Look ma, no fans: Mini PC boasts slimline solid-state active cooling system

Hong Kong-based maker claims cooler is 'silent'

A Hong Kong-based PC maker is claiming a first with the release of a Mini PC featuring a silent, solid-state active cooling system for its processor.

Zotac Technology said its ZBOX pico PI430AJ features novel solid-state active cooling tech, in the shape of the AirJet Mini module from Frore Systems of San Jose.

AirJet Mini is described as a self-contained active heat sink module that is 2.8mm (0.11in) thick and weighs 11g (0.38oz). Inside are tiny membranes that vibrate at ultrasonic frequency to generate a flow of air.

That air flow is formed into high velocity pulsating jets inside AirJet Mini, according to Frore, removing heat from the heat spreader at the bottom of the device (which is in contact with the top of the processor chip) before exiting via vents at the side.

The solid-state cooler has a maximum power consumption of 1W but removes a net 4.25 Watts of heat, and while described as silent, has a specified noise level of 21 dBA – which is quieter than a whisper, according to Yale University's decibel level comparison chart [PDF].

According to Frore Systems, the capability of the cooling system is what can determine performance in modern devices such as ultrathin laptops, and it claims that AirJet Mini can effectively boost processor performance by 2x simply by preventing it from hitting thermal limits.

The ZBOX pico PI430AJ isn't a laptop, but it is claimed to be about the size of a deck of playing cards, at 114.8 x 76 x 23.8mm (4.52 x 2.99 x 0.94in) and a volume of 0.21 liters, making for a compact system. It was showcased at this year's Computex trade show in Taiwan.

Zotac says that despite its diminutive nature, the cooling capability of the AirJet enabled it to equip the Mini PC with an 8-core Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB LPDDR5 memory and an M.2 slot for up to 4TB SSD storage.

The device is also fairly well equipped with ports for such a small system, with the front featuring a USB-C and 2 USB 3.2 ports, plus a microSDXC flash card reader slot. Round at the back is a Gigabit Ethernet connector, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs and a combined mic/audio jack. It also supports WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

However, for those potentially interested in buying a ZBOX pico PI430AJ, Zotac has not so far detailed pricing, and only says that it is available now with Windows or a barebones configuration "in select regions."

Its products are generally available in the US from Amazon and other outlets, while in the UK it is available on Amazon and at outlets such as Novatech. We asked Zotac for pricing and availability details, and will update if we get an answer.

Zotac also announced the ZBOX PRO Jetson series, another line of Mini PCs based on Nvidia's Jetson compute modules. Designed for AI processing and edge computing, these miniature systems are based on the Jetson Nano, Jetson Orin Nano, or Jetson Orin NX modules and intended as a cheaper solution for IoT applications and digital signage. ®


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