The hardest task confronting every developer of a barebone system is creation of an efficient and quiet cooling system. It must be efficient as the hot components of the computer are all grouped close together in a limited space. Noise requirements are universal for any type of system: you don’t buy a computer to listen to its roar.
So, what the solution from AOpen looks like? The XCcube EZ65 uses a traditional cooling system with a simple active CPU cooler plus 80mm fan on the PSU. Thus, this barebone has only two fans and a massive aluminum heatsink mounted on the chipset North Bridge.
The CPU cooler stands on a copper sole. It is cooled down by the “side” fan, which provides the most optimal airflow inside the case. Overall, the cooling solution works like this. The cool air is sucked in through the numerous holes in the left side of the system case. This air stream cools down the memory and the HDD and splits in two. One portion of the air goes to the CPU cooler and then vanishes through the right side of the system case with its no less numerous holes. The other portion goes though the PSU to be taken outside by the 80mm fan.
The whole affair is simple and at the same time efficient. Our tests proved the ability of this cooling system to handle even a Pentium 4 3.2GHz. You should keep in mind, though, that the “cross-cut” airflow requires the sides of the system case to be open to the outside air. That is, when choosing a place to put this barebone into, make sure that nothing prevents proper cooling of the system.
Now, to the noise matters. AOpen has the exclusive SilentTek technology up its sleeve for this. The key point of the technology is evident: the CPU cooler speed depends on the temperature inside the system case. The XCcube EZ65 is quite flexible in controlling the CPU fan; the rotational speed can vary from 1500 to 6000rpm. Under small CPU workloads, the temperature inside is low enough and the barebone is practically noiseless, as the CPU cooler is rotating at a reduced speed. When the temperature goes up, the rotational speed does the same reaching a notch of 6000rpm in critical situations. The noise level goes beyond the boundaries of the acceptable in this case (I would compare it to the noise of a washing machine in the wringing mode), although the fan does prevent overheating quite successfully.
Note that AOpen doesn’t grant the users of the XCcube EZ65 the right to configure SilentTek in any way. You are only allowed to turn it on or off in the BIOS Setup.
The AOpen XCcube EZ65 comes with an exclusive monitoring utility instead. This is a unique feature of the barebone, since most other manufacturers don’t equip their mini-systems with software for tracking system health parameters.
By the way, the hardware monitoring system of the AOpen XCcube EZ65 has a couple of other peculiarities about itself. First, the CPU temperature is for some reason taken by the under-socket sensor instead of the CPU-integrated thermal diode. Second, the system temperature from the XCcube’s point of view is the air temperature at the output of the system case. That’s why the system monitoring utility often shows the system temperature exceeding the CPU one.