Tranquil T2eMP review
A lthough the last Tranquil machine we saw had the same chassis as this, the specification inside the T2eMP is very different. Fitted with a 1.3GHz VIA C3 processor, the T2e.SP13000 sacrificed speed for cool running, and the silent, fanless chassis had no difficulty dissipating the heat. This time, the performance has taken a big leap forward, with a Pentium M powering the T2eMP.
A huge heatsink runs down one side of the system, and heat spreads effectively along its 300mm length. But the whole metal case acts as a radiator too, with heat escaping into the air across the surface of the steel lid. If you keep a good air space around the Tranquil, it will easily deal with heat from the CPU: the benefit is blissful, totally silent running, so you can concentrate on things other than whirring fans.
This does leave the case very warm to the touch, and the external power supply gets even warmer. However, the fact that the laptop-style PSU is external reduces the heat load on the chassis’ cooling system. It would be helped even more if the processor were allowed to use SpeedStep technology, but in this motherboard it constantly rushes headlong at 1.7GHz.
The components that get really toasty, however, are the twin 160GB 7,200rpm Samsung hard disks. They’re mounted just behind the front panel, one on top of the other in an anti-vibration heatsink caddy. Since this heatsink is trapped inside the case with only a few slots in the lid above, the heat doesn’t dissipate as efficiently, leaving the assembly and drives hot to the touch. However, it’s within acceptable limits, and we didn’t experience any problems.
A DVD drive sits next to the hard disks, and dual layer and DVD-RAM formats give plenty of storage options when burning data or recorded programmes. It’s a slot-loader for convenience, and it keeps the fascia tidy. The drive is set into a transparent plastic cover at the front of the case, which is lit from below by a blue LED, creating a subtle glow, as if to emphasise the T2eMP’s clean and minimalistic looks. The plastic front is 10mm thick, and in the previous Tranquil case that made ejected disks hard to grab without getting fingerprints on them. Not any more, because the drive spits discs out much further, allowing you to grab them cleanly.
The Commell LV-671 mini-ITX motherboard looks tiny, taking up only a quarter of the internal area. It has a single DIMM memory slot filled with 512MB of PC2700 DDR SDRAM. Up to 64MB of this is dynamically shared by the 855GME chipset for integrated graphics, leaving no real scope for gaming. Video outputs are dealt with via a board in the motherboard’s mini-AGP slot. A cable from here terminates at the back of the machine with composite video out and S-Video out. HDTV software drivers are expected in a few months.
As expected, the Pentium M CPU gives a serious performance jump over the VIA C3 processor we saw in the Tranquil T2e.SP13000. The C3 managed only 0.51 overall in our benchmarks – enough for MCE (Media Center Edition), email and Internet duties, but occasionally dragging its heels. No concerns here, though, as the system belted out a score of 1.81. That gives more scope to tackle video editing and other processor-intensive tasks, and you can treat it as a normal PC in this regard, not just a media player.
Another big improvement over the previous model is the company’s own PCI riser/extender assembly for the dual Black Gold Signature DVB-T digital tuners. It’s aligned much straighter and there’s no chance of a card popping out as there was before. With two cards, you can watch one channel while recording another. The only disappointment is that the S-Video inputs aren’t active under MCE.