I used to run my I.T. services on an AIRIS N1110 shipping an Intel(R) Core(TM)2 T7400 @2.16GHz. It was quite nice, fast and silent. In fact, I noticed that this processor was used in MacBook and iMac Late-2006 ; which might indicate that this processor is quite optimal regarding performance and speed ratio.
Since that computer died, I switched my services from spare hardware to spare hardware. I was never really convinced to have found a “nice” replacement hardware. So I’m looking at purchasing a new one. From my experience, what really counts in the speed/heat ratio are the CPU and the motherboard. The CPU will enable performance depending on cores and frequency and will generate heat depending on its TDP (Thermal Design Power). The motherboard will enable performance depending on its design and mostly depending on the RAM it can support.
I can see that the AIRIS was a bit faster than my actual XPS M1330 while keeping cooler thanks to a lower TDP. In fact, the TDP difference might not explain the heat different. It may be that the SpeedStep frequency went lower and the case was better designed… Anyway, I can also see that none of the hardware I currently own can compete in terms of performance.
The new Core iX are really faster but those from the MacMini Mid-2011 have quite high TDP. The previous MacMini version (with Core 2 Duo) would even be better, from my Perf/Heat point of view. I was first going for the ZOTAC box because of the low TDP. But it’s GeekBench grade is quite poor.
Those CPU from the new MacBookAir look really great! Quite low TDP (17W) and a nice GeekBench rank. I think I’ll go for, either a MacMini4,1 in the refurb or find some fanless box shipping a Core i5-2467M or i5-2557M.
The software solution tends to go either MacMini+MacOSX+VirtualBox or FanlessBox+NetBSD/OpenBSD. Time will tell…