Setup Notes and Platform Analysis

Assembling the Helix HX500 is a trivial task. In any case, OnLogic pre-configures the system in a manner suitable for immediate deployment, if the end-user so desires.

The Helix HX500 sports an Insyde H20 BIOS offering multiple configuration knobs meant for system administrators in business settings - including Management Engine configuration for AMT support. One of the interesting aspects we had not seen in the BIOS of earlier OnLogic systems is the activation of the memory tester upon every boot-up / reboot. The video below presents the entire gamut of available options.

The AIDA64 system report for the hardware configuration provided the following information:

  • [ South Bridge: Intel Comet Point-H Q470 ]:
    • PCIe 3.0 x1 port #6 In Use @ x1 (Intel I210 Gigabit Network Connection)

The CPU PCIe lanes, and most of the other PCIe lanes off the PCH are left un-used, but the upgraded Helix HX600 / HX610 (not tested) does put them to use. We also managed to get a pictorial representation of the internal bus structure in relation to the external ports.

It can be seen that all the high-speed I/O ports in the HX500 are from the Q470 PCH. CPU communication with multiple peripherals simultaneously can get bottle-necked by the DMI link between the PCH and the CPU. However, industrial PC use-cases are probably going to be fine with that limitation.

Thanks to the B2B focus of OnLogic, a detailed block diagram of the Helix HX500 / HX600-series motherboard is available.

Components such as the PCIe x16 connector are usable only in the Helix HX600.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the OnLogic Helix HX500 against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the OnLogic Helix HX500 when we come to those sections. It must also be noted that we do not have any fanless PC with an industrial focus in the list - in fact, this is the first industrial PC we are reviewing with our test suite that was revamped in 2018.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect OnLogic Helix HX500
CPU Intel Core i7-10700T Intel Core i7-10700T
GPU Intel UHD Graphics 630 Intel UHD Graphics 630
RAM InnoDisk M4S0-AGS1O5IK DDR4-2666 SODIMM
19-19-19-43 @ 2666 MHz
2x16 GB
InnoDisk M4S0-AGS1O5IK DDR4-2666 SODIMM
19-19-19-43 @ 2666 MHz
2x16 GB
Storage Transcend TS256GMTS800
(256 GB; M.2 Type 2280 SATA III; MLC NAND)
Transcend TS256GMTS800
(256 GB; M.2 Type 2280 SATA III; MLC NAND)
Wi-Fi N/A N/A
Price (in USD, when built) $887 (base configuration)
$1694 (as configured / No OS)
$887 (base configuration)
$1694 (as configured / No OS)

In the next set of sections, we take a look at some performance benchmarks.

Introduction and Product Impressions Performance Metrics
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  • Oxford Guy - Friday, September 17, 2021 - link

    138W. Reply
  • Wrs - Saturday, September 18, 2021 - link

    No issue there. Adapter is rated for DC output; review measured AC input “at the wall.” 120 into 138w is 87% efficient. We don’t actually know the system was pulling the full 120w DC. The fanless system obviously cannot dissipate that sustained, but settles in the 50-55w range, 60w at the wall. That’s how modern CPUs work. They idle cold, blow past the normal power budget for load and then settle closer to rated power when things warm up. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, September 18, 2021 - link

    Ok. Thanks for the clarification.

    So, it's only a single design failure then (thermal throttling).

    My view of thermal throttling is that it should only happen as a preventative measure to keep a system from being ruined due to user error (such as letting a machine become clogged with dust).

    Otherwise, you're clocking the chip wrong or doing something else wrong with the design. Stuffing 14nm into a passive case in 2021 probably is part of the mistake.

    But, for tricking people with numbers I guess hiding the real performance behind a shifting facade of throttling is fun.
    Reply
  • Wrs - Sunday, September 19, 2021 - link

    So there is normal throttling and then there is emergency throttling or sometimes shutdown. The CPU is rated for 35w, even though the same silicon is known to be capable of 65 or 95w. What they do is as long as all the temperatures are cool, they let the silicon use 60w+ for a few seconds. This can happen in a laptop, or in this industrial enclosure. It makes it feel just as fast as a desktop, but it can’t last for a heavy sustained workload because of heat buildup. After it warms up, it goes back down to the voltage and frequency it was designed to sustain.

    It has nothing to do with 14nm. My 7nm desktop works similarly. In 2021 Intel’s got 10nm for low-power (that’s what all Tiger Lake laptops are), but OnLogic was too cheap for that or figured their clientele doesn’t want the latest and greatest. Their case successfully prevented the 35w chip from emergency throttling, so it passed the thermal design test in my book.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, September 19, 2021 - link

    Marketing magic to try to justify inadequate cooling. Not a fan. Reply
  • Wrs - Monday, September 20, 2021 - link

    I mean, it is a fanless, almost sealed enclosure the size of a standing router or cable modem - how much more can you expect? The benchmarks were more than fine. They way outclassed the Zotac, which is also fanless and the size of a router, but uses commodity plastic hole vents which would be wholly inappropriate in industrial settings but would be suitable as a living room htpc. The OnLogic system gets close to 80c peak on the case; one would hope for the sake of longevity that they used high temperature components throughout and that would be the reason for the high price.

    Potential improvements are obviously a finer process node like Tiger Lake or one of the Zen 3 laptop chips, a low-power specialized fab node... but all that R&D takes time and $$. The world isn't perfect and we don't have infinite population.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Tuesday, September 21, 2021 - link

    ‘how much more can you expect’

    I expect parts to match the capability of the cooling versus putting too-demanding parts into a box and relying on throttling. If the parts need a larger heatsink box then use that or choose less demanding parts.

    The only exception is turbo that is designed to safely ‘overclock’ a chip if the cooling is better than the norm. That is a good feature.
    Reply
  • Wrs - Tuesday, September 21, 2021 - link

    As far as I can tell the parts match very well. All the CPU choices for the little box top out at 35w. Obviously the 138w momentary draw came from turbo; there is no separate GPU. The review found the junction temperature under sustained load hit 98C which is just under the throttling temp of 100C. A 15w chip would have undersold the capabilities of the design, and a 65w+ desktop part would have been throttled under sustained load unless perhaps operating out of Antarctica…

    That’s not to say some won’t take issue with the incomplete seal, or that there might be component longevity issues down the road which is where a warranty comes in.
    Reply
  • Jonny314159 - Friday, September 17, 2021 - link

    Any VRM cooling on this? I think I see a thermal pad for the SSD, but the VRMs will be a long term point of failure running in a sealed box with no conductive path to the heatsink. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Saturday, September 18, 2021 - link

    Does this setup have anything resembling an IPx7 or X8 rating, i.e. is it sealed against water and dust ingress? Those would be among the reasons that might justify the price. Without any such protection, I wonder just how long it'd actually last in an environment that requires a fanless setup. Reply

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