Power Consumption & Thermal Performance

The power consumption at the wall was measured with a 1080p display being driven through the HDMI port. In the graphs below, we compare the idle and load power of the Zotac ZBOX CI540 nano with other low power PCs evaluated before. For load power consumption, we ran Furmark 1.12.0 and Prime95 v27.9 together. The numbers are not beyond the realm of reason for the combination of hardware components in the machine.

Idle Power Consumption

Load Power Consumption (Prime95 + FurMark)

As expected, the load power consumption tracks the inherent capabilities of the CPU in the system. The Haswell Y-series CPU is more powerful compared to any of the Bay Trail parts that we have seen in mini-PCs before. But, it doesn't beat the ULV ones in the NUC-type machines. We did expect better idle power consumption numbers because of the fanless nature, but Zotac can probably optimize the BIOS a bit to drive this number further down.

While we didn't tear down the system to expose the actual thermal design, FanlessTech does have some pictures of the internals. We evaluated the thermal performance from a system perspective.  We start with the system at idle, followed by 30 minutes of pure CPU loading. This is followed by another 30 minutes of both CPU and GPU being loaded simultaneously. After this, the CPU load was removed, allowing the GPU to be loaded alone for another 30 minutes. The various clocks in the system as well as the temperatures within the unit are presented below.

Under pure CPU loading, the core clocks maintain their 1.5 GHz+ speed. However, the addition of the GPU load brings down these clocks further while the system tries to keep itself within the SDP limits. Note that thermal throttling isn't at play here (as the graph below shows). After removal of the CPU load, there is some leeway for the GPU to raise its clocks. However, the CPU clock remains at the specified value instead of winding down (that happens in the idle case, where the CPU can go as low as 600 MHz).

An important point to note is that the DTS never falls to 0. This implies that there is no thermal throttling at play. That said, the Y-series CPU seems to have some internal controls where the clocks are automatically adjusted depending on the workload (to remain within the SDP limitations) even though the core temperatures is not close to the junction temperature.

Another important aspect to keep note of while evaluating fanless PCs is the chassis temperature. Using Seek Thermal's thermal imager, we observed the chassis temperature after the CPU package temperature / DTS reached the steady state value in the above graph.

The gallery below presents some of other thermal images of the unit captured under the above conditions.

75 C for the chassis temperature is pretty hot, but keep in mind that this was after subjecting the unit to power viruses - Prime95 and FurMark are hardly the expected use-cases for these types of systems.

HTPC Credentials Final Words
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  • p@nc@k3s - Friday, October 31, 2014 - link

    To me, it really is the footprint and fanless design that would make me buy this over a notebook. Reply
  • james16 - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    Same for me. From my own anecdotal experience and expecting to use a PC for 6+ years, fans can suck in a lot of dust over time. The dust can cause overheating and throttling issues. Sometimes, the fans fail at some point too. I'm done with opening up PCs to clean/replace things. It's just not worth my time anymore. Also, notebooks are even more time consuming to open up to clean/replace stuff.

    So far with my experience with fanless devices is that they don't attract as much dust and, of course, no fans that can fail. However, you have to choose the right device. I've encountered some devices where the thermal design wasn't very good and you get throttling under normal conditions.
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Friday, October 31, 2014 - link

    Sure. Pretty much anything can be a HTPC as long as it meets your media needs. Some people just have different needs. For example, you probably cannot VESA mount a laptop on the back of a monitor/TV, but you can do that with a NUC/UCFF PC (I do that with my touch-based HTPC). Reply
  • Spectrophobic - Friday, October 31, 2014 - link

    Pretty sure it isn't that hard to DIY a mount for a laptop behind a monitor/TV. Reply
  • gopher1369 - Friday, October 31, 2014 - link

    In a corporate environment installing 500 of them at once? Reply
  • barleyguy - Saturday, November 1, 2014 - link

    In a corporate environment the solution would be to check the laptops out to employees and buy docking stations for the desks. My current corporate environment is primarily that way, as was my previous employer.

    They did have quite a few thin clients as well, but in general, people hated them.

    That said, my work laptop is WAY more powerful than this. It's a Dell mobile workstation with a Quad i7, an SSD, Radeon graphics, and 16 GB of RAM. Only downside is that it weighs about 10 pounds.
    Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Saturday, November 1, 2014 - link

    I'm not sure how we've suddenly jumped from a single HTPC to 500 devices in a corporate network however having been down both routes in a corporate environment, I preferred the laptop mounting option. There are standardised brackets available and it meant we could use a standard laptop that was properly supported (the company was a large one and standardised on a handful of models from a single supplier) making them much quicker to set up and much easier to get them fixed thanks to next day on site warranties.

    I immediately lost all interest in the Zotac when I saw the price, there's no way I'd pay such a huge premium when there's plenty of cheaper laptops with similar hardware that can do the job.

    John
    Reply
  • barleyguy - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    Keep in mind the retail price is probably temporary. The Gigabyte BRIX products tend to sell for about half of retail after they've been out for a while. This will probably be the same way.

    Right now Newegg is bundling a free 4 GB memory stick with this.
    Reply
  • wintermute000 - Saturday, November 1, 2014 - link

    Absolutely correct, aside from aesthetics.
    my standard go to recommendation for semi-technical friends is to grab a 200-300 dollar laptop and leave it connected to the telly permanently.
    Reply
  • Michael Bay - Saturday, November 1, 2014 - link

    And it instantly becomes a dust magnet.

    Not even mentioning how extremely nice cheap laptop fits into TV cabinet aesthetic.
    Reply

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