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Streacom FC8 Evo Fanless Mini-ITX Chassis

Attractive, compact, and relatively affordable, the Streacom FC8 Evo is a surprisingly well-balanced, small, mini-ITX case that offers cooling via fanless, silent, heat conduction.

Streacom FC8 Evo Fanless Mini-ITX Chassis

January 29, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Streacom FC8 Evo
Fanless Chassis
Manufacturer
Street Price
£104

For most of our readership, the concept of a fanless PC that suits their needs
is a dream just out of reach. Passively cooled cases and systems with the cooling
capacity to handle a standard desktop processor are prohibitively expensive,
and often large and unsightly. Smaller, more affordable models can’t dissipate
as much heat and are thus limited to mobile or nettop chips which have more
limited capabilities.

Last year we reviewed the Streacom
FC5 OD
, a passively cooled microATX case that held up fairly well to
our scrutiny. The FC5 OD is in a low profile desktop style to match classic
A/V gear, with a footprint that is massive for its 8.8 litre volume. The FC8
Evo is more compact, accepting mini-ITX boards only, but it is taller, using
the extra vertical room for drive mounting rather than the space around the
motherboard. Its form factor is closer in line with a typical SFF case, rather
than one specialized for an home theater cabinet.

At Computex Taipei in June 2012, SPCR Editor Mike Chin found that Streacom’s
fanless case lineup had expanded quite a bit. A dozen cases are listed on Streacom’s
product page
today, and eight of those are passively cooled. Admittedly,
there are only four basic fanless designs, each one offered in two variants
(such as with or without optical drive slot, USB 3.0 or 2.0 front ports, etc),
but it is still an extensive range for a relatively small niche market. The
FC8 is the smallest; the others are wider and deeper.

Other fanless AV style cases for computers include those used in systems and/or
offered by Logic Supply,
Tranquil PC, A-Tech
Fabrication
, and HDPlex.
The closest in pricing and market position is HDPlex. Logic Supply leans to
industrial and commerical customers, Tranquil sells complete systems, not cases
by themselves, and A-Tech is extremely upmarket, with obviously higher quality
and pricing several times higher. There are other passively cooled heatsink
cases in the industrial/signage’embedded sector, of marginal interest to home
or business end-users.


The Streacom FC8 Evo.

Perhaps the most startling aspect of the FC8 Evo is its price, £104
at QuietPC.com, about 40% cheaper than the FC5 OD. As the FC8 has a volume of
just 6.0 L, much of the savings is in materials. The heatsink portion is only
on one side and while the fins are larger, they are more densely arranged as
the case lacks depth. CPU cooling in the FC8 Evo is handled by four short copper
heatpipes and two aluminum blocks securing them to the side. In comparison,
the FC5 OD has six very long pipes and three blocks. Contrary to this apparent
downgrade in cooling materials, according to the specifications, the FC8 Evo
can handle a maximum CPU TDP of 95W, a claim that raises immediate skepticism
as the FC5 is only rated for 65W. The case also supports a slim slot-loading
optical drive and one 2.5 inch and one 2.5/3.5 inch drive, a low profile expansion
card, and a pair of USB 2.0/3.0 ports.


Mounting gear.

The installation hardware includes everything you need to assemble the cooling
system with the exception of thermal compound. This is disappointing as a significant
amount is required to ensure proper heat dissipation between the various components
and aftermarket TIM is generally subject to hefty markup. The case also doesn’t
ship with a power supply — it’s designed to work with a DC-DC model like
the picoPSU.
In addition, it lacks an IR receiver despite the presence of a dedicated port.
While this gives users some flexibility, a fully inclusive package would be
a nice option.

Another omission is a compatibility list — Streacom does not state what
motherboard models have the proper layout for use with the FC8 Evo. In lieu
of a motherboard compatibility list (which they did offer in the past for the
FC5), they offer a System
Build Guide
, which helps users with component selection, including motherboards,
for their various cases. Judging by the placement and length of the heatpipes
and position of the heatsink blocks, it’s designed for a board with the CPU
socket near the center-bottom, which includes the majority of LGA1156/1155 mini-ITX
models. The heatpipes run toward the top of the board so there shouldn’t be
any large obstructions (heatsinks, primarily) situated north of the socket.

Specifications: Streacom FC8 Evo
(from the
product web page
)
EAN Material: All aluminum, 4mm thick body
Case Type Silver / Black – sandblast finish
Mother SupportMini ITX
Hard Drive Bays1 x 2.5" + 1 x 3.5" or 2.5" (shared bay)
Optical Drive Bays1 x Slim slot loading drive, universal eject button
Front Ports 2 x USB2.0 (*USB3.0 Ready, cable sold separately)
Expansion Slot 1 x Low profile expansion card
CoolingHeatpipe Direct Touch 4 Pipes – Max CPU TDP 95W**
Dimension240 x 250 x 100mm (W x D x H)
Power SupplyNanoPSU & AC Adapter (not Included)
Remote ControlMCE Compatible IR Receiver & Remote (not Included)
Net Weight2.5KG

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Streacom FC8 Evo measures an even 24.0 x 25.0 x 10.0 cm or 9.5 x 9.8 x 3.9 inches (W x D x H) for a total volume of 6.0 L. It weighs 2.5 kg or 5.5 lb and is composed primarily of aluminum with a sandblast finish. Our sample was a pleasant-looking silver but you can also purchase it in a sleek black version.


The case has a simple rectangular aluminum design with curved corners. Some ventilation is provided at the top and at the back but being a fanless case, there is no direct airflow.


Some additional vents are provided on the underside. From here, both the left and right sides can be disassembled though there really isn’t any reason for doing so.


Only four screws need to be removed to take off the top panel and the drive tray directly underneath.


The interior is mostly empty aside from the front panel connectors and cables and the heatsink blocks on the side.


The side of the case acts as a massive passive heatsink with 27 x 3 mm thick aluminum fins. The fins are ridged somewhat to increase surface area.


The circuitry for the power switch and front USB ports adorn the front side of the case. Interestingly, there is both a USB 2.0 and 3.0 option but the later requires a special 20-pin to 20-pin cable accessory.

ASSEMBLY

Like other passively cooled cases, assembling a system inside the FC8 Evo is
a bit more involved than with the typical SFF case. The heatpipes have to be
mated to the side of the case one end, and to a baseplate that draws heat from
the CPU on the other. This baseplate also needs to be secured to the CPU socket,
so there are three sets of mounting gear that have to be aligned together.


To ensure effective heat transfer, a liberal amount of thermal compound is required to fill the gaps between the heatpipes and the pieces with which they come into contact.


The backside of CPU socket also has to prepped with nuts that are attached with adhesive.


The flat side of the base goes over the CPU while the grooves on the top make contact with the heatpipes. A mounting plate goes over the pipes, secured to the base using hex screws. Spring loaded bolts are then used to press everything together.


The heatpipes are similarly sandwiched against the side of the case with a pair of connector blocks. Leave everything partially installed until all the pieces are lined up properly, then slowly start tightening and adjusting the base, heatpipes, and block positioning as necessary. It’s advisable to clean up any extraneous thermal compound that will undoubtedly smear and push out during this process so it doesn’t get on your fingers later when/if you need to service the system.


Fully assembled, the pipes ran over the SATA connectors of our ASUS P8H67-I Deluxe, creating some minor routing issues.


The drive tray sits over the board. A 2.5 inch drive can be mounted near the I/O panel while a slim 5.25 inch optical drive can be installed at the front. There’s also a spot for a 3.5 inch drive option underneath but as the tray is rather thin and there’s no support on the underside, it’s not a very sturdy place to mount a drive.


A Kingston SSD was selected to make our system truly silent.

TESTING

System Configuration:


Test platform device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Testing Procedures

Our testing procedure is a simple one involving placing the test system in various states until temperatures remain stable for 5~10 minutes. The test states are idle, playing H.264 video, encoding video with TMPGEnc, full CPU load using Prime95 (small FFT setting), and full GPU loading using FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Temperatures were recording using various software tools and an infrared thermometer on the hottest point of the exterior as well as the AC power draw from the wall.

TEST RESULTS


CPU-Z screenshot during TMPGEnc video encoding test.

Though Streacom claims the FC8 Evo can handle CPUs up to 95W, we played it
safe, utilizing a chip with more modest power requirements. The 65W Intel Core
i5-3470S is a lower power quad core processor with a clock speed of 2.9 GHz
(3.6 GHz maximum with Intel’s Turbo Boost feature).

System Measurements
System State
Temperatures
System Power (AC)
CPU
PCH
HDD
Ext*
Idle
27°C
44°C
39°C
34°C
28W
H.264 Playback
29°C
45°C
40°C
35°C
33W
TMPGEnc
72°C
62°C
52°C
51°C
68W
CPU Load
82°C*
64°C
52°C
54°C
98W
Ambient temperature: 20°C.
*External temperature measured using an IR thermometer pointed at the hottest portion of the chassis.
Note: dark grey boxes indicate thermal failure.

When sitting idle and playing H.264 video, the system remained comfortably
cool. Only the PCH chip ran a bit hotter as its tiny heatsink wasn’t connected
to the case’s cooling system and obviously did not receive any direct airflow.
Our real world load test, video encoding with TMPGEnc, brought the system power
consumption up to 68W AC and temperatures rose accordingly. CPU surpassed 70°C
while the PCH and HDD got up into the low 60’s and 50’s respectively. The fins
on the outside of the case also became uncomfortably warm. Still, these are
perfectly safe temperatures.


SpeedFan: CPU core 0/1 temperature fluctuations during throttling.

Our skepticism regarding the case’s claimed maximum TDP proved to be correct:
Running Prime95, which is the true torture test, the system was stable for all
of five minutes before the CPU began to throttle at 82°C. While Prime95
is a synthetic test that generates greater power and heat than any real world
application, the fact the FC8 Evo failed it with a 65W chip suggests that a
95W processor is completely out of the question, with any type of heavy load.
The case’s cooling system has less external surface area as well as fewer heatpipes
compared to the FC5 OD. It handled the TMPGEnc test using the Core i5-3470S,
but this is in a relatively cool 20°C ambient room; in summer, especially
in warmer climates, pairing the case with such a chip would not be wise.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Streacom FC8 Evo is a compelling product that stands out with its attractive
and compact form factor. It is compatible with off-the-shelf desktop processors
and motherboards, and it supports a slim optical drive, a pair of hard or solid
state drives, a low profile expansion slot, and USB 3.0. If that isn’t enough
already, its price tag puts it over the top — £104 is downright
cheap for a case of this type.

However, the FC8 Evo doesn’t deliver everything it promises. We were surprised
with how fast and loose Streacom played it when determining its maximum TDP
claim of 95W. Physically, it seems obvious that the cooling system is less capable
than that of the FC5
OD
which is rated for only 65W (though that case has now been re-spec’d
for up to 73W TDP processors). It handled our 65W quad core Ivy Bridge test
chip well enough except when we applied a synthetic load (Prime95) that pushed
our system’s power consumption close to 100W AC. To play it safe, we would recommend
only dual core processors in the 35W to 65W range.

This limitation still offers a satisfactory level of performance for most users, especially in today’s CPU climate. The same could not be said three or four years ago, but today’s low power chips pack some serious punch. Ever improving processor technology and affordable cases like the FC8 Evo and Akasa Euler may help passively cooled cases and systems break out of its niche.

Our thanks to Streacom for the FC8 Evo case sample.


Streacom FC8 Evo is Recommended by SPCR

* * *

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* * *

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