Topgro's $499 Fanless PC Packs Core i7-1255U 'Alder Lake' CPUby Anton Shilov on May 5, 2023 8:00 AM EST
One of the perks of modern mobile CPUs is that, being designed for laptops and their very limited cooling capacity, they can be placed in a NUC-sized (or smaller) miniature desktop PC with little difficulty. Better still, with desktops providing room for proper heatsinks (i.e. fins), even passively cooled mini-PCs using laptop-grade silicon are more than viable. The only real drawback to these mini-PCs has largely been the niche nature of the market – leading to high prices and limited choices for higher-performing systems – which is why Topgro has been turning heads as of late with the release of their aggressively priced Intel 12th Gen Core-based K3 Mini PC.
Topgro is not a household name, but it sells a collection of compact desktop PCs at Amazon, including inexpensive machines for office and neat gaming systems. As discovered by FanlessTech, Topgro's K3 is the latest addition to the company's lineup, offering a passively cooled mini-PC system based around Intel's mobile 12thGeneration Core 'Alder Lake' processors with Iris Xe integrated GPU with 96 EUs.
Recently posted on Amazon, Topgro had initially listed a complete Core i7-1255U system that shipped with 512GB of solid state storage and 16GB of DDR4 memory for just $369 (after discount), a dirt-cheap price for a Core-based mini-PC that is complete and usable out of the box. Though in a sign that Topgro may have been a bit too aggressive with their new PC, the price already went up by $100 to
$469 $569 just in the time it took to finish writing this article.
Measuring 174 mm × 128 mm × 45 mm (6.85 × 5 × 1.77 inches), Topgro's K3 Mini PC is a rather compact machine. And since Alder Lake CPUs for notebooks are heavily packed with features, these K3 machines are quite capable. The small form-factor PC not only comes with a 96 EU integrated Intel Xe-LP GPU, it supports up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory using two SO-DIMM modules, two M.2-2280 SSDs (with a PCIe 4.0 and a PCIe 3.0 interface), and can house one 2.5-inch SATA HDD or SSD for bulk storage. Even Thunderbolt 4 is supported, owing to the fact that it's natively baked into Intel's mobile CPUs.
As for connectivity, Topgro's K3 provides everything that Intel's 12th Gen Core platform for laptops has to offer and then some. This includes Wi-Fi 6 (enabled by Intel's AX200 module), two 2.5GbE ports (making the systems plausible for corporate environments), the aforementioned Thunderbolt 4-capable USB Type-C connector, four display outputs (DP 1.4, two HDMI 2.0, USB-C), and six USB Type-A ports (three USB 3.0, two USB 2.0), and audio jacks.
As noted earlier, arguably the most notable aspect of this PC is Topgro's aggressive pricing, especially given that it's a fanless machine. The sole K3 configuration Topgro is offering pairs Intel's Core i7-1255U (2P + 8E cores, 12 threads, 4.70 GHz, 12 MB L3, Iris Xe GPU with 96 EUs) with 16 GB of DDR4-3200 and a 512 GB NVMe SSD, with Windows 11 pre-loaded. The manufacturer is offering a $30 digital coupon on top of a (now) $499 base price, bringing the final price of the sytem down to
Update 5:00pm ET: It was apparently too good of a price to last. Despite starting at $369 less than a day ago, Topgro's K3 is now $569, a quick $200 hike that puts it on par with other Alder Lake-U systems.
Coincidentally or not, $469 is also Intel's list price for the Core i7-1255U. And while system vendors rarely pay the listed price – especially over a year after the CPU has launched – systems such as the K3 underscore how aggressive PC vendors are needing to be in order to move PCs amidst the current slump in the market. Coupled with DRAM and NAND prices that are bottoming out at record lows, it's increasingly becoming possible to find decent systems at a low price.
And while this is the only fanless model in Topgro's profile, the company is also offering actively cooled mini-PCs in a similar form factor, and with similarly aggressive pricing. A Core i9-12900H box with the same RAM and NAND runs for $679 after discounts; which although is a big step up from the K3 in terms of pricing, does net you Intel's top Alder Lake mobile CPU.
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ikjadoon - Friday, May 5, 2023 - linkThunderbolt 4 ports should the Thunderbolt logo instead of just writing "type-C", tbh. Nobody knows what "type-C" means: 480Mbps to 40 Gbps are possible.
IIRC, people that want Thunderbolt do recognize the logo. If it's TB4-certified, it should be TB4 or at least the logo.
And, IIRC, even if the CPU has TB4 support, it still has to be certified (e.g., see the Framework Laptop's similar issues). Reply
HideOut - Saturday, May 6, 2023 - linkthey are most certainly NOT paying the fee to intel to call it TB4, it just happens to be compatible. Tons of computers are like that. Reply
mukiex - Tuesday, May 16, 2023 - linkWhat's funny is, through the magic of USB4 2.0, 480Mbps to 80 Gbps are now possible. Reply
thomasjkenney - Friday, May 5, 2023 - linkI have a similar unit with N5105, and the heat transfer CPU-to-case works well. The storage was a problem. If you use a 'warm' M.2 SSD, you will have heat problems. I had to put a Raspberry Pi fan inside the case, prop it up with non-conductive wedgies, and plug it in to the SATA power source on the board. It dropped to fairly acceptable temps (~45C) after that, but I went extra and got an external 120mm fan and bolted it to the outside for ~35C.
I may get all tinkery and see if I can rig a heat pipe from the SSD to the case... Reply
nicolaim - Saturday, May 6, 2023 - linkIt's great to see so many USB-A and USB 2.0 ports in 2023 😉 Reply
meacupla - Saturday, May 6, 2023 - linkI don't understand.
do you want it to be all USB-C? or do you just want more USB-A?
Because if it's the first one, that I/O port configuration makes good use of Alder Lake mobile, without getting extravagantly expensive by using all 4x TB4 ports.
While with the second one, Alder Lake mobile only offers 4x USB 5gbps ports and 10x USB2.0, so you'd have to use a hub or additional chip to get more.
And since it has a TB4 port, you can hook up a TB4 dock for more ports, without being limited to the 5gbps from the USB3.0 ports. Reply
nicolaim - Sunday, May 7, 2023 - linkI should have been clearer. I don't think computers should include antiquated ports.
This one will also look like crap with all the high-speed peripherals plugged into the front. Reply
meacupla - Monday, May 8, 2023 - linkWait, you put mini PCs on your desk? I mount them behind the monitor, so I can hide all the cables behind a slab of LCD. Reply
Eletriarnation - Sunday, May 14, 2023 - linkI think calling USB 2.0 "antiquated" is a bit strong. Many, many devices are still developed and put on the market that use it and would not benefit from a newer revision. Why would a mouse, keyboard, Bluetooth adapter, microphone, serial port adapter etc. need anything faster? Reply
bunnyfubbles - Monday, May 8, 2023 - linkit only has 2x 2.0 ports, which are typically used for keyboard/mouse, and there still plenty of such devices that don't behave well on 3.0+ ports, so its nice to see dedicated 2.0 ports for such instances Reply