Zotac ZBHOXHD-ID11 Case Positioning Impact on Fan Noise

As I was testing the ID11, I noticed differences in the thermal behavior based on how the case was positioned.
I tested three positions; case open, case vertical, and case horizontal.

This is the fifth post in a series of posts related to the Zotac ZBOX ZBOXHD-ID11.

Summary:

  • Place the case in a vertical position for best cooling.

 

I used the Beta BIOS for testing. I let the system sit idle, placed it under load, then back to idle, while I recorded the fan speed and temperatures. The ambient temperature was 21C / 70F.

 

Below are the CPU temperature and fan speed graphs for an open case:

CPUTIN.Case.Open

CPUFANIN0.Case.Open

 

Below are the CPU temperature and fan speed graphs for a vertical case:

CPUTIN.Case.Vertical

CPUFANIN0.Case.Vertical

 

Below are the CPU temperature and fan speed graphs for a horizontal case:

CPUTIN.Case.Horizontal

CPUFANIN0.Case.Horizontal

 

Summary:

Case Placement

Max CPU Temp

Max Fan Speed

Open Lid 55C 1700RPM
Vertical 59C 2350RPM
Horizontal 66C 3300RPM

 

From the data we can see that the fan does not appear to have sufficient ventilation, and that in the horizontal position the air flow appears to be severely restricted.

I am tempted to mod the case to allow for better airflow, maybe cut a larger opening for the intake, or replace the centrifugal blower fan with a conventional fan, something like the Scythe KAZE JYU SLIM.

Zotac ZBOXHD-ID11 Beta BIOS Reduces Fan Speed and Noise

In a previous post I measured the fan speed and noise under load, and I found it to be unacceptably high.
Zotac support notified me that a new Beta BIOS is available that address the issue.
In this post I measure the difference between the release BIOS and the Beta BIOS.

This is the fourth post in a series of posts related to the Zotac ZBOX ZBOXHD-ID11.

Summary:

  • The Beta BIOS reduces the fan speed and noise significantly.
  • The default BIOS values need some adjustment to get acceptable results.
  • Similar results may be possible with the current BIOS by setting the target temperature to 65C.

 

The Beta BIOS was first announced on the global Zotac site, it only later appeared on the US site. I would recommend that ID11 owners look for updates on the global site instead of the US site.
The Beta BIOS is available for download from here.

As with the 4GB BIOS update, the update tools included in the Zip file do not work on Windows 7 x64. I downloaded the latest BIOS update tools from the AMI site, and used the AFUWinx64.exe application to update the BIOS.

Below are two screenshots of the BIOS, first the Beta BIOS, then the current BIOS:
Beta.BIOS.PCHealth

Health.Monitor

The new [CPUFAN Mode] Setting is called [SMART Mode].
Several of the parameters changed, and the fan ratio settings are no longer 0-255, but a percentage value.

I changed the BIOS values to:
[Smart FAN start Temperature] = 50C
[CPUFAN Tolerance Value] = 2C
[CPUFAN Lowest Value] = 30%
[CPUFAN Maximum Value] = 100%
[CPUFAN Step Value] = 4%

I ran a series of tests to determine what the minimum fan speed is in relation to the [CPUFAN Lowest Value] setting:
20% = No value reported by BIOS.
30% = 1000RPM
40% = 1800RPM
50% = 2500RPM

At 20% the BIOS did not report a fan speed. Visual inspection showed the fan was spinning, but very slow. I think too slow for such a small fan, so I set the value to 30%.

At idle the CPU runs at or just below 50C, so I set the [Smart FAN start Temperature] to 50C.

I left the [CPUFAN Tolerance Value] and the [CPUFAN Step Value] values at the BIOS defaults of 2C and 4%.

I placed the system under load with the [CPUFAN Maximum Value] value at 90% and 100%, but in both cases the maximum fan speed never exceeded 3300RPM, so it appears as if the 90% throttling value was not reached in my tests. To be on the safe side I set the [CPUFAN Maximum Value] at 100%.

 

Although the latest Beta version of Lavalys EVEREST now correctly detects the Winbond controller, it still does not report accurate readings. So in order to measure values under load, I used CPUID Hardware Monitor Pro to measure, and Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) to place the system under load.

As in my previous test, I let the system sit idle, placed it under load, then back to idle, while I recorded the fan speed and temperatures.

Below are two graphs showing fan speed under load, first the Beta BIOS, then the current BIOS:
CPUFANIN0.Beta.Stability

CPUFANIN0.Stability

Comparing the graphs, the Beta BIOS maximum fans speed is around 2400RPM, while the current BIOS maximum fan speed is around 5300RPM. The Beta BIOS made a significant improvement in reducing fan speed and noise.

Below are two graphs showing CPU temperature under load, first the Beta BIOS, then the current BIOS:
CPUTIN.Beta.Stability

CPUTIN.Stability

Comparing the graphs, the Beta BIOS lets the CPU temperature reach around 65C, while the current BIOS limits the CPU temperature to around 50C. In the Beta BIOS the [Smart FAN start Temperature] is set to 50C, and in the current BIOS the [CPUFAN TargetTemp Value] was set to 50C. The 50C [CPUFAN TargetTemp Value] was the value recommended by Zotac support. I wonder if the value was set to 65C if the fan would have been comparable to the Beta BIOS?

Zotac ZBOXHD-ID11 Fan Speed and Noise

In my previous post I discussed my initial impressions of the Zotac ZBOXHD-ID11.
In this post I continue my review, focusing on fan speed and noise.

This is second post in a series of posts related to the Zotac ZBOX ZBOXHD-ID11.

Summary:
– High fan speed and noise while under load.
– Fan never returns to silent operation after load is removed.
– Need DXVA capable player for video playback.

[Update: 26 May 2010]
I tested the Beta BIOS, and produced significantly better results. Effectively the new BIOS runs the CPU at 65C vs. 50C, as such you may be able to achieve the same results with the current BIOS by simply changing the CPU temperature threshold to 65C.

Last time I tried Lavalys EVEREST and SpeedFan to measure the CPU/GPU temperature and fan speed, but neither application was able to detect the fan, and both applications produced questionable results for the CPU temperature.
A Media-Portal forum reader responded, and said I should try CPUID Hardware Monitor, which I did, and it works. Actually, I used CPUID Hardware Monitor Pro, this way I can capture values over time, and easily produce graphs.

Below is a picture of the hardware detected as a Winbond W83627DHG:

My test methodology is to measure from power on, idle, under load, and back to idle.

I let the ID11 reach room temperature (73F / 23C), I cold booted, and after logging in, immediately started Hardware Monitor Pro (HWMP). I let the ID11 sit idle for a few minutes. The fan remained very slow and very quiet, almost impossible to hear.
The idle fan speed is around 180RPM.

Next I launched EVEREST system stability test, this placed the CPU under load, I ran this for a few minutes. Almost immediately the fan speed increased, and became very loud.
The high fan speed is around 5300RPM.
The case reached a temperature of 112F / 44C.

After stopping the system stability test, I let the system idle for a few minutes. The fan speed reduced, but never returned to the initial very low speed. At this speed the fan is audible, about the same noise level as a spinning hard drive.
The return to idle fan speed is around 1400RPM.

Below are graphs showing CPU, GPU, and fan speed over time during the stability test:


I expected the fan to go back to the initial very low speed, but it didn’t. I was not sure if I should let the system idle for longer, so I repeated the test.

But, instead of using EVEREST, I used XBMC 9.11 using all default options.
I chose to play a 39GB DTS H264 MKV file, this file is a very high bit rate Blu-Ray rip, and I know that my netbook stutters when playing this file, while my workstation has no problems playing it.

Immediately after starting playback the fan speed increased, and became very loud, same as during the stability test.
The high fan speed is around 5300RPM.
The case reached a temperature of 108F / 42C.

As before, the fan never went back to super quiet, even after sitting idle for a very long time.
The return to idle fan speed is around 2000RPM.

This behavior may be a BIOS problem, or it may be the thermal characteristics of the ID11.

Below are graphs showing CPU, GPU, and fan speed over time during movie playback:


Although I was not focusing on video performance, it was clear that the video stuttered, and this was confirmed by looking at the on screen playback statistics. There was a very high frame drop count, and the frame rate was around 13fps, far from the 24fps target.

Below are two OSD captures, one from the ID11, and one from my DELL Core i7 XPS 9000 workstation:

The default XBMC does not work on the ID11. A little bit of searching revealed that the internal decoders used by XBMC do not support GPU acceleration, and instead relies on the CPU to the rendering.
There is a Windows specific port of XBMC using DirectShow codecs that do support DirectX Video Hardware Acceleration (DXVA), called DSPlayer.

When I do a more elaborate video performance test I will use only DXVA capable players.