Cooler and Quieter Barebones PCs?

Barebones Catch Up With Full-Sized PCs

Another criteria concerns the hardware equipment. With the exception of Shuttle's SN85G4, which is equipped with a Single DDR 400,the other three test candidates are equipped with a Dual DDR 400 Interface. This means that theoretically a bandwidth of 6.4 GB/s is possible. All five candidates for the P4 platform - Abit, Biostar, Epox, Shuttle and Soltek - run with the 865(G) chipset, and except for Biostar's barebones, all other candidates have onboard graphics as well.

For office applications, the systems are adequate,but for those wanting more, all six candidates can be equipped with a high-end graphic card, such as the GeForceFX 5900 Ultra as all barebones come with an AGP interface. However, high-end components, such as Intel's P4 3.2, or AMD's Athlon XP 3200+, combined with a high-end 3D graphics card, demand a strong power supply. While manufacturers have neglected this issue in the past, today's power supplies with an output of at least 200 watts are the standard.

Shuttle equips its XPC SN85G4 with a 240 Watt output power supply, while the thermal leakage power of AMD's Athlon 64 3200+ is comparatively low.

Temperature-Controlled Fans

Since all four candidates run with temperature-controlled fans, the noise levels are low when the system load is low as well. Since both Shuttle barebones of the XPC series use a heat-pipe-cooling system, their noise levels are practically identical to the other competitors. In principle, the noise level depends on the system's hardware: a fast graphic card such as the GeForceFX 5900 combined with a DVD burner, two hard drives and a P4 of at least 3 GHz (or an Athlon 3200+) generates a lot of heat. Nevertheless a positive trend can be seen: Compared to typical midrange PCs, the Mini-PCs we tested - which were not fully equipped and had some slots left empty - operated at a very quiet soundlevel (35dB(A)). Therefore they will not disturb you while you are working, gaming or watching a DVD.