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No More Penny-Pinching: Seven Mini-PCs On The Catwalk

Biostar IDEQ 200P, Continued

On the heels of Shuttle's XPC SN85G4, a first mini-system for the AMD Athlon 64 bit processor introduced at the end of October, Biostar follows with the iDEQ 200P. In principle, with its K8NBP board, the bare-bones system is based on the NForce-3 chipset from Nvidia, with the result that it has no onboard graphics (compared to the NForce 2 for the Athlon-XP platform). Unlike the mechanically very similar iDEQ 200A, Biostar sends the system dressed in gray, although the case consists of three parts and is somewhat difficult to mount. The same is true of the front panel as with the iDEQ 200A: When the lid is closed, a DVD-/CD drive drawer is prevented from coming out, possibly causing damage. Deserving of praise is the neat arrangement of the few cables in the case, which means the buyer need only connect the components.

The 200P model is very similar in structure to the 200A

When the lid is open, the hard disk is not covered

In addition, all cables are precisely matched in length to the respective device - there's none of the notorious tangle of cables with its extreme squeezing (and likely breakage). The additional labeling helps the less well-versed user on their way, so that it's not necessary to look at the accompanying manual. Biostar gives the iDEQ 200P a specially adapted CPU cooler with heat pipe and temperature control that interacts with the case fan and the hood now installed to ensure good cooling. How is the noise level? As early as the past test, we determined a level above the 50-dB(A) mark at full CPU load. Nothing has changed here. However, the Biostar bare-bones systems are still among the quieter candidates, when you compare them with the values of the competition.

As hardware equipment, there are the usual features such as 5.1 audio, network, USB 2.0, FireWire, along with a RAID controller (VIA). And unlike almost any other mini-system, there is room for at least two hard drives! In extreme cases, it could even accommodate three hard drives, but then an additional fan for cooling should be mounted. However, anyone who uses two hard drives in a RAID setup will have no problem with overheating, because the hard drives are not arranged in a "sandwich". The same can be said for the power supply as with the iDEQ 200A: Today 200 watts are just enough to get by, but tomorrow higher performance could be necessary.

The bottom line is that it is a well-put-together bare-bones system with minor weak spots in detail. The Athlon 64 system is available for less than $383 (300 Euro) - making it considerably cheaper than, say, the Shuttle SN85G4.