8 SFF PCs: Small, But Not So Quiet

Soltek QBic EQ350I: Mini Cooper With A Plastic Look

From a distance, the Soltek's QBic has a particularly striking design, which looks like an oversized toaster with two slots for the optical drives. But at a closer look, we changed our mind, because the plastic shell and the wobbly front panels look really tacky. They could have done more there.

The QBic is a little more bulky than the smart G-MAX from Gigabyte, for example. But the Soltek counterpart offers more room for drives. Two 5.25" drives can be installed in this model. The same goes for hard drives or other 3.5" devices.

Even just after opening the package, we noticed that it did not have a CPU fan or any other passive cooling unit in it. According to Soltek the interior of the EQ350i has enough room for almost all CPU fans available on the market. And Soltek is right about that, because between the drive retainer and the power supply, there are several inches of leeway after the Intel boxed cooler is installed.

A Zalman CNPS7000 or a CNPS7700 , however, will not fit. A fan with high ridges that is included in the standard package causes problems during assembly. The fan is controlled from the BIOS. But it's no use, because after power-up, the two fans make a deafening noise. At full capacity our Intel cooler reached 4440 rpm and just less than 60 decibels. Moreover, the QBic began to vibrate. The high-speed fan could be felt from the other end of the tabletop. Although the vibrating disappeared after the CPU fan was exchanged, the noise level was still too high for use as a home entertainment system.

Package contents of Qbic, but without CPU fan

At a distance, the Soltek QBic looks good, but that changes on a closer look

The logo in the middle imitates the Mini Cooper symbol

Under a front panel that clatters, there are several ports for USB, Firewire and audio

Siggy Moersch