I remember a time when you had to go to a specific room in your house if you wanted to use your computer. It was creatively named “THE computer room”. Emphasis on “THE”. This room was the only room in your house where there was a computer, and if you wanted to do something on said computer, you usually had to schedule time or compete in feats of strength. Today, I have a computer in a holster on my hip (it’s a phone, but still), I’ve got a laptop that I can take everywhere, I’ve got a desktop in my “computer room”, and if I’m feeling really squirrelly, I could take home one of the netbooks from work. Not only can I have a computer everywhere I go, but virtually every TV on the market now has connectivity options for hooking up a computer so you can surf your faciespaces and mytubes and tweeterbooks from your sofa during commercial breaks without having to trudge one room over to “THE computer room”. One problem, my laptop is heavy (it’s a little old) and it makes my legs hot if it’s not on a table. Plus I can’t leave it connected all the time (it’s how I do my job). My desktop is way too large to carry into the living room and it’s fans are so loud that i can hear them right now across the house (also, the wife would get angry if I started running cables through the walls). And the netbooks? Well they’re great, but they’re not mine.
So what if I could find something that was really quiet (or silent), didn’t make my legs hot, was easy to move around, hooks to my TV, and i never have to unplug? GENIUS! The fit-PC2i does all of that at a decent price and with enough power for your every day sofa surfing habits.
The fit-PC2i is a fan less net-top PC that comes in a very small, neatly packaged cast aluminum case measuring 4? x 4.5? x 1.05? (101 x 115 x 27 mm) . With the hard drive installed it weighs 13 ounces (370 grams), which is less than a pound. The compact size makes the device extremely easy to hide amongst the electronics on your entertainment system, or you can use the optional VESA bracket and hang it directly from the back of your TV (or monitor, or anything else with a VESA hole pattern in it). The fit-PC2i uses a measly 8 watts of power at full load and 6 watts at low CPU load, and when it’s in standby it only sips 1 watt.
Under The Hood:
CompuLab currently offers several different models of the fit-PC2i with various configurations. All models come standard with Atom 1.6ghz or Atom 1.1Ghz processors, 1 Gb of RAM (upgradeable to 2Gb), a 160 Gb SATA hard drive (SSD available or diskless), a miniSD slot, onboard Intel GMA500 graphics, DVI-D out through an HDMI port, 5.1 channel S/PDIF, 4 USB 2.0 ports (two mini, two standard), 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports, 802.11g WLAN, and a serial port (also USB mini with adapter). The review unit that I was sent is the company’s new 2.0 Ghz model which comes equipped with a 2.0 Ghz Atom processor and 2Gb of RAM, so it’s their newest and most powerful model (should be available for purchase in the next 2 to 3 months).
The system can come preloaded with Windows 7 Professional (the review unit has 7 pro), Windows XP Home SP3, or Ubuntu Linux 9.10. Of course you can also get it without an OS and load whatever you want. That’s a lot of stuff to cram into a tiny package.
How does it work:
Since the machine is fanless it’s completely silent. No annoying buzzing, no constant whir, nothing. I’ve dealt with quite a few fanless PCs at work, and many of the ones designed for home use are NOT designed to be on 24/7. They’re designed for short to moderate bursts of use with long periods of off time. Usually this is due to improper cooling design that relies on a small heatsink or heatpipe to move what heat it can to an opening in the case and hopefully a breeze blows by once in a while. Industrial grade fanless machines do a much better job of thermal mitigation by encasing the entire computer in a metal shell (usually aluminum) and fitting the heatsink in direct contact with the CPU die and the inside of the outer case, thereby making the entire case a heatsink. This is a MUCH more efficient method of thermal mitigation and it’s how the fit-PC2i is constructed. According to CompuLab (the makers) it’s designed for 5 years of up time (that’s not 5 years of sometimes up time). The machine is responsive and uses its power efficiently. From completely off to fully booted takes around 55 seconds and shutdown is about the same. Surfing around the Internet and playing a few flash games is easy and quick. The fit-PC2i gets a Windows Experience score of 2.5 mainly because of the built in graphics, but also because of the single core Atom processor. All other areas of the index were 4.3 or above.
The fit-PC2i is extremely easy to set up, takes up less space than a couple of Wii games, and is barely noticeable. Its black aluminum case will fit in with any entertainment system. This computer would make a great media extender or sofa-surfer device, or you could leverage its low power consumption and long availability into a nice home web server, FTP server, TeamSpeak server, or even build your own home VOIP PBX. The uses for the contraption are only limited by the Atom processor and limited graphics capabilities. This is by no means a primary gaming computer, but for social networking, looking up news, or other general home computer use it will be more than capable. There are even quite a few corporate applications where the high availability and tiny form factor would be a great asset. With a price tag ranging from $297 for the lowest model (Revision 1.1, 1.1 GHz, 1GB RAM) to $546 for the highest available model* (Revision 1.1, 1.6 GHz, 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, WiFi, Windows 7 Professional) it would be pretty easy to find a version that would suit your needs.
*The 2 Ghz model that I’m using for this review is a “Technology Preview” and won’t be released for sale for at least a couple of months, but the projected price for the 2Ghz Atom/2 GB of RAM configuration will be $678 with Windows 7 Pro or $477 with no hard disk installed. All other models are currently available.