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Iwill XP4G MiniPC
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Date: Jun 25, 2003
Section:Systems
Author: HH Editor
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The Iwill XP4G MiniPC - Page 1

The Iwill XP4-G Mini-PC
Iwill Enters the SFF Fray...

By, Marco Chiappetta
June 25, 2003

Small Form Factor, or SFF PCs have been getting a ton of press lately.  In late 2001 Shuttle introduced their SV24, and from then on the market has simply exploded.  Now, a myriad of different OEMs offer mini-PCs that cater to a wide variety of users.  Shuttle has delivered SFF systems for business users (SB52G2) or the performance enthusiast (SB61G2).  MSI has audiophiles covered with their MEGA PC.  Each one of these systems, and many others, offer specific features that are designed to please a specific target audience.  In general, the trend has been to cram as many features into one of these PCs as possible. 

Iwill on the other hand, has taken a slightly different approach.  Their first mini-PC, the XP4 was targeted at budget conscious buyers looking for a basic second system or inexpensive business class PC.  It offered integrated video and only a single PCI slot.  Their second mini-PC, the XP4-G, improves on their original design with its redesigned enclosure and AGP slot.  Iwill is targeting the XP4-G at LAN Gamers or users who are looking for a high-performing system that isn't overloaded with extra features that jack up cost.  We think they've done a decent job...take a look...

Specifications & Features of the Iwill XP4-G Mini-PC
Iwill's Mini-i845GE

CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW
         

SPECIFICATIONS TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM IWILLUSA.COM

Processor
  • Supports single socket 478 Intel® Pentium® 4 processor
  • Supports 533/400 MHz Intel® Pentium 4 processor speeds up to 3.06 GHz and higher
  • Supports Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology

Chipset

  • Intel® 845GE chipset
  • 82845 Graphics and Memory Controller Hub (GMCH)
  • 82801DB I/O Controller Hub 4 (ICH4)

System Memory

  • 1 x DIMM slot
  • Supports up to 1GB DDR333 / 266 / 200 (PC2700 / PC2100 / PC1600) SDRAM

IDE

  • Dual channel ATA 100/66/33 IDE
  • Connect up to four (4) IDE / ATAPI devices

Audio

  • RealTek® ALC650
  • AC'97 Audio CODEC
  • 6-channel audio
  • 1 x 4-pin CD-ROM audio-in header
  • 1 x 4-pin AUX header

VGA

  • Intel® Extreme Graphics
  • Integrated in Intel® 845GE, 845GV, 845G and 845GL chipsets
LAN
  • RealTek® RTL8100 10/100M Fast Ethernet Controller
  • 10/100 Mbps operations

Expansion Slots

  • 1 x AGP slot supports 4X mode (1.5V only)

I/O Interface

  • 2 x ATA/100 IDE connectors
  • 2 x PS/2 connectors (keyboard and mouse)
  • 1 x 25-pin ECP/EPP parallel port
  • 1 x 9-pin 16500-based serial port
  • 1 x VGA port (video)
  • 1 x RJ-45 connector
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports (2 x front / 2 x rear)
  • 1 x Internal WOL header
  • 3 x Audio connectors (Line-in | Line-out | MIC)
  • 1 x MIC input on front panel
  • 1 x Earphone output on front panel

Dimensions

  • 6.3 in x 7.5 in x 10.64 in (W x H x D)
  • (160mm x 190mm x 270mm)

Package Contents

  • 1 x IWILL XP4-G Mini-PC barebones system (Includes motherboard, chassis and 220W power supply)
  • 1 x Users' manual
  • 1 x IWILL Power Installer CD
  • 1 x ATA/100 IDE cable
  • 1 x Power cable
  • 1 x Package of screws and zip-ties

The Bundle:

    

Iwill doesn't include many accessories with the XP4-G, but then again, they don't really have to.  As you'll see a bit later, there is no need for an exotic cooling system and because there is only a single externally accessible drive bay, there aren't many cables included either.  In the stylish box, bundled with the XP4-G, we found a bag of mounting screws and zip ties, along with a power cable, an 80-Wire IDE cable, a driver CD, a User's Manual and a Quick Reference Guide.  The User's Manual and Quick Reference guide are fairly informative.  However, most users will be able to put this system together without having to read any documentation.  On the whole, this wasn't the most inspiring bundle, but the essentials are there.

Quality & Setup

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The Iwill XP4G MiniPC - Page 2

The Iwill XP4-G Mini-PC
Iwill Enters the SFF Fray...

By, Marco Chiappetta
June 25, 2003

Putting together one of these mini-PCs is very straightforward.  Once you mount your drives, and insert your memory, CPU and video card, it's only matter of connecting a few cables and powering on the system.  Working inside such a small enclosure may be frustrating for some though, especially when trying to route cables neatly for proper airflow.  The XP4-G is no different than any other small form factor PC in this respect.

Setup & Quality
Small!  S - M - ALL

 

Front Mounted Connectors:

  • 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • Headphone-Out
  • Microphone-In
  • Power LED
  • IDE Activity LED
  • Power Switch
  • Reset Switch

 

Rear Mounted Connectors:

  • 1 x PS/2 Mouse Connector
  • 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Connector
  • 1 x 25-pin Parallel Port
  • 1 x 9-pin Serial Port
  • 1 x DB15 VGA Port
  • 1 x RJ-45 Connector
  • 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 3 x Audio connectors (Line-in / Line-out / Mic)

The Iwill XP4-G has a full compliment of ports and connectors located on both the front and rear of the system.  Mounted on the front of the enclosure were 2 USB ports, microphone and headphone jacks, power and IDE activity LEDs and the obligatory power and reset switches.  On the rear you'll find PS/2 mouse and keyboard connectors, serial and parallel ports, 2 more USB ports, an RJ45 connector, a standard DB15 VGA connector and the remaining audio jacks.  Also visible at the rear of the system are the two exhaust fans used to cool the system. Both fans blow hot air out of the rear of the case, while cool air is pulled in through perforations at the front of either side of the enclosure.  With a third fan in the system used for cooling the CPU, we felt the volume levels were tolerable, although the XP4-G was definitely louder than the Shuttle's XPCs.  To find out just how much noise was being generated, we took a quick decibel reading 2 feet away using out analog sound meter and found the XP4-G registering about 52db on the meter.  This isn't too bad considering how close we were to the system.

         

    

Removing the lid, which is fastened to the chassis with three thumbscrews, reveals the innards.  Generally speaking, it seems the motherboard and enclosure used on the Iwill XP4-G were well thought out.  We would have liked to have seen active cooling on the Northbridge, but the system remained stable throughout all of our testing, so any extra cooling on the Northbridge would probably have been overkill.  When looking at the mainboard itself, one word comes to mind, "simplicity".  Iwill took a very minimalist approach by only including a single DIMM slot, a single AGP slot and by positing the socket and drive bays in such a way that a stock Intel heatsink / fan combo could be used to cool the CPU.  All of the internal cables are in good locations, but things could have been a bit cleaner.  We re-ran as many of the cables as we could under the motherboard and cleaned things up quite a bit.

The BIOS
Good Enough...

     

     

     

The Iwill XP4-G is equipped with a Phoenix / Award BIOS, similar to the vast majority of motherboards currently available.  If you take a look at the screenshots above, you'll probably be familiar with most of the menu items listed.  We did not find anything revolutionary in the XP4-G's BIOS, but the usual assortment of options for manipulating and tweaking all of the on-board components, memory and other features were there.  In the "Iwill Smart Setting" section of the BIOS we found all of the overclocking options.

Overclocking Tools:

Browsing through the "Iwill Smart Setting" section proves overclocking was not a top priority when they were designing the XP4-G.  That's not to say you won't be able to overclock your CPU, however.  From within the BIOS, users can raise the processor's Front Side Bus up to 250MHz, in 1MHz increments and the AGP / PCI clock speeds can be set to Auto, or locked at 66 / 33MHz, 75 / 37MHz or 88 / 44MHz.  Unfortunately, there are no voltage tweaking options.  We were able to run our 2.4GHz CPU at 2.68GHz with an FSB of 149MHz without a problem, but core temperatures got a little too high for our liking.  At stock speeds we saw core temperatures hovering around 60°C, which is already relatively warm, but with the system overclocked, temperatures soared past the 80°C mark.

More Benchmarking

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The Iwill XP4G MiniPC - Page 3

The Iwill XP4-G Mini-PC
Iwill Enters the SFF Fray...

By, Marco Chiappetta
June 25, 2003

For our next test, we took some Quake 3 Arena v1.32 Time Demo (demo four) scores at a resolution of 640X480, using 16-bit color and textures.  Running Quake 3 with a high-end graphics card at this low resolution isolates motherboard and processor performance.  Frame rates are limited by the number of polygons the CPU is able to push through the bus, without being limited by the graphics subsystem.

Quake 3 Benchmarks with the Iwill XP4-G Mini-PC
OpenGL Gaming Tests

As you can see, only 4.7 frames per second separate the Iwill XP4-G and Abit IT7-Max2, a difference of only 1.9%.  Please keep in mind that performance deltas this small, at these performance levels, mean basically nothing.  Although physically the XP4-G and IT7-Max2 don't have very much in common, performance wise, they're essentially identical.

"Real World" Application Benchmarks
We All Have to Work Sometime!

Next up, we have some "Real World" application tests using ZD Labs' Business Winstone 2002 and Content Creation Winstone 2002 benchmarks.  We'll directly quote ZD's eTestingLabs website for an explanation as to how Business Winstone 2002 benchmark derives its score.  Content Creation Winstone 2002 uses the same process to generate its score, but different applications are used throughout the benchmark...

"Business Winstone is a system-level, application-based benchmark that measures a PC's overall performance when running today's top-selling Windows-based 32-bit applications on Windows 98, Windows 2000 (SP2 or later), Windows Me, or Windows XP. Business Winstone doesn't mimic what these packages do; it runs real applications through a series of scripted activities and uses the time a PC takes to complete those activities to produce its performance scores."

Business Winstone Applications:
  • Five Microsoft Office 2002 applications
    (Access, Excel, FrontPage, PowerPoint, and Word)

  • Microsoft Project 2000

  • Lotus Notes

  • WinZip 8.0

  • Norton Antivirus

  • Netscape Communicator

Content Creation Winstone Applications:
  • Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1

  • Adobe Premiere 6.0

  • Macromedia Director 8.5

  • Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev 4

  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 7.01.00.3055

  • Netscape Navigator 6/6.01

  • Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 5.0c (build 184)

We had a similar situation In the Business and Content Creation Winstone tests, where the IT7-Max2 once again barely nudged ahead of the XP4-G.  In the Business Winstone test, the Abit board outperformed the XP4-G by roughly 2% and in the Content Creation Winstone test the IT7-Max2 pulled ahead by less a 1%.  When all was said and done, the IT7-Max2 beat the XP4-G in all of the benchmarks we ran, but none of the performance deltas were large enough to be considered meaningful.  As we mentioned earlier, the XP4-G was clocked conservatively at default settings.  The Abit board was clocked slightly higher when left at default settings, 2.41GHz vs. 2.39GHz on the XP4-G.  To some extent, this small clock speed difference accounts for the paltry performance deltas seen here.


COMPLETED XP4-G WITH DRIVE PAINTED TO MATCH

Overall, we think Iwill did a good job with the XP4-G.  The enclosure is very attractive and we feel Iwill struck a good balance between features and expandability.  With only an AGP slot, no external 3.5" drive bay and no Firewire, some of Shuttle's small form factor PCs are more feature rich than the XP4-G, but they are also more expensive.  As of this writing, you can find the XP4-G for approximately $200 US at some on-line retailers.  Shuttle's SS51G is similarly priced, but the SS51G uses a SiS chipset, and all things considered, we'd gladly trade some features for the stability and compatibility of an Intel chipset.  The Shuttle SB51G on the other hand, is powered by an Intel chipset, but it is priced about $75 more than the XP4-G.  If Firewire isn't important to you, and the on-board sound is adequate, you could save a nice chunk of change by going with Iwill's product.  Users looking for a solid mini-PC for LAN gaming or to use a secondary system would be well served by the Iwill XP4-G.  We're sure more higher-performing, Springdale based mini-PCs like Shuttle's SB61G2, are in the works as well, but they will be even more expensive, further distancing themselves from the XP4-G's price point.  Based on its "desktop class" performance, attractive enclosure and excellent price, we're giving the Iwill XP4-G a HotHardware Heat Meter rating of 8...

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