Tranquil iXL review
We see very few front-room PCs these days, and those few are almost invariably luxurious all-in-ones designed to replace, rather than complement, a television. Tranquil’s standalone iXL would therefore seem a brave move, but it’s one that emphatically pays off. Drawing on its experience in producing appliance-style PCs, the manufacturer has squeezed a complete entertainment PC into a custom steel and aluminium case that’s compact and discreet enough to sit beneath any TV.
What’s more, it’s almost completely silent: that row of black fins at the side acts as a passive heatsink for the whole system, and if you remove the lid you won’t see a single fan. The power supply is an external brick, of the sort you’d expect to accompany a high-end laptop, and this too cools passively. The only parts of the iXL that make any noise at all are the drives.
Despite its low-key design, the iXL is a well-connected little box. At the front, beneath the optical drive slot, you’ll find two USB 2 ports and a card reader, along with an almost invisible IR receiver for an optional media centre remote. At the back sit six more USB 2 sockets, three eSATA ports and Gigabit Ethernet.
Then, of course, there are the all-important video and audio connectors: you get HDMI, plus DVI and 5.1 Dolby Home Theater audio, through both 3.5mm minijack and optical S/PDIF connectors. All told, you should have no problem hooking the iXL up to your peripherals, external storage and AV devices.
Inside, things are more flexible, as Tranquil offers the iXL in a variety of configurations. They’re all based on an Intel DH57JG mini-ITX motherboard, set inside the same chassis, but you can choose from a basic Core i3-530 processor or a range of more powerful Core i5s, while the board’s two DIMM slots can be populated with anything from 1GB to 8GB of DDR3.
You also have plenty of options for internal storage, as the iXL offers two drive bays – one for 2.5in drives and one for larger 3.5in units. Opt for an SSD and you have a system with no moving parts whatsoever – except the DVD drive. There’s a Blu-ray writer option too, but at £149 exc VAT you’re better off buying a slimline drive elsewhere and installing it yourself. Indeed, if you prefer you can buy the iXL as a barebones unit with no CPU, RAM, drives or operating system and configure it to your precise needs.
For media centre duties, though, there’s no need to go over the top. Our test system used the standard 2.93GHz i3-530 processor with 4GB of RAM and a 2.5in 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue as its system drive. In our 2D benchmarks it managed a superb score of 1.71 – more than enough grunt for a highly responsive and usable entertainment system.