- Page 1 Travla C158 – mini-ITX Case Review
- Page 2 Travla C158 Review
The P4-ITX has a single PCI slot and the Travla C158 is supplied with a riser that allows you to install a PCI card horizontally above the hard drive. You could install a PCI graphics card, instead of using the integrated S3 graphics; however we chose to install a TV card. We had a Chaintech DTT-1000 TV tuner card lying around the Labs so we installed it in our test system, but that isn’t the set-up that our supplier, mini-itx.com, recommends as the Chaintech doesn’t have hardware MPEG decoding. In fact we were flying in the face of most of the advice that mini-itx.com offers as, for starters, it supplies Hauppauge cards. Furthermore the only Socket 478 processor that it lists on its website is the 2GHz Celeron at £57.58 as the vast majority of mini-ITX systems neither want nor need a great deal of processing power.
The package that we received included a Speeze 1U Heatsink/fan unit which sells for £17.63, but we should point out that mini-itx.com was loath to supply us with this unit as it is incredibly noisy in desktop use. The rated noise level of 30dBA may or may not be correct, but with the fan spinning at its full 4,800rpm we can report that it is uncomfortably loud. Happily we had a Zalman Fan Mate controller to hand (mini-itx.com sells them for £9.99) which quietened the HSF down to a whisper without compromising cooling. The only other fan inside the Travla C158 is a tiny 40mm unit next to the power board which is practically silent in operation.
Assembly of the Travla was simple enough, as the top of the case slides backwards and then lifts away, revealing the innards. The tiny motherboard occupies the rear part of the floor of the case and the hard drive sits next to it. The power board is at the front of the case, along with the connectors that join the motherboard to the audio jacks and USB ports which are on one side of the case. The optical drive is secured by three screws and effectively floats in mid-air above the memory. It ejects to the side of the case, and in many respects the layout of the Travla C158 resembles the chassis of a notebook. With the current trend towards Pentium M processors in SFF computers and desktop PCs this would seem a likely avenue for mini-ITX, but it would be an expensive approach.
Probably the trickiest part of the build was the routing of the IDE cables, but no doubt SATA will make its presence felt sooner or later in mini-ITX and that will be a great help. The final task is to wiggle the PCI riser and card into place and the job is done.
So, we’ve got a near-silent 2.6GHz PC with 512MB of RAM and a full copy of Windows XP Pro, but what did we think of it? It’s certainly small and light, with the main unit weighing in at 4kg plus 0.7kg for the power supply, but we were unimpressed by the integrated S3 graphics. You can dedicate 8, 16 or 32MB of system memory to the graphics and the resolution can be adjusted between 640 x 480 up to 1,400 x 1,050 so the graphics have a satisfactory specification for regular 2D desktop usage and movie playback but the quality wasn’t very impressive as the display isn’t as sharp and clear as we expect these days, and in many ways it was reminiscent of a PC display from ten years ago.
As the single PCI slot was in use we had no option of a graphics upgrade and if we wanted to add a wireless connection to a media server we’d have had to use a USB wireless adapter. There’s no doubt that mini-ITX has plenty of potential if you need to build a small, cheap PC to fulfil a set of specific requirements, and the Travla C158 is a good case for the job, although you may find yourself having to make compromises with your build, as we did.
A quality mini-ITX chassis which looks equally at home in the office and the living room. But if you’re planning on building a PVR box, bear in mind that you’ll have to compromise on the graphics.
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