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
Bluetooth
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
HDMI
DisplayPort
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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  • Bob-o - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    Heh, it looks like the head off an old air cooled motorcycle engine. Cool. Reply
  • colinstu - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    No SSD? *thumbsdown* Terrible Reply
  • danjw - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    You can get a bare bones version that doesn't include a drive or memory and add your own. The memory is SODIMM and drive 2.5". Reply
  • DanNeely - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    Not offering one for something targeted at industrial customers is rather disappointing. Vibrations/shocks are much more likely there and a small factory isn't likely to have someone like us to customize their systems to what they should've been shipped as. Big companies will probably want ti configured right out of the box because it makes things easier for their bean counters. Reply
  • Intense PC user - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    There are some inaccuracies in the review:
    Intense PC does support mSATA ( I guess it was added to the current revision of the machine)
    I posses this machine for couple of months and using CT128M4SSD3 mSATA SSD (for OS) together with 1T Hitachi HGST 2.5" HDD ( for DATA)
    Regarding to the 3517U Dell XPS - Intel claims 15% higher graphic (1.15Gz vs 1.0GHz) and ~12% higher CPU frequency (1.9GHz vs 1.7GHz) so the conclusion about ~20% lost performance isn't fair enough.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    Good lord I wish they'd made the mSATA thing clear on their site. Updating. Reply
  • lehtv - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    Little typo in the conclusion title: it's -> its Reply
  • KaarlisK - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    The 3470T is a dual core :) Reply
  • Laststop311 - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    The barebones ones are pretty frickin cool. Got lotsa Ram and HDD's lying around. The problem is I wish they had a little more cpu range offered. You either have to get the crappiest celeron for 400 or a top end i7 for 800. Wish I could get a middle i5 version barebones for 600. That would be perfect for an HTPC. But I would hold off and get it with Haswell chips. They will have the configurable TDP that will run with even less power than these 17 watt ivys with equal or even higher performance. Less power = less heat to dissipate = heatsink can be shrunk making it lighter and even smaller (potentially) or the same size with more thermal headroom for permanent turbo mode. Plus Haswell has greatly enhanced GPU the gt3e igp on haswell is a large jump in performance compared to ivy hd 4000 even has its own dedicated memory directly on die with it all for the graphics side of the chip. Obviously it won't be enough memory to hold everything like dedicated gpus with 4GB of memory I think its estimated to be on 128MB of on die memory for the IGP but intel probably has smart ways of putting the most used most important stuff on that directly connected memory. Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    Completely agree. Reply

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