Introducing the CompuLab Intense PC

The last time we checked out a fanless desktop system, it was Logic Supply's LGX AG150. While affordable, that system was powered by Intel's Cedar Trail Atom processor, a chip with serious teething issues under Windows. Today, though, we have a beefier beast: can CompuLab's Intense PC with an entirely fanless enclosure handle the heat from a 17W Ivy Bridge CPU?

While performance isn't exactly liable to be intense, what's certainly intense about the Intense PC is its weight. What you're looking at, essentially, is one massive heatsink with a computer at its center. The Intense PC is almost three pounds, so it's roughly as heavy as an ultrabook, but it's a lot smaller and denser. CompuLab's site says the Intense PC is ruggedized to take a beating and handle industrial situations, and I believe it.

CompuLab Intense PC Specifications
Chassis Custom CompuLab
Processor Intel Core i7-3517UE
(2x1.7GHz, Turbo to 2.8GHz, 22nm, 4MB L3, 17W)
Motherboard Custom QM77 Board
Memory 2x4GB Hynix DDR3-1600 (maximum 2x8GB)
Graphics Intel HD 4000
(16 EUs, 350-1000MHz)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 5400-RPM Hitachi CinemaStar C5K750 SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) -
Power Supply External ~30W PSU
Networking Realtek RTL8723AE 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz Wireless Ethernet
Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC888
Speaker and line-in jacks
Front Side 4x USB 2.0
Top Side -
Back Side Power button
Speaker and line-in jacks
2x Removable Wi-Fi antennae
2x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
1x RS232
AC adapter
2x eSATA
2x Gigabit ethernet
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 7.5" x 6.3" x 1.6"
190mm x 160mm x 40mm)
Extras Completely fanless
Customizable FACE module
Warranty 2-year limited parts and labor
Pricing Starts at $399
Review system MSRP $1,149

The base $399 model is CompuLab's barebones: it comes with an Intel Celeron 847E, which offers just 1.1GHz dual core operation and ditches the RAM, HDD, and OS. What's important to keep in mind is that while none of the specs are particularly fancy, the enclosure is. I can't stress this enough: this is a giant block of metal with ports and a computer hiding inside it. It's also intended for predominately industrial applications, and comes with a 24-month warranty standard. This is effectively enterprise-class.

CompuLab sent us their top of the line model for review, so this is as good as the Intense PC gets before you start upgrading it manually. The Intel Core i7-3517UE is a dual core processor that runs at 1.7GHz nominally, up to 2.6GHz on both cores, and up to 2.8GHz on a single core. The HD 4000 does take a slight hit compared to the conventional i7-3517U, though, sporting a top speed of 1GHz instead of 1.15GHz.

Backing up that processor is 8GB of DDR3-1600 courtesy of Hynix, and the memory is user expandable to 16GB. The Realtek wireless is serviceable but not outstanding; as even smartphones are starting to graduate to 5GHz wireless, settling for the 2.4GHz band only is kind of a drag. Thankfully that's also user replaceable. Finally, the biggest drag may just be the storage subsystem. There's a full-size mini-PCIe slot inside the chassis, but that slot does not support mSATA, which in my opinion is a pretty big omission at this point in the game. and it does support mSATA.

The chassis also supports a single 2.5" drive, but the 500GB, 5400-RPM Hitachi drive included lowballing it. I see why they chose this model specifically; heat tolerances are actually very high, with a maximum operating temperature of 70C, and the drive is designed for 24/7 operation. Still, in this day and age, a $1,149 computer shipping without an SSD is a bitter pill to swallow; if reliability is an issue, shipping an Intel SSD would've been appreciated.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • HisDivineOrder - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    Completely agree.
  • Death666Angel - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    I don't see the appeal of this thing for the normal consumer. In a business world where any moving part is a pain because of increased failure, downtime and service hours, I can see a completely fanless enclosure being great and paying a premium for it. For the consumer who wants a quiet HTPC, there are much better enclosures that offer silent fan configurations at better prices and more range in performance. :) I have a slightly modded mITX case where the top-blower CPU heatsink/fan draws cool air from the outside and pushes it out through the 2 sides. I don't hear anything.
    Don't get me wrong, this thing is cool, but I don't think it is worth the price for consumers unless you have a tiny room. :D
  • mgc8 - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    I had a previous version of one of these (the FitPC2) and while small and quiet, it suffered from terrible heat problems -- it basically had to be rebooted once a day since it was locking up hard. As the intended purpose of the device was to serve as a router/gateway, needless to say it had to be replaced with another product. I would've appreciated a more thorough investigation of this device's resilience in 24/7 operation under high network load, as that is one of the most obvious use cases.
  • Intense PC user - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    I guess Phoronix uses this model for more than half year as basis for Intel HD 4000 "Ivy Bridge" benchmarks:
  • HellDiver - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    So is this just a NUC board in a custom case? Specs seem terribly similar.
  • cjs150 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    At moment NUC is an i3 processor not an i7 (although I believe an i5 version is coming out shortly). From experience the i3 runs a bit too hot at idle for my liking (around 50C) unless you ramp up the fan when it becomes a bit too noisy.

    There are very few applications where a completely silent computer is needed (HTPC being the obvious one) I have a completely silent computer which can be run 24/7 but I always worry about heat for the memory
  • zepi - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    How about a comparison with Intel DQ77KB + Akasa Euler?

    We can just hope that Intel releases similar packages for Haswell later this year.
  • danjw - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    With Haswell release only 43 days out, I don't see why anyone would be releasing and Ivy Bridge product now. It just doesn't make any sense to me.
  • kyuu - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    Just because Haswell is getting "launched" in 43 days doesn't mean you'll see products shipping with it immediately after. I'm guessing Haswell will probably be in short supply at first.
  • ViewRoyal - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    So this CompuLab PC is:
    - about the same size as the quad-core Intel Core i7 Mac mini,
    - but it weighs more than the quad-core Intel Core i7 Mac mini,
    - has less connectivity than the Mac mini,
    - has a much less powerful processor than the Mac mini's quad-core Intel Core i7,
    - has less storage than the quad-core Intel Core i7 Mac mini,
    - and it costs MUCH more than the quad-core Intel Core i7 Mac mini.

    On top of that, the CompuLab PC can only run Windows and Linux... the Mac mini can run OS X, and Windows, and Linux.

    Why would anyone want buy this black lump???

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