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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  • SteelCity1981 - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    for that much and it doesn't ship with a 256 or even a 128 SSD? yeah that's more then a bitter pill to swallow.
  • sylvez - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    They should make it watertight at the back so u can dip it into a shallow pail of water
  • fteoath64 - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    Great board with excellent ports layout and diversity but design-wise, why could they not make a copper based convection fins with heat-pipes going from CPU/chipset to the back of the metal casing. It would give this a wickedly stylish look rather than cylinder head block look and surface temperatures so high, it becomes hard to touch!. Some minor design changes can make this a great device for many uses ...
  • crashtech - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    Taller/more fins might have helped. You'd think a design aimed at industrial applications would put functionality over aesthetics.
  • Souka - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    One thing missing in the design... a cutout for my coffee cup!
    if it had that, I'd get one.

    Co-worker: "Hey, that's a really spiffy looking cup warmer!"
    me: "Yep... and it's also my computer!"
    me: "Dang, coffee isn't warm enough... time to run some SETI for a few mins"

  • Death666Angel - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    +1! :D
  • coolhund - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    The biggest problem I have with those small barebones is always the lack of enough USB ports.
    I need at least 10, more like 12 and an USB Hub is not an option because of bandwidth and stability issues.
  • Solandri - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    If you still have the review unit, see if the exterior temps get too hot to touch with a low-power fan blowing over it. Yes I know it defeats the purpose of a fanless system, but I ran into the same thing while recovering files from dismounted hard drives. If I ran them just sitting there, they got over 50 C within a half hour and stopped working (one hit 60 C according to its SMART log and has never been the same since).

    I bought a HDD cage to mount them in which came with I'm guessing a 500-700 RPM fan. It's dead silent, and you can barely feel any airflow even if you put your hand right next to it. But apparently that tiny bit of airflow is enough to keep the drives below 40 C.

    So I'm guessing you don't actually need much forced airflow over this to keep the exterior temps at a comfortable level. If you can mount it somewhere where it gets that airflow naturally, whether from an open window or a HVAC vent, the exterior temperature may be much cooler.
  • Googer - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Several companies are selling this same exact kit.
  • CalaverasGrande - Monday, April 22, 2013 - link

    Who else want's to mount one in their car?

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