Soltek Qbic EQ3401M: More Expansion & A New Standard in Quietnessby Wesley Fink on October 6, 2003 12:12 AM EST
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Soltek Qbic EQ3401M: Qbic EQ3 Chassis
Soltek’s EQ3 chassis front is finished in the mirror panels we have seen in past top-line Soltek SFF systems. This time, however, all of the internal drives and ports are hidden behind push-out or drop-down mirror doors. This keeps the machine looking clean and uncluttered — and will likely be something you either love or hate. Not many are neutral about the design. The low-luster black one-piece shell complements the mirror-front very well, and we found the “push-out” feature worked just fine with our Samsung combo DVD/CDRW. Soltek includes a warning sheet of operation difficulties with optical drives that use irregular-shape tray fronts.
Front ports are hidden behind a “push-to-drop-down” mirror door and include SPDIF optical Out, audio Mic and Line-in mini jacks, 2 USB 2.0, and a Firewire port. The floppy drive also mounts behind a similar drop-down door to keep the sleek-looking front when all the doors and optical drives are closed.
The rear of the chassis is very complete, and includes ports and a punch-out for the optional parallel port. We were pleased to see a complete selection of rear ports including the rare arrangement of two serial ports and a VGA port. Most boards replace a COM port with the VGA and get by with one serial port. Other rear ports include PS2 mouse/keyboard, 4 USB 2.0, 2 firewire, a 10/100 Ethernet LAN port, and 3 programmable audio mini jacks. The 2 rear firewire give 3 total firewire ports for the Qubic EQ3401M, which is 1 or 2 more than we usually see even on systems with firewire.
You can also see the outlet grill at the top rear for the 250 Watt Enhance power supply, and the outlet on the left for the IcyQ cooling duct. This is the largest SFF power supply we have seen. 200 Watts is common, and 220W has been seen only on top-end SFF systems.
As sleek as the Soltek is on the outside, the interior wiring, while improved since AnandTech looked at Soltek in March, is still quite cluttered compared to the competition. If there is an Achilles heel with the Soltek, it is definitely the internal wiring. It is clear that the apparent simplicity of the Biostar interior is not an accident, but the result of careful engineering. As you can see in the open view of the chassis, while the Soltek is taller than other SFF units we have reviewed, it still appears quite cluttered. We have loaded the system with a CD Recorder/DVD combo, floppy, and 120Gb hard drive. As you can see, there is still room for a 2nd optical drive
Soltek uses a very unique cooling system. The black shroud on the right contains a very large cooling fan facing the CPU, which uses a standard heatsink/fan (in this case stock Intel).
The large fan faces the CPU area, turns at slow speed, but exhausts large volumes of cooling air. Soltek calls the entire system, which includes bottom case vents, “Icy Q”. The cooling system itself is extremely effective and very quiet.
The CPU uses the heatsink/fan of your choice in a standard Intel CPU “cage”. The CPU fan and Icy Q fan are controlled by the BIOS in Smart Mode or high speed.
The poor wiring layout is particularly an issue with the AGP/PCI slots. This area is already tight, and the cables outside the slot area make mounting cards even more difficult. Our suggestion would be to unplug the cables and move them out of the way before installing a card(s), then reattach the cables.