The Quiet Upgrade
A few months ago, when we originally reviewed the AOpen XC Cube EX915, we came to the conclusion that it was just too loud. Back then, our comparison showed that AOpen's SFF PC was one of the loudest in the shootout. AOpen took this criticism to heart and addressed the issue. The result? Exactly what the product should have been on the first try - a computer that is pleasing to both the eye and the ear.
The revised version of the SFF PC carries the name XC Cube EX915-T. The only modifications from the first generation concern the mainboard and the heatsink/fan unit; the case and feature set remain completely unchanged. Being the intrepid hands-on editors we are, we decided to perform the upgrade ourselves. Of course, this meant that the first step was dissecting the barebones system we had here in the lab.
In all likelihood, AOpen will only offer the new mainboard and HSF as part of the new revision of the XC Cube and won't sell them separately. This makes sense - after all, what good is the simple mainboard to most buyers? Then again, AOpen is pondering whether offering an upgrade is viable idea. At any rate, as of this time, the company is only selling the new and updated XC Cube EX915-T. If you find yourself considering buying one of these units after reading this article, make sure that you are getting the new model.
Noise reduction by upgrade: The HSF and mainboard need to be replaced
The case remains unchanged.
The XC Cube's New Motherboard
For this upgrade, AOpen has revised the motherboard, because the size of the new heatsink/fan unit required some of the components to be moved. Luckily, as a comparison of the two boards shows, this doesn't seem to have been too difficult. Some of the capacitors (the yellow components surrounding the CPU socket) were either moved or replaced with flatter models. The retention mechanism for the heatsink/fan combo was also completely redesigned specifically for the new cooling solution.
Sibling rivalry: The new board is the one on the left.