Rugged, Small-Form-Factor (SFF) computer
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
VarTech Systems, headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, makes industrial and marine/military grade LCD flat panel rugged displays, CRT monitors, Panel PCs, as well as industrial computer systems and workstations. In business since 1988, VarTech Systems supports customers from around the globe with ruggedized touchscreen technology, systems designed to protect against shock and vibration, and sealed to survive the harshest environments or situations.
The rugged SuperCube small form-factor (7.5" x 6.5" x 4.5") computer shown here was engineered to work without cooling fans. The rugged extruded heat-exchanger and aluminum enclosure act as a heat sink to dissipate internal heat and provide silent continuous operation.
The SuperCube is built around an embedded IEI Technology motherboard with integrated heatsink, from the looks of it probably the WAFER-945GSE. This is a highly efficient 3.5-inch Single Board Computer based on the 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor and the accompanying Intel 945GSE/82801GBM/ICH7M chipset. This board was designed for fanless operation and exceptional I/O that includes six USB 2.0 ports, five RS232 ports, dual PCIe Realtek Ethernet with two RJ45 jacks, 8-bit digital I/O, two SATA mass storage interfaces, as well as internal CF Type II and a PCI Express mini card interface.
Atom-based systems are very energy-efficient. The SuperCube's overall power consumption for the processor, chipset and memory is probably less than 15 watts. VarTech Systems equips the computer with a 7,200 RPM 160GB Seagate Momentus, a fast 2.5-inch design that uses perpendicular recording technology, but draws somewhat more power than 5,400 RPM disks. Depending on the intended use, the SuperCube can run either Windows XP Professional or XP Embedded. While not mentioned in the SuperCube online documentation, the system can probably run on CF-based Flash when configured for XP Embedded.
VarTech designed the SuperCube with various mounting options for different applications, including shock mounting, rigid mount, and mobile mounts. The fanless aluminum housing looks sturdy enough to make the SuperCube a good choice for a variety of mobile, embedded control, digital signage, interactive kiosk, thin client, and other human-machine interface applications.