Epox eX5-320S SFF PC - HotHardware

Epox eX5-320S SFF PC

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When it comes to manufacturing motherboards, Taiwan-based Epox is well respected amongst enthusiasts.  While we've only had the opportunity to review a few of their motherboards over the years, the small sample we have tested were fairly impressive.  In fact, late last year we reviewed the Epox 4PDA2+ v.2, one of the many Springdale boards to be released in 2003, and we gave it a hard-earned "Editor's Choice" award.  What could we expect then with the eX5-320S, one of EPoX's all new line of Small Form Factor barebones PCs?

Epox enters the SFF PC market somewhat late in the game.  Companies such as Shuttle and Biostar have been perfecting the art of the mini-PC for years now, constantly refining them to overcome mostly minor design and cooling flaws.  If first impressions count for anything, then it appears that at the very least, Epox has done its homework.  The box features users playing games and listening to music, so right away the stigma of the "boring" beige tower is thrown out the window.  This system is marketed more as an entertainment piece - small enough to be placed wherever space is available, but flashy enough to display it prominently.  How it fares against the competition will decide whether or not EPoX had made the right choices though.  In this review, we'll compare the Epox eX5-320S to the similarly configured Springdale-based Shuttle SB61G2, and then check their performance against a full-sized board, the Asus P4P800 Deluxe.

     

Specifications of the Epox eX5-320S
"Mini-Me" arrives on the scene
Motherboard
· EP-4PGF (proprietary)


Intel 865G + ICH5 chipset
·
_800/533 MHz FSB

Processor
·
_Intel Socket 478 Pentium 4 with 533/800 MHz FSB
·_Intel Socket 478 Celeron with 400 MHz FSB
·_Supports Hyper-Threading Technology

Memory
·
_Dual-channel DDR 400/333
·
_DIMM slots (2GB max) x 2

Graphics
·
One AGP slot supporting 1.5v 4X/8X AGP card
· AGP 3.0 compliant
·
_Built-in Intel Extreme Graphics 2 controller

Audio
·
_6-channel audio with analog and digital output
·
_Realtek ALC655 CODEC
·
_Supports CD-In and S/PDIF-out interface

Network
·
_Realtek RTL8101L Chipset
·_10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet controller

Storage
·
_Two IDE ports with PIO/Ultra DMA-33/66/100
·_Supports up to 4 ATA devices
·_Two S-ATA connectors

Firewire
·_Onboard 1394 controller from VIA 6307 chip
·_IEEE-1394a compliant with up to 400 Mbps bandwidth
Front-panel I/O
·
_6-in-1 card reader
·
_USB 2.0 ports x 2
·
_FireWire 400 port
·
_Microphone port
·
_Headphone port
·
_PS/2 mouse port
·_PS/2 keyboard port

Rear-panel I/O
·
_4x USB 2.0 ports
·
_1x 1394 connector
·
_1x LAN connector (RJ-45)
·
_3x Audio jacks (configurable)
·
_1x SPDIF I/O port for optical S/PDIF out
·
_1x Coaxial Audio port for digital S/PDIF out
·
_1x Parallel port
·_1x 15-pin VGA port

3G-Tek cooling kit
·
_eX5 "Mini-Me" patented cooling system
·
_Copper heatsink, silent fan and intelligent docking

Music On Now
·
_Uses Micro OZ263T audio decoder
·_Allows instant music playback without booting into OS
·_Supports CD audio and MP3 format

Legacy I/O Controller
·
_Winbond W83627HF LPC I/O controller

Dimensions (L x W x H, mm)
·
_310 x 200 x 182

Power Supply
·
_Enhance 250W PSU




The Bundle:  The bundle consisted of the usual necessities, but rounded out by a few add-ons that help distinguish Epox from their competition.  Included with the unit itself, we found two user's manuals, one that covers the basics of the EP-4PGF motherboard and BIOS, and the other a complete rundown of how to install and configure the system.  There was a driver CD that provided the basic driver set for built-in components such as video and audio, but also a full suite of software that should be installed to properly use the Music On Now configuration.

The rest of the bundle consisted mainly of the assorted cables that one will need for installing the hard drive, including S-ATA power and data cables, and one short "rounded" IDE cable
.  Another such IDE cable, albeit slightly longer, came pre-installed in the chassis, and was routed in such a way as to not hamper airflow. 

What sets the bundle apart from the rest were additions like a remote controller for music playback and an Epox branded tool set, which originally looked more like a teal highlighter.  The remote really helps sell the unit as an entertainment piece - who doesn't already have 3 or 4 remote controllers laying about the house already for their DVD, CD, receiver, etc.?  One last addition was an insulation pad that Epox recommends be placed on the back side of the video card, in order to prevent shorting it out should it come into contact with other devices.

 

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