I have a variation of this build in progress using an Akasa Galileo case, which includes a passive cooling solution that involves heatpipes connected to a massive heatsink integrated into the case. I was able to source the case for $45 shipped, so the cost compared to alternatives ends up as a bit of a wash, since you also do not need a separate cooler or power button.
According to Akasa, it’s designed for a maximum 35W TDP load, but I think that the 45W E3-1260L will be fine with reasonable use.
- Akasa Galileo
- Intel DQ77KB
- Intel Xeon E3-1260L
- 2x 2GB DDR3-1066 SODIMM
- 120GB Kingston mSATA SSD
- 19V DC adaptor
This is a really compact form factor, so there are necessarily some compromises that need to be made. Obviously, it’s pretty ideal in terms of features for a pfSense build, and for a quiet, general-usage machine, it’s an interesting option.
The 120GB SSD in my build is far larger than is necessary for something like pfSense, but it wasn’t appreciably more expensive than other options, and gives me a bit more utility if I end up using it as more of a general-use system.
I had mild concerns about thermals with the 45W 1260L and Akasa’s 35W specified design, so I did some testing. I loaded a build of Windows 10 onto the machine and loaded things up with Aida64.
After about 10 minutes, the CPU was up to about 70°C. Getting pretty warm, but still within a reasonably safe level, especially considering that this represented an unrealistically heavy load. Running pfSense or just a more general-use workflow would result in the CPU being idle most of the time, and thus far more reasonable temperatures.
It’s probably important to note that because there is literally zero airflow in this case, the other motherboard components get quite warm too. The PCH in particular was up to about 65°C during the Aida64 run, and rose to about 68°C even after stopping the load. Other motherboard sensors seemed to hover in the 40°C to 45°C range.
While these temperatures are certainly higher than you’re probably used to seeing, they should be well within the margins of safety, as long as you’re not pushing the hardware unreasonably.
I don’t think that any of these concerns would exist at all in a different chassis with even a modest CPU fan, just as a final note on thermals.
This build really sips on the power, especially compared to my larger server.
I measured power consumption from the wall using a TP-Link HS110 smart outlet, with the following results:
- Windows 10 idle desktop: 14W
- Windows 10 Aida64 full load: 45W
- pfSense routing (single client): 24W
During my testing, I was having some display difficulty with various versions of Ubuntu, and I did not realize the likely issue until after installing Windows 10.
This board supports video output using LVDS for an integrated display, as you’d find in a laptop or all-in-one PC. What I did not initially realize, was that (at least on my board), the LVDS display was enabled in the BIOS as the primary display. I believe that this was the root cause of my Ubuntu issues, though I have not gone back to verify that yet.
Also note that the board shipped with a very old BIOS revision, so you’ll likely want to update that right away.
I have a 35W i5-3470T and another DQ77KB on order, so I’m hoping to be able to do some comparisons with different CPU options in the future.
Ultimately, this is a pretty cool, relatively inexpensive intro to some SFF computing. Typically, ITX builds carry a not-insignificant price premium relative to larger equivalent systems, but I don’t think that’s the case here.