Cooler and Quieter Barebones PCs?

Conclusion: Soltek Is The Quietest - Shuttle XPC SB 65G2's CPU Is The Coolest

Our candidates had their work cut out for them. In addition to the fastest CPUs - Intel's P4 3.2 or AMD's Athlon 64 3200+ - we packed the systems with a high-end AGP graphic card (GeForceFX 5900 Ultra) as well as a power-hungry hard drive that demanded more than 120 watts. The Mini-PCs we tested thus generated considerable heat, which can only be controlled by an applicative cooling system.

The Soltek QBIC EQ3401M as presented in the last review had the lowest noise level ranging between 48 db(A) and 55 db(A) and was therefore the quietest system of all tested barebones. The fluctuations were due to the automatic speed regulators of the fan. At the same time, the temperatures of the processor on full load (59°C), the motherboard (45°C), and the hard drive (47°C) were comparatively low.

Only Shuttle's XPC on the P4 platform (SB65G2) has shown marginal lower temperatures of the processor (58°C), motherboard (44°C) and hard drive (43°C). The sound level, measured by a practical distance of 0.5 meter, was between 52 dB(A) and 58 dB(A). Compared to Soltek' s QBIC EQ3401M, this is a relatively high noise level.

Abit barely fails the ergonomics test. The CPU temperature at full load reaches at least 62°C, whereas the temperature inside the system reaches 54°C, and the hard drive has an alarming temperature of 55°C. Since the test was taken at a room temperature of 23°C, we anticipate problems if the system runs with summer like temperatures of 30°C and beyond. A hard drive cooling fan could bring relief, especially considering that this is recommended by most manufacturers anyway. Furthermore, the noise level of 60 db (A) is quite high.

We can certify that Epox's eX5 Mini Me has a bright future. Of all the candidates in the test, this system features the best display with extensive graphical symbols. If the small weak points are eliminated, this system will be a real competitor to Shuttle's XPC-series.

Elitegroup made its EZ Buddie more attractive by giving it a face-lift.