Powerful miniature PCs fascinate me as much as ships in a bottle, so when AMD unveiled its Project Quantum at E3 I was intrigued.
I wanted to know just how AMD jammed not one new Fiji GPU into this mini PC, but two of them, and managed to "water"-cool them too. Yes, 17.2 teraflops of power in a PC smaller than a breadbox. And yes, I've seen a breadbox.
Why this matters: We've had mini-PCs for a while now, but they've generally lacked oomph. Project Quantum points to a future where powerful things will come in small packages, and that's going to be fun to watch.
What you can do with a Fiji GPU
To find out what made Project Quantum tick, I spoke with Devon Nekechuk and Victor Camardo of AMD.
First, they told me, Project Quantum is mostly a proof-of-concept from AMD. Compared to a GeForce GTX Titan X or say, a Radeon R9 290X, the Fiji's use of HBM memory, stacked close to the GPU itself, means very tiny graphics cards can be built.
Believe it or not, it's not cheap to make an actual computer case, even a $50 one. It can cost a hundred thousand dollars to tool up a case factory for production. Rather than do that, AMD hand-built and machined the Project Quantum chassis out of metal and plastic. One nice touch apparent in the picture above: AMD intentionally put a polished surface between the two compartments, so the LEDs would put off a nice red glow. Obviously green LEDs were not an option.
You can see from the above shot, the top holds the radiator and fans, while the bottom holds the components. To give you an idea of how small Project Quantum is, here's an image Legitreviews.com snapped of it during AMD's announcement at E3. Legit also has some shots of it cabled up.
While you've probably seen plenty of pictures of the outside, the intriguing part is the interior. It's a little hard to tell what's going on in this image, but in the top compartment there's an off-the-shelf, 180mm radiator and 180mm fan. Vents under the fan allow air to be sucked in the bottom and blown out through the top for cooling. Wires for power and hoses for the cooling makes their way through the central trunk. AMD tells me that although this picture makes it look like a solid pipe is used, it's actually conventional flexible hosing.
What's hard to tell from that image is what AMD cleverly did with the Project Quantum. The 180mm radiator cools both the dual GPUs and the CPU. The water block or cold plate is then laid on top. The pair of Fiji GPU cores and memory then sits on the other side of the cold plate, and another cold plate appears to sandwich it. It's like a layer cake of cooling, basically.
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