Should I take an actively cooled or passively cooled Mini-PC?

It’s underestimated quite often how important it is to make the right choice regarding the cooling architecture of your Mini-PC. Especially location and operation purpose play an important role here. What you definitely should know in any case about the two different types of cooling and which advantages and disadvantages they bring along, you will learn here.

Active Cooling

This option is the most common type of cooling. One speaks of an active cooling of your PC if the hardware is cooled down by a stream of air from one or more ventilators. The faster the rotational speed the cooler the hardware. The air ventilation automatically adapts, thanks to “SmartFan”, to the capacity utilization of the PC and rotates, as necessary, sometimes faster and sometimes slower.

Advantages:

  • Even if the air needs to have some room inside of the computer, in order to circulate properly, actively cooled systems are generally slimmer than fanless systems.
  • You can achieve good cooling results, even with high-performance hardware.
  • It is a cheap solution compared to passively cooled PCs.

Disadvantages:

  • Since the fans are most likely affected by wearing, they have, depending on use, a relatively shorter life.
  • The noise level: Even at low utilization the fan will always be audible.

How do I know if active cooling is the right choice for my purpose?

Mostly active cooling for a PC is useful if the environment of the site allows the warm air to go out in order to prevent heat accumulation. For instance this can happen if an Embedded-PC is mounted in steles, tables or walls.
Also active cooling is useful when processors and graphic cards experience a temperature rise above-average, due to applications which need a lot of hardware resources.

Passive Cooling

First of all the most striking contrast to the active cooling here is that there is no fan used for a passive solution.
Due to heat sinks which are integrated in the systems, like thermally conductive metal, the produced heat is transported to the outside, via lamellar cooling fins on the housing of the computer.

Advantages:

  • Silent working with simultaneous use of an SSD (See: “Shall I go for an HDD or SSD?”).
  • Robustness by massive PC cases and compact constructions.
  • High durability of the systems.
  • Systems are often completely closed and not prone to dust, sawdust and the like.
  • Extended range of temperature.
  • Above mentioned advantages both count for outdoor and vehicle installations.

Disadvantages:

  • Performance of the systems is limited (compared with actively cooled PCs of the same size), since high performance requires a bigger heat sink.
  • The environment has, to a certain degree, to provide thermal discharge in order to prevent heat accumulation.
  • More expensive compared to actively cooled systems.

How do I know if passive cooling is the right choice for my purpose?

There are so many opportunities that we actually don’t really know where to start. Wide application areas are rough environments like factory work rooms, workshops or production facilities since the fanless computers are less prone to dust or similar. Even installations in, for instance, steles, walls or in the open air where it sometimes can be a bit colder than usual, but you nevertheless have to rely on the computer. Not to mention in open-plan offices where every little noise reduction is a boon for the staff, passively cooled systems are always welcome.

Conclusion

If you attach importance to an increased durability and robustness of your product, we recommend to invest some extra cash and to opt for a passively cooled solution. Those who don’t want to lower their sights regarding performance and size of the Mini-PC are well served with the classical actively cooled alternative.

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2 May 2016 Array ( [id] => 186 [title] => What is BIOS? [authorId] => [active] => 1 [shortDescription] => In the first part of our BIOS-series we explain the terms BIOS and UEFI. We also talk about the tasks of the BIOS and we answer the important question of how to actually get into the BIOS. [description] =>

What is BIOS?

The abbreviation BIOS means “Basic Input/Output System”. It is the firmware of a PC –  A software which is built integrated into the hardware. The BIOS is stored on a small chip in the mainboard of the computer and is always preinstalled. There are motherboards, which also have a second chip, that acts as backup. The BIOS is the link between the software (OS) and hardware components such as hard drives, keyboard, mouse and printer. The navigation in BIOS is only possible with a keyboard.

And what is this UEFI?

The new version of BIOS is called UEFI, which means unified extensible firmware interface. UEFI looks like an operating system, can be controlled by mouse and is capable of executing programs.

What is BIOS responsible for?

The main tasks of the BIOS are a self-test and the initialization of the hardware as well as the communication between the operating system and other components. When a computer is turned on, the BIOS starts and prepares the PC for booting. First it performs the power-on self-test (POST). The computer checks one by one whether the basic hardware components such as CPU and RAM are working properly. If errors are found, the BIOS displays them by specific sounds or on screen, if the graphics have already been tested successfully.

Following this self-test, the booting process starts. For this, the hardware must know from which component it should boot the operating system. The BIOS searches the operating system in the available devices (hard drives, USB, DVD) following a specific order. As soon as it finds software, the PC is booting automatically. The order of the drives, on which to search for the operating system, can be set in the BIOS. For instance if you want to delete the existing OS and install a new one via DVD, it is necessary to set “CDROM” as first boot device. Other tasks of the BIOS are managing date and time as well as the temperature monitoring of the processor and the mainboard.

How do I get into the BIOS?

To enter the BIOS, a certain key must be pressed (multiple times!)  right after  turning on the PC and even before the operating system  is booted. It depends on the manufacturer which key: usually - and also at all spo-books – the BIOS is accessed by pressing the key "F2" or "Del".

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know-how
What is BIOS?
In the first part of our BIOS-series we explain the terms BIOS and UEFI. We also talk about the tasks of the BIOS and we answer the important question of how to actually get into the BIOS.
17 May 2016 Array ( [id] => 188 [title] => What is the difference between HDD and SSD? [authorId] => [active] => 1 [shortDescription] => All spo-books can be configured as desired and can be ordered with an HDD or SSD. This brings many customers to the scratch which choice is the best for them: The standard 500 gigabyte sized HDD or the more expensive SSD? We want to bring a little light into the darkness. [description] =>

What means HDD?

The term HDD stands for “hard disk drive”. For simplicity it is often referred to as a hard drive. An HDD is composed of many mechanical parts. In the storage process, the data is written on the surface of one or more rotating magnetic platters. Therefore a reading head is moving – similar to a record player – back and forth.

Hard drives have been around since the 50s and are until today often installed by default as a storage medium in PCs. With the emergence of the SSD this has changed. These were in the early days extremely expensive and were only used for very specific applications. Anyway they have now become much more affordable and due to their advantages are increasingly used even at home.

What is an SSD?

The term SSD stands for "Solid State Disk" or "Solid State Drive", which can also be described as a semiconductor memory. An SSD is not mechanical but an electronic memory. Unlike the rotating platters from the HDD you can imagine the SSD like an USB flash drive.

Which advantages can I expect from an SSD?

The probably biggest advantage is that an SSD boots and works much faster because it runs electronically and does not constantly have to move a reading head back and forth. Although it is faster, the SSD has much lower energy consumption than a conventional hard drive. Who wants his PC to run completely silent and therefore chooses a passive cooled system, should also decide for an SSD. Thanks to the absence of moving parts it works without a sound.

But there’s more to come: It is also much more robust, as the mechanical drives of an HDD break  a lot easier if dropped. Likewise it also stands an extended temperature range. Thanks to its ruggedness the SSD is still running, even under concussions or vibration. Hard drives often have the protection mechanism to stop working as soon as the running PC is moved. For instance this could be the case if a laptop is carried around or if a PC is installed in a vehicle, like our MOVE-series. To prevent the reading head from striking the platter, the HDD stops its operation cautionary. With an SSD this cannot happen. Since it has no moving parts, it works without problems even in rough circumstances.

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know-how
What is the difference between HDD and SSD?
All spo-books can be configured as desired and can be ordered with an HDD or SSD. This brings many customers to the scratch which choice is the best for them: The standard 500 gigabyte sized HDD or the more expensive SSD? We want to bring a little light into the darkness.
21 Jul 2016 Array ( [id] => 194 [title] => What is RAM? [authorId] => [active] => 1 [shortDescription] => When configuring a spo-comm Mini-PC, among other things, the amount of memory respectively RAM can be selected. But what is RAM actually and what is its function in the PC? [description] =>

What is RAM?

The abbreviation "RAM" stands for "random access memory”. In this type of memory access to each memory cell is possible, while other species, such as Flash only stores in blocks. Unlike the hard drive RAM is a volatile (semiconductor) memory. This means as soon as the power is turned off, all data is lost.

While hard drives can store large amounts of data over a long time, RAM stores small amounts for a short time. At the same time it works at a much higher speed: The read and write operation is up to 250 times faster than SSDs, access times up to 120,000 times faster. Due to its speed RAM is usually used as the main memory. Therefore, the two terms are used interchangeably.

The store is located in the form of chips on the RAM modules. Therefore more gigabytes of RAM mean more memory chips on the RAM module. In general, the modules now have 2 up to 64 gigabytes of memory.

What does the memory?

The RAM serves as a short-term buffer for the CPU. In the memory the operating system, web browser and other data on which changes or calculations are performed, are cached. The processor loads, for example, text, images and videos in the RAM, so that they can be viewed and edited quickly. Only when saving the data is backed up on the hard drive or SSD.

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know-how
What is RAM?
When configuring a spo-comm Mini-PC, among other things, the amount of memory respectively RAM can be selected. But what is RAM actually and what is its function in the PC?