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Compulab Launches Kickstarter For Its GTX 1080-Powered Fanless Mini-PC

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Compulab is looking to Kickstarter to launch its newest mini-PC, the Airtop2 Inferno. The totally fanless machine is powered by an Intel i7-7700K and the desktop version of Nvidia’s GTX 1080.

We’ve covered Compulab before. Following the release of its Airtop mini-PC in 2016, which we reviewed, the Israel-based company recently launched a successor model fittingly called the Airtop2. Building on its design, which was already impressive enough in its own right, is the even more ludicrous Airtop2 Inferno. Whereas the Airtop2 can squeeze an Intel i7-7700 (65W TDP) and a desktop Nvidia GTX 1060 (120W TDP) into a case that measures 12 x 10 x 4”, the Inferno ups the ante by packing an i7-7700K (95W TDP) and a desktop GTX 1080 (180W TDP) into a package that’s only two inches wider.

All of the Airtop mini-PCs share the same basic layout for their fanless chassis, which rely on their metal side panels to dissipate heat. The GPU is directly attached to the left-side panel and is bridged to the motherboard via a flexible PCI-e cable, while the right-side panel is rigidly fixed to contact the CPU. The side panels use heatpipes to distribute the heat over their surface area efficiently, and they are formed with air channels to harness natural convection. Because the right-side panel can’t be removed without detaching it from the CPU, Airtop PCs are designed so that all of their swappable components can be accessed from the left side.

The Inferno maintains the same design of the series but has significantly thicker side panels to dissipate the added heat of its more powerful components. Those side panels are the reason why the Inferno is two inches wider than the regular Airtop2. Apart from this aspect, the only other externally visible differences that set the Inferno version apart are its red accents and different front I/O layout.

Platform-wise, the Inferno has the same setup as the regular Airtop2. This means that it uses the same custom motherboard based on the C236 chipset, which is basically an enterprise version of the Z170 chipset. The motherboard and case allow for the installation of up to four 2.5” drives, two NVMe SSDs, and four DDR4 memory DIMMs. The motherboard itself provides dual GbE ports and six USB3.0 type-A ports. Audio comes from an ALC1150 audio chip, but only stereo line-out and optical outputs are available. A Wi-Fi add-in card is optional, but the Inferno comes with spots for four antennas. Compared to the regular Airtop2, the Inferno lacks a configurable front panel and has instead been designed with a more consumer-friendly fixed configuration that includes dual USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (Type-A and Type-C).

Because most of the Inferno’s components are shared with the already shipping regular Airtop2, Compulab said there wasn’t much it had to design specifically for the Inferno. In that sense, the company doesn’t see much risk if the Inferno doesn’t perform up to its potential. Still, putting an expensive and niche product into production is a risk that the company didn’t want to take without the confidence of knowing that there is a market for it. Compulab therefore chose to launch Inferno with a Kickstarter campaign. It has no stretch goals, but Compulab says that if the Inferno is successful in the longer term, they may offer GPU adapter kits to give the PC support for newer cards. CPU and motherboard upgrade kits are also on the table.

Those interested have a choice of five configurations for the Inferno: Half Life ($1,699), Skeletal ($2,480), Demonic ($3,170), Diabolic ($3,961), and Doomsday ($7,478). The Half Life configuration is bare-bones, coming only with the motherboard and CPU. Buyers of this configuration will have to source their own GPU from Compulab’s list of compatible products. The Skeletal configuration adds a GTX 1080 but still lacks memory and storage. The Demonic configuration is the cheapest complete system with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SATA SSD. The Diabolic configuration upgrades that to 32GB of RAM while adding a NVMe SSD. Finally, the Doomsday edition just fills the Inferno to the brim with 64GB of RAM, four SATA SSDs, and two NVMe SSDs.

The Compulab Airtop2 Inferno Kickstarter campaign is running until March 25 and is all-or-nothing, which means backers won’t be charged if the project doesn’t reach its goal.

ProductAirtop 2 Inferno
CPUIntel i7-7700K
GraphicsIntel IntegratedOptional:Nvidia GTX 1080 8GB
MemoryUp to 64GB DDR4 (4 DIMMs)
StorageOptional:Up to 4 x 2TB Sata SSDUp to 2 x Samsung Evo 960 1TB
CaseCustom
CoolingCustom
MotherboardCustom (Intel C236 chipset)
Power SupplyExternal unit
Networking2 x Gigabit ethernetOptional:802.11 ac wifi card with BT 4.2
USB Ports6 x USB 3.0 (rear)1 x USB 3.1 gen 2 type-C (front)1 x USB 3.1 gen 2 (front)1 x USB 3.0 (front)
Video Ports2 x DisplayPort 1.2 (rear)1 x HDMI 1.4 (rear)
Other
Operating SystemOptional:Windows 10 Pro
Dimensions (WxDxH)15 x 25.5 x 30cm
PriceStarting at $1,699
  • kuhndj67
    Right... just what I want to do - spend big money on a custom machine (that won't be easily supported except by the design owner) from a company that's so poorly financed they need a kickstarter to even put the design together. Wish I had that kind of money to roll the dice with.
    Reply
  • Simon Anderson
    Hopefully they use some of the money to make it look better
    Reply
  • mysteriousecho4
    Who is this for? If you are limited on space and need a small computer just buy a laptop, I don't understand the purpose of this, especially for that kind of money..
    Reply
  • JonDol
    @kuhndj67

    "Right... just what I want to do - spend big money on a custom machine (that won't be easily supported except by the design owner)"

    I'm not sure what is your worry with this but this is exactly the case for EVERY other assembled PC vendor be it huge like Dell, HP or small like Alienware, DigitalStorm, PCSpecialist etc.

    «from a company that's so poorly financed they need a kickstarter to even put the design together. Wish I had that kind of money to roll the dice with."

    Again, I don't understand where you get your conclusions from. Even huge companies use Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaigns and it doesn't mean they are poorly financed. The purpose of these campaigns is rather:
    1. to better assess if there is a market for a product
    2. they don't wish to take the whole risk for launching a new product

    For your information, my interest in silent computing started 15+ years ago and this machine has, by far, the best ratio performance/size I know: it's much more powerful than Streacom ones and has not the mammoth size (of the more capable otherwise) Calyos ones.

    Now about the value (rather than money) of this machine: this would make a more capable and flexible multimedia (streaming) machine for your living room (because is small and completely silent) a lot cheaper than some of the best off the shelf ones (albeit with some personal time investment). Forgot mentioning the gaming capabilities of the machine? That adds even more value to it!
    Reply
  • ajr1775
    Say what you will......putting all this high end product in a form factor like this without noise producing elements and a GTX 1080, WOW!!!!!
    Reply
  • MSC123
    If you really cannot stand a little noise, a set of earplugs is a lot cheaper. I certainly don't want to buy an overpriced throttled machine that runs too damn hot which results in premature component failure. This thing might make a good room heater.
    Reply
  • JonDol
    @MSC123

    "If you really cannot stand a little noise, a set of earplugs is a lot cheaper."

    I owe you that earplugs are one of the cheapest solutions for the silent computing but it could have been even better if we were all deaf...

    "I certainly don't want to buy an overpriced throttled machine that runs too damn hot which results in premature component failure."

    For me, as long as there is not enough competition and not enough sales to push the costs down, that's not overpriced but it's just the normal price.

    For the last part of your sentence, wow, you look like some kind of guru or visionary... You never seen it but you already know its throttled ! The only way to throttle that is to overclock it since it goes beyond the rated TDP.

    I have a Streacom gaming machine and during the 10 hours of game play sessions, the only thing that throttles is my Logitech Z5500 surround system !

    "This thing might make a good room heater."

    You are wrong again ! During these months of winter, I can confirm you that is not enough to heat the room and yet I'm the kind of people for whom everything above 20° C is no longer comfortable...

    Cheers
    Reply
  • Eximo
    Their i7-7700/1060 version is pretty neat as is. Rather than this they should work on their cooling panel offerings and just sell the barebones chassis. Right now they are custom modifying a GPU to make it work.

    CPU is going to be pretty straight forward, conceivable to swap out for i7-8700 with their larger cooler. The GPU panel would be cool if they made different versions for reference GTX cards. I would say AMD as well, but that seems like poor return on investment.

    I recall a similar product that was more cube shaped and basically had a huge aluminum extrusion as the chassis and some heat pipes to carry heat out to the surface.

    Great ideas, but it just needs to be slightly more modular. Enthusiasts don't often go for off the shelf PCs. Half the fun is making it yourself, so they should concentrate there.
    Reply
  • photonboy
    Price aside, the GTX1080 solution is only interesting if there is NO SIGNIFICANT THROTTLING of the CPU or GPU and of that I have severe DOUBTS.

    A far, far better solution would be to modify the design slightly so an optional FAN could be put at the bottom to spin at an INAUDIBLE RPM and push air up through both sides through the heat sinks... that would be similar to the Apple Pro (garbage can) design.

    FANLESS solutions for high thermal load products are often way overpriced, especially when there are ways to use a fan that is still completely inaudible... heck, in some cases they have fanless PSU's that radiate the heat into the main PC chasses which ends up being NOISIER overall due to the other fans less efficiently exhausting the heat.
    Reply
  • wiktorw
    Regarding throttling doubts - see Linus Tech Tips review "Tiny, Passively-Cooled Gaming PC - Compulab Airtop 2" - https://youtu.be/d4R-EsiyRk0

    Especially look near 2:00 minute at the temperatures after two hours of full synthetic load. You may be positively surprised :)

    Yes, they tested regular Airtop2. But hey, the Inferno version is not available yet!
    Reply