[Official] Nexcom NDiS B533 - fanless desktop for pfSense, Roon endpoint, Parsec client, Car/RV PC, and more!

Disclosure: (0) None
I purchased this with my own money, because it was cool. Read the review to find out why.

Overview

This is a review of the Nexcom NDiS B533. It’s a somewhat rare unit, with few examples available online. It was originally billed as a digital signage box, designed to drive 3x1080p large format displays. Despite its intended use, it makes for an excellent turn-key pfSense/OpenSenese router, Roon endpoint (fanless operation for those of you who are audiophiles, also has optical output), Parsec client, and more.

The seller I purchased it from is located in Canada, with only a handful of units in stock at time of writing. It was about $143 USD total including shipping from CA, with shipping actually being the bulk of the cost. Despite the high shipping rates, I still think it’s a pretty good deal.

Hardware

The Nexcom NDiS B533 I purchased includes the following:

  • Zero moving parts, completely fanless operation
  • Intel i5-4570TE Dual-Core CPU
    • 2C/4T 2.70 GHz base, 3.30 GHz turbo
    • 3107 passmark (v10) or 4649 passmark (v9)
    • 35W TDP
    • Intel HD4600 Graphics
  • 2x2GB DDR3 1600 MHz by Apacer
    • Supports up to 16GB total (2x8GB maximum)
  • 64GB Sandisk X110 SATA SSD
  • Nexcom NDiS B533 motherboard
    • 2 x RJ45 Ethernet ports for 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet
    • 2 x Mini-PCIe
      • 1 slot has 3G/4G/LTE SIM support
    • 1 x SATA DOM support
    • 1 x 2.5" SATA SSD/HDD support
    • 3 x HDMI ports (triple 1080p/60fps video playback)
    • Optical Audio via SPDIF
    • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 80 Watt laptop-style PSU

Packaging & Shipping

This was the most disappointing part of this purchase. The seller made no effort in cleaning up the unit externally, as shown in the photos. The PSU is wrapped in Scotch tape for literally no reason, as it’s not splitting or broken.

The box was also very poorly packaged, but the unit arrived intact without any damage. I suspect this is due to the absolute heft of the unit, as you’ll see later. For as much as I paid in shipping, I expected bubble wrap or some sort of protection. To my disdain, the unit was “raw dogged” into a recycled Amazon Prime box. That’s it.

Thankfully ebay/PayPal has your back if your unit arrives damaged or broken, but it’s still an annoyance I’d rather not deal with.

External Overview

NDiS B533 pictured with the included 80 watt PSU, Scotch tape and all.

Keyed 4 pin plug on the 80W PSU

PSU label and specifications

Front of the unit featuring power, reset, LEDs, USB 3.0, and COM ports

Rear of the unit featuring audio, dual LAN, USB 3.0, 3 x HDMI, power plug, and antenna plugs.

The top of the case is steel, which is the main heatsink for the CPU.

The bottom is missing the rubber feet, I suggest picking up some on Amazon to prevent surface scratches.

Both sides of the unit have pass through vents to allow for some passive cooling of the interior components.

Disassembly

Tools used:

  1. UnaMela 122 in 1 kit
  2. Gelid GC Extreme thermal paste

All of the screws in this disassembly use a #2 Philips head. It’s handy to have the magnetic mat to keep track of the removed screws.

Remove the 4 screws on the bottom, two on each side.

No need to remove the 3 screws in line at the bottom near the rear panel, but you must remove the two shorter screws on the rear panel near the DC power and audio ports.

Removed screws.

Before we get into the guts, let’s take a look at the top panel - the main heatsink.

It’s a very sturdy 4+ pounds. Very cool to see the dual copper heat pipes embedded into the top of the case.

Here you can see the airflow passthrough holes.

The lower part of the unit is where the motherboard and the rest of the hardware lives.

Dual Mini-PCIe/mSATA slots with 3G/4G/LTE support

SanDisk X110 SSD, 2 screws on one side, 4 screws and metal spacer on the other.

A single 6Gbps SATA III port, with support for SATA DOM.

CMOS battery, a CR2032. Standard fare aside from the battery lead extension, which is somewhat typical on smaller form factor units like this.

2x2GB Apacer DDR3 1600 SO-DIMM RAM

A few standard 4 pin fan headers on the motherboard, although not sure where you’d put the fans…

Reverse view of the 3 x HDMI ports

Alas, a look at the glorious heatsink slug and thermal pad that makes contatct with the upper part of the case.

The desktop socket is peeking out from underneath.

The chipset is also cooled by this heatsink, although it’s only partially covered.

The heatsink slug is held in place by 4 #2 Philips screws with crush washers.

Wow, that’s a lot of old, dry thermal paste.

Let’s clean off the CPU and see what we have… an Intel i5-4570TE. Very low power.

Repasting with trusty Gelid GC Extreme. I’ll be keeping the chipset thermal paste as-is.

With the heatsink reassembled onto the motherboard, let’s see what the bottom piece weighs in at.
Combined, we’re looking at over 7 pounds! That’s a lot of thermal mass.

Potential uses

  1. pfSense/OpenSense
    • Why: dual Intel GbE LAN, CPU has AES-NI for enhanced VPN support. Preconfigured with enough RAM and storage, as well as a low power CPU makes it perfect for a home router. Also, LTE support for backup connections is pretty handy.
  2. Roon endpoint
    • Why: Specifications are plenty for endpoint use, although it’s missing Wi-Fi if you need it to be wireless. Fanless operation and multiple audio outputs through SPDIF, onboard, and USB provide many options.
  3. Parsec client
    • Why: CPU is powerful enough to CPU decode a 1080p 60FPS stream without relying on the outdated quicksync. Small footprint and fanless operation make it easy to find a place to stash it away.
  4. Car/RV PC
    • Why: CPU is powerful enough to run some common apps on the go, low power usage means low impact on Car/RV’s electrical system. Fanless operation and no moving parts means it won’t be harmed if it’s in use while driving.

Conclusion

Overall, the Nexcom NDiS B533 is a good value. Sure, it’s an older unit with minimal specifications, but it’s pretty easy to think of as a very beefy x86 Raspberry Pi. It has a decent upgrade path, multiple use-cases, and enough options where it can be flexible. If you decommission it from a role, it’s pretty easy to find another spot for it. Unfortunately the pricing is a little weird, with most of the cost going toward the completely inadequate shipping. Due to its design however, it should arrive at your doorstep with nary a scratch (that wasn’t already there), and be ready to provide you a lifetime of service.

Purchase one here.

6 Likes

NDiS user reporting in here! I picked up 2 of these units and they’re incredible, especially for the price. I’m using one as my pfsense router and the other as my Roon server.

When removing the top heatsink case for a memory upgrade, the thermal pad stuck to that rather than the lower heatsink. But it went back into place without issue and doesn’t seem to affect thermals.




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OK, that’s hot. Why didn’t you tag with NSFW?

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That is a sexy ass setup.

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It’s actually a Roon endpoint :wink:

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Snagged. Snaggity snag’ snag.

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Technically both! There are 7 outputs visible to Roon.

Oh wow, I didn’t know you were running Roon core off of that. Nice!

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It works really well as both the core and the endpoint. Still using 4GB of ram it came installed with, running Ubuntu 20.04.

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Here’s a nice potato quality video of the listening space.

The same seller has a few more available at slightly different pricing.

Nice! Just copped one.

@ALANMAN
How do you feel about Roon? Thinking about using mine for it.

Any draw backs to using Roon over other music servers besides that price?

Trying to figure out if it’s worth purchasing.

Roon is excellent. It’s the only service that I’m aware of that can seamlessly integrate your own music library with lossless streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz. It’s also extremely flexible, and really takes the experience of listening to another level. @ALANMAN and I both find that the best feature is Roon radio, which somehow never fails to play the best music.

Really the only drawback is the price, it’s $12/month or $10/month if you pay for a whole year, or even worse $700 lifetime.

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@njoop78 I have to agree here with @JDM_WAAAT 100%, but price is very worth it IMO if you care about lossless at all.

That is a great price for the specs on that box. If I didn’t already have a 5th gen i7 fanless Qotom box for my pfsense, I would definitely jump on this. The only thing I don’t like about it is the power connector. I’m not sure how hard it would be to replace the brick if it ever went out. However, I have never had a brick go bad on me, so it’s probably a moot point.

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I don’t think it would be very hard to source a replacement. Nexcom is still in business and still uses this type of power supply on their newer units.

3 left for $156 including shipping.

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Between this, the HP 730, and the HP 400 - which would you choose for pfSense?

My preferences in order

  1. This thing
  2. HP ProDesk 400 G4
  3. HP 290
  4. HP T730
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