500K, 8GB
RAM, an AMD HD6870 video card and a 240GB Intel SSD, this Logic Supply NUC has
nothing to be ashamed of. Subjectively, in routine Windows tasks, the experience
was extremely similar. It is a zippy little system.

TEST RESULTS

Performance

The performance of the D53427RKE and its i5-3427U processor are very good,
a close match to the desktop Core i3-2100 Sandy Bridge in most of the real-world
tests we ran. It is a substantial improvement over the original NUC DC3217U,
besting it by at least 25% in most applications, and in our Photoshop tests,
more than doubling the performance. An AMD A8-5600K on an Asus A85 chip FM2
board gives it a good run for the money, too, but that system draws far more
power across the board (for example, more than 87W DC running
TMPGEnc, compared to 25W AC for the LGX ML300 system.)

Video Playback

The quality of HD 720p and 1080p video playback was consistently good, even
with clips that reached >30 Mbps peaks. The 13~14W typical power draw during
HD playback is essentially as low as we’ve seen in any system. CPU utilization
was very low, not higher than 15% with any of our standard clips.

System Power Consumption

The D53427RKE NUC board in this system managed to shave a single watt in idle
power from the NUC DC3217BY kit we reviewed a year ago, making it the first
desktop PC on our test bench to venture into single digit wattage territory.
It manages the same single watt drop verusus the original
NUC in HD video play. Only the last Logic Supply system tested here, the AG150
with a much less capable Atom processor, matches it for low power. The discrete
CPU + mini-ITX motherboards are not compeitive in this regard, not even the
Thin-ITX Gigabyte H77TN (admittedly run with a 55W TDP processor).


Power consumption in idle and video play.


Power consumption under high loads.

Power draw under high load activities exceeded that of the original NUC by
4-6W, except for absolute maximum load, where it ran 2W lower. It is quicker
all around, however, so tasks are finished more quickly, which means the total
power (in W/hr) will actually be less.

THERMAL PERFORMANCE

The system was left at various activity states for ~30 minutes in each state
to allow temperatures to stabilize. Exterior case temperatures were measured
with an infrared thermometer.

Logic Supply ML300 Temperatures
State
AC
CPU
PCH
HD
Top Cover
Idle
9W
60°C
43°C
30°C
39°C
x264 video
14W
64°C
53°C
30°C
54°C
TMPGEnc
25W
81°C
59°C
30°C
63°C
Prime95
29W
90°C
60°C
30°C
64°C
Furmark
36W
90°C
63°C
30°C
66°C
P95+Furmark
38W
90°C
63°C
30°C
66°C
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

In normal use, the case gradually warmed up over time, as it should. CPU temperature
jumped under high loads, and the PCH got quite hot as well. A bit of throttling
was seen about 20-25 minutes into the torture tests (P95, Furmark) when the
CPU temperature exceeded 90°C. Since Intel’s testing saw the ML300 come
out tops for passive cooling, we have to assume the other passively cooled cases
do worse. Remember, too, that we use apps like P95 and Furmark for only one
purpose: To stress the heck out of the cooling and power systems. They have
no thermal or power equivalents in real world software that real people actually
use. At no time was there any kind of noise heard from the system nor its power
adapter.

How does this compare with last year’s fan-cooled NUC? Temperature-wise, they
are pretty close, as you see in the table below. Of course, at maximum load,
the cooling fan in the original NUC was screaming away at 6100 RPM and 31 dBA
but it managed to keep the CPU just barely cooler than in the Logic ML300.

Intel NUC DC3217BY System Measurements
System State
Temps
Fan RPM
SPL @0.6m†
Power (AC)
CPU
Ext*
Idle
62°C
37°C
2000
11 dBA
9.5W
H.264 Playback
65°C
38°C
2200
12 dBA
15W
TMPGEnc Encoding
68°C
39°C
2900
16 dBA
21W
CPU Load
80°C
41°C
3580
20 dBA
23W
CPU + GPU Load
88°C
42°C
6100
31 dBA
40W
Ambient: 22°C, 10~11 dBA.
*External temperature measured using an IR thermometer pointed at the
hottest portion of the external chassis
We measure SPL at 0.6m for all devices meant to be used
atop a desk, as it is more realistic a distance than the usual 1m. It
also corresponds to the “seated user SPL” distance as per the
computer noise measurement standard ISO 7779.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The LGX ML300 is a logical addition to Logic Supply’s fanless system and case
lineup. Fanless cooling of the NUC is a no-brainer for a company like Logic
Supply to pursue, and the ML300 chassis is certainly an excellent execution
of the concept. With its good cooling under normal loads, the system is an easy
choice for commercial or industrial applications in tight, poorly ventilated
spaces and minimum maintenance. It is larger than the stock Intel NUC chassis,
but the fanless operation and the additional 2.5″ drive capacity more than
makes up for the slight increase in size.

An Intel NUC D54250WYB or D34010WYB board with support for a SATA drive could
turn an ML300 into the ultimate silent mini HTPC. A 64~128GB mSATA SSD plus
a high capacity 2.5″ drive would make a good foundation. (2.5″ drives
of standard <10mm thickness have already reached 1.5TB capacity and will
likely hit 2TB soon.) The noise of such drives is not significant for a media
PC; they are very quiet, and as soon as the system is actually playing something,
whatever little noise it does make will be drowned out. Add external USB 3.0 storage if you need or use the gigabit network to access a network attached storage
device. If you must have broadcast TV, sophisticated HD tuner cards come in
tiny USB form these days.

The $129 price for the ML300 case looks a bit steep, considering that most
retailers sell the NUC kits rather than just the boards by themselves. The DC53427HYE kit which includes the stock Intel NUC case, a 65W adapter, and the D53427RKE
board in this sample, for example, typically retails for $370~420. The boards
by themselves are hard to find; Logic Supply itself retails this board for $409.
These pricing complications are likely to be directly related to volume and
retailers’ preference to play it safe by offering only the most popular options. The
vast majority of retail NUC buyers are likely to choose the kits, not the boards,
with some opting for a fanless case later if they get bothered by the noise
of the standard cooling solution.

The ML300 is a natural for specialized applications where silence, dust-resistance,
zero maintenance or no airflow to disturb the environment are important. The
zero noise, low heat and minimal energy usage, makes it a winner for home use,
too. We found the orange facia of our LGX ML300 sample modern and attractive,
but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. WAF in the living room should be a
non-issue, regardless of how it is perceived: Being so small, it is easy to
tuck out of sight.

Logic Supply LGX ML300
PROS

* Completely silent
* Really small
* High performance
* Super low energy consumption
* Cool enough

CONS

* No memory card reader

Our thanks to Logic
Supply
for the LGX ML300 sample.

* * *


Logic Supply LGX ML300 is recommended by SPCR

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Logic
Supply LGX AG150 Fanless Mini PC

Intel Next Unit of Computing Kit
DC3217BY

Jetway AMD G-T40E Fanless Barebones
Nettop

Akasa Euler Fanless
Thin ITX Case

Gigabyte GA-H77TN Thin Mini-ITX
Motherboard

* * *

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this article in the SPCR forums.

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