Key Lessons Learned
As we mentioned at the start of this, we actually did a trio of systems at the same time, while only two are being represented in this review. If you want to hear more about the third system, check the video. Perhaps the biggest point that we learned is that the Core i7-1165G7 is a massive jump in performance over the Atom CPUs. That is to be expected, but it certainly shows in what we saw in the systems.
With that, the more shocking part was just how much better the same motherboard was in the second “Good” Topton system versus the first Topton “Less Good” system. At first, we were apprehensive about the performance of the Core i7-1165G7. The less good system arrived and we found it ran hotter but even when it throttled, it was faster than the Atom systems. That still did not inspire confidence. The second larger good system was simply better so long as weight and size were not as important to you. It was less costly as well. Our advice, and the reason we showed photos of the “less good” system was simply so our readers know one we are saying to avoid.
Really though, this highlights the quality control of these units. The first Topton unit should not have been sold with that chassis. That is why we are telling our readers that if they do look at these systems, look for the ones that have this loop as they handle cooling better and also have simple features like mesh over the bottom chassis cover’s vents. That quality control concern seems to be backed up by the mega thread we see in the forums where folks have different experiences even ordering the same units.
Our hope is that eventually the sellers of these systems spend slightly more time getting the design and build right first rather than rushing out continuous revisions even if it is as simple as a chassis revision.
At the end of the day, the one that we like is the “Good” 6x 2.5GbE system that looks like this. That was able to cool the relatively powerful Intel Core i7-1165G7 adequately albeit by adding over 13% to the system’s bulk.
Even with the early vs. late summer revision, there were still a few strange items like this angled SSD.
Still, we get a lot of questions from folks that want to know about performance beyond the Atom N6005 4x 2.5GbE systems we reviewed previously. These small PCs work as network devices and have more CPU performance than the Atom line. What we did not get to test, but the feature is present, is the Quick Sync video transcoding for Plex or other applications. Still, this is a Core i7 CPU, and the Intel Xe GPU is there, so this offers both a nice CPU but also some GPU options.
The downside of this is really the price. It is more than 2x the price of the N5105 6x 2.5GbE unit, and it also uses more power. One gets more performance, but there is a significant cost for that. For a simple NAS, the J4125 unit is a better option. For those that are running businesses and want pfSense, the Netgate 4100/6100 would be a better option since those are better quality.