SFF Roundup, Part I: Socket 478 and 754 Systemsby Jarred Walton on February 15, 2005 2:00 PM EST
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Biostar iDEQ 210P
OverviewBiostar is a tier two manufacturer that has been around for some time. As with many other manufacturers, Biostar started out making motherboards and over time, branched out into other areas such as graphics cards and now SFF systems. While the Shuttle XPC is generally regarded as the originator of the SFF PC concept, Biostar has followed closely behind with their iDEQ line. Today, we're taking a look at their 210P model, which is unique in this roundup for several reasons.
Amazingly - at least to us - the iDEQ is the only socket 754 SFF that we've received for review. Looking around on the Internet, there are a few other manufacturers - Chenming, Shuttle, and Soltek, for example - that make socket 754 units, but we have not received any of them. As a socket 754 part, then, the iDEQ 210P stands alone in our roundup. Biostar also manufactures a number of other units of varying case designs. All of them appear to include a sliding front door, which we'll say more on in a moment, but if you're interested in something for socket A, 478 or 775, Biostar is worth a look. We'll be checking out their latest addition, the 300G, in the upcoming socket 775 roundup.
|Click on images to enlarge.|
The overall look of the iDEQ is something that individuals will have to assess for themselves. While it's not really ugly, we have to say that it is also not the best looking unit out there. The paint job looks good, but the biggest detractor has to be the front panel. With a large slide-down faceplate covering the optical drive and flash memory card reader, it ends up with something of a "top-heavy" look. The large, chrome power button is almost too big and definitely attracts the eye - and not necessarily in a good way. Even worse are the cycling colors of the power button when the unit is running. If the front of the unit is in plain view, you will find yourself frequently looking at it unless you slide the plate down. On the plus side, having the cover down blocks most of the light from being seen in the room, making it almost ideal for bedroom use.
Obviously, opinions on aesthetics will vary, but we're simply not too keen on the front panel. It looks better with the faceplate down, and really, we'd just as soon do without the whole sliding mechanism. We'll have more to say on the matter in the construction section. However, this is really just one opinion on the look of the case, and if you like a little "bling" in your system, you might appreciate it more. For us, the looks are really something of a shame, as they're one of the few things that we have issues with on the design!
One final thing to point out is that Biostar does offer a range of accessories for their cases, including a cover that includes a side window. That costs extra, of course, and several other companies have similar offerings. We do like the included carrying case that came with the system - tchotchkes are always entertaining. If you ever need to pack the unit to go off to a LAN party, the harness will help protect it from scratches and damage. Otherwise, it's not particularly useful.
Biostar iDEQ 210P
|Dimension||(w)210 mm x (h)187 mm x (d)323 mm|
|CPU Support||AMD Socket 754 Sempron/Athlon 64 up to 3700+ (2.4GHz)|
|Memory Support||PC2100/PC2700/PC3200 up to 2GB; 2 DIMM slots|
NVIDIA nForce3 250Gb Chipset
Bus speed 400/333/266MHz HyperTransport 800/1000MHz
|Graphics||None - Add-in card required|
|Expansion Slots||1 x PCI; 1 x AGP 8x; 1 x mini-PCI|
|Power Supply||250W Enhance Power Supply
4 x 4-pin Molex; 2 x SATA; 1 x 4-pin FDD
4-pin ATX 12V; 20-pin ATX
|Internal Connections||2 x SATA; 2 x IDE; 1 x FDD; 1 x LPT; 1 x Game
Parallel and Game Port cables included in package
|Audio||Realtek ALC655 AC97 SW audio, 6 channel codec|
|LAN||1 x Gigabit NVIDIA LAN|
|Memory Card Reader||Compact Flash Type I/II, Microdrive, Memory Stick,
Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card,
Smart Media Card
|Drive Bay||1 x 3.5 External (Flash Reader
2 x 3.5 Internal (HDD)
1 x 5.25 External (CD/DVD)
|Front I/O||2 x USB 2.0
1 x IEEE1394 (6pin)
S/PDIF-in, MIC, Head-phone
7-in-1 memory card reader Power and Reset buttons
Power Indicator (Color Cycling)
HDD LED Indicator
|Rear I/O||2 x USB 2.0
1 x IEEE1394 (6pin)
PS/2 KB, PS/2 Mouse
2 x Serial port
RJ-45 LAN Port (10/100/1000Mbps)
Micropone, Line-in/out, Speaker out
|Overclocking||HyperTransport 1X-5X; CPU 100-250; AGP 66-100
No voltage controls
|Extras||None (mini-PCI slot)|
|Full Image Set||Biostar iDEQ 210P Pictures (2.3MB)|
|Manufacturer Link||Biostar iDEQ 210P|
Not only is the 210P our sole representative of socket 754, but it chooses to take the high performance route by using what is generally considered the best socket 754 chipset, the NVIDIA 250Gb. This, of course, gives the unit gigabit Ethernet along with the NVIDIA hardware firewall, both desirable features. The 210P is also the only unit we're looking at today that includes a mini PCI slot, which can be combined with a wireless networking card/modem while keeping your PCI slot available. No mini-PCI cards are included with the system, so you'll have to purchase such a card on your own. This is actually not a bad tactic to take, however, as it gives you control over the brand and features that you want. Consider the ASUS, for example, which includes 802.11B WiFi. While it's better than nothing, most people are now looking for 802.11G WiFi as the bare minimum, and newer standards like 802.11N are in the works.
In the more typical areas, the Biostar is able to match most competitors. Firewire, USB2.0, S/PDIF optical input and output, sound, and networking are all present and accounted for. Like a lot of other SFF cases, a flash card reader is also present in place of a floppy drive. In this case, it's again a 7-in-1 reader with support for the most common formats. (If you're like me and have an XD card, unfortunately, you're out of luck with all the units that we've received so far.) One of the nice extras with the iDEQ is that it includes a "True 250W" power supply. While it's not likely that you're going to put in a ton of high end parts in such a small case, the iDEQ is one of the very few cases to actually include a mounting bracket for two internal 3.5" hard drives. The extra 50W of the power supply relative to some competitors will certainly help should you choose to use both drive positions. Our testing did not uncover any issues with running two drives.
Also worthy of note is that the iDEQ 210P is the only SFF in this roundup that could actually use a two-slot graphics card. The AGP slot is located on the inside of the slot rather than the outside in order to allow this. Installing a single-slot GPU with a large PCI card next to it might present a problem if you're not careful, but for truly high-end performance the ability to use a 6800 Ultra or other two-slot card is a nice feature to set the 210P apart from the crowd.
We've commented on the quality of the front panel audio on many of the other units, and we're happy to report that the iDEQ was the sole unit in this roundup that didn't have any static on either audio connection. You may still need to mute the AUX, MIC, and/or Line-in ports, but once that's taken care of, the audio was very clean. One of the problems with a lot of the SFF units is that the audio capabilities are compromised by the use of auto-sensing jacks. It is not uncommon to see 5.1 speaker setups with most computers now, but if you want 5.1 speakers as well as microphone support, you're often forced to use the S/PDIF connectors. That is true of all five SFFs in this roundup, so if you use a microphone or line-in, take note of this fact. You'll either need an add-in sound card or you'll need to use one of the S/PDIF connections.
One last item to comment on is the overclocking features. If you're interested in trying to overclock this unit, the BIOS does provide some basic functionality. However, with no voltage controls present, overclocking attempts will certainly be limited.