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A number of Chinese PC makers have begun offering small fanless computers with low-power processors and a bunch of high-speed Ethernet ports. While they’re basically full-fledged desktop PCs, they’re positioned as networking appliances that you can use to build your own firewall, router, or home server, among other things.
Over the past year we’ve seen models released with Intel Jasper Lake and Alder Lake-U processors. Now the first models with Alder Lake-N chips have arrived. Prices start at around $212 at AliExpress for a barebones model.
The starting price will get you a model with an Intel Processor N95, which is a 15-watt quad-core processor. But if you’re looking for something more efficient, you can pay a little more for 6-watt chips like the Intel Processor N100 or N200. And prices start at $324 for higher-performance models with a 15-watt Intel Core i3-N305 octa-core chip.
All of these processors are based on Intel’s Alder Lake-N architecture. These chips feature 12th-gen Intel Core “Efficiency” CPU cores and Intel UHD graphics. What sets them apart from Alder Lake-U chips is that they don’t have any Performance cores, but Intel says that the chips deliver significant performance gains over its previous-gen Jasper Lake processors due to architectural improvements, increased core counts, and support for higher frequencies.
If you don’t want to bring your own memory and storage, you can also configure the systems with up to 8GB to 32GB of RAM and 256GB to 1TB of solid state storage. A top-tier model with an Intel Core i3-N305 chip, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage will set you back $564.
Each version of the computer features:
- 1 x DDR5-4800 SODIMM slot for memory
- 2 x M.2 2280 slots for PCIe 3.0 x4 storage
- 1 x 2.5″ SATA slot for a hard drive or SSD
- 1 x M.2 2232 slot for a wireless card (or storage with an optional adaptor board)
- 4 x 2.5 Gbe Ethernet ports (Intel i226-V)
- 1 x HDMI 2.1
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.4
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x microSD card reader
While the system can support up to two displays and multiple 2.5 GbE Ethernet connections, the decision outfit it with four USB 2.0 ports and no higher-speed USB ports makes it clear that the manufacturer is positioning this first and foremost as a networking appliance rather than a general-purpose computer.
The description on the AliExpress product page also describes the system as a “soft router” with support for Proxmox, so there’s that too.
The computer has an aluminum chassis that measures 178 x 136 x 55mm (7″ x 5.4″ x 2.2″). It’s designed for passive heat dissipation and there’s a copper pad atop the processor to help with heat dissipation.
the link to the AMD mini PC is not fanless
Ahh good catch. Thanks!
Oh too bad they did not add an internal SMA cable to be able to connect to the M.2 wifi card and leading to a coax port on the front panel next to the usb port. Hooked up to an external high gain antenna with openwrt installed this would have made a nice home access point.