FANLESS MINI-PC FOR THE SHACK
My main PC is a gaming machine designed to cope with the insatiable demands of modern Flight Simulations and I decided to move it to a spare room where there's space for all the associated paraphernalia like throttle, stick, rudders, big screen, etc.
In it's place, I put a Laptop in the shack but I really disliked how it took up so much desk space and offered little in the way of display screen, plus it pelted out a fair old amount of fan noise from a side vent. So I had to find a better solution!
Looking around I found some MINI PC's on our local shop's website and was intrigued by their compact size and the fact that they were fanless.
As much as I liked the idea of one of these tiny, silent PC's, I didn't much like the prices - yikes! So I figured there might be some on the second-hand market and started to search eBay for one. There weren't many up for sale and the prices were still a bit on the choppy side.
I then looked on Facebook MarketPlace and spotted someone local selling a mini PC that was small but not quite as tiny as the ones I'd been looking at. Worth a look though, so I went to the seller's house.
It was a very compact and fanless PC with an Intel i7 CPU running at 1.8GHz which should be fast enough for any of the radio-based software I'd be running. It also had 16Gb of DDR4 RAM which seemed very generous compared to some of the offerings on Scan's Website.
The unit had a 250Gb M.2 SSD which again, was ample for my requirements. It even had a built-in Wi-Fi Router and room inside the case for another drive and extra memory. It was installed with Windows 10 PRO and came with a mouse and keyboard.
EDIT : 26 Feb : A friend had a brand new, boxed 250Gb M.2 SSD and sold it to me for £20, so the storage space has now been doubled!
The guy showed me he'd paid £499 a year ago and was only asking £300 for it which seemed reasonable, so I offered him £200 and he accepted without batting an eyelid. Result!
When I got home with it, I had a closer look and was impressed with the 8 USB sockets (four USB2 & four USB3). There were 2 LAN ports, one Display Port, one eDP port and an HDMI port. There was also a handy audio In/Out pair of jacks.
Once I'd installed it in the shack it was time to load some software and see how it performed with my most often used programs such as ELAD FDM SW2, SDR UNO and EXPERT ELECTRONICS SDR2. These can be quite demanding, so I needed to know if the PC was capable of coping without any stuttering and without me having to fuss over the operation.
I noted that although the processor's base speed is 1.8GHz, it appears to be running at over 3 GHz and every test went well. Using my main shack radio (ELAD FDM DUO) and the SW2 software, there were no operational problems whatsoever - even when I had 4 receivers running. I could also open QRZ to access my logbook without any hint of choppiness.
There was a brief episode of locked mouse-cursor and I couldn't figure out why, but then I discovered it was because I'd inserted a 128Gb Micro SD Card which it didn't like much. As soon as I removed it, everything went back to normal.I'm over the moon with my little bargain. It fits into the shack very well and takes up very little space as you can see in the photo. The fact that's it's fanless is a real bonus because it means there are NO noises (which seems a bit weird at first).
As for temperatures, yes, those cooling fins get quite hot when it's running multiple receivers on a 2K screen (2560x1440) but I use a neat app called CORE TEMP which not only monitors the temperatures of each CPU core, but takes action if things got too hot by putting the computer into sleep mode until things cool down. I've tried my best to overcook the processor by running multiple demanding programs, but it doesn't seem to phase it. Sure, temps get quite high in those circumstances and things go from green to amber, but no red - so far.
So basically, this little gem is perfectly capable of running any of the SDR software that I use and more! It's capable of running three monitors too but to be honest, a 2560 x 1400 desktop is plenty big enough to have multiple windows open such as WSJT-X, GRIDTRACKER and SDR software.
£200 for all this?? That'll do! 😍
Video-Clip of the Mini-PC running ELAD FDM SW2 software...
73, Tom M7MCQ.