A Closer Look at the e-bot
The Foxconn e-bot's design definitely followed a different plan that what we've seen with most other manufacturer's small form factor systems. Instead of a typically boxy chassis, the e-bot was more vertically inclined, and looked much more like a mini-tower without the column of drive bays that one would expect. The front is originally only occupied by a LCD screen with various buttons for power, restart, and audio playback. Similar to the Epox eX5-320S, the Foxconn e-bot can play CDs and MP3s without booting into Windows. While the eX5-320S booted into a mini-OS that allowed for a bit more advanced navigation (including reading MP3s from the hard drive) the Foxconn e-bot streamlines the process a bit further. No additional display was needed to view the tracks as all information is displayed on the LCD screen. Audio tracks can be paused or stopped, skipped forward or backward, and the volume can be raised or lowered using the conveniently placed large buttons directly beneath this screen. On one hand, it's cool to be able to access music without fully booting into Windows, but since the e-bot can only access CDs or MP3s from a CD-R it has limited appeal.
Hidden at the top and bottom of the e-bot were various ports for reading media cards and connecting USB devices or audio devices. Beneath the slimline DVD/CD-RW drive which comes pre-installed in the system, a cover is pulled down to allow access to two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and jacks for headphones and a microphone. The 7-in-1 card reader up top was accessed by pushing down slightly on the edge of the case and letting go. All popular card types are supported including memory sticks, Secure Digital, SmartMedia, and Compact Flash cards. Pushing down a second time locks the reader back into place. Just past the card reader is a large handle, making it a snap to carry the e-bot wherever needed, such as ever-popular LAN-parties. For added security, the e-bot's side panel can also be locked to keep idle hands away from and out of the inside of the chassis.
Once the side door was unlocked, it only required a push on a back lever to get inside. The inside of the e-bot was mostly open and clear of wires, the bulk of which were all located towards the bottom of the system. Both the pre-installed DVD/CD-RW drive and hard drive will be located here with the IDE ports placed nearby. The hard drive is actually installed within a metal cage, and is accessed separately from other devices. Unhooking the bottom plate allows for accessing the cage, and the IDE cable and MOLEX power connector are fed down here as well. Once again, it's a very innovative move by Foxconn that provides an out-of-the-way location for the hard drive as well as keeping wires from needlessly traveling around the case. Our only concern would be if the e-bot took a hard hit along the bottom of the case, such as the unit getting dropped suddenly from a table. The cage is locked into the inner structure, however, rather than placed right along the bottom, which may provide a little more protection.
Once the hard drive was installed, we we're able to move onto installing the CPU and memory. Without a power supply unit taking up space, there's plenty of room to get to the sockets making installation a snap. Two DIMM slots were available and can be populated separately since the SiS661FX supports single channel memory. With the CPU and DDR installed and locked down, we turned our attention to the cooling device. Similar in some ways to the ICE technology that Shuttle uses, a heatsink is locked down over the Pentium 4 CPU, and three copper heat pipes carry the heat away from the heatsink to a radiator type structure that is mounted on the rear of the chassis. The heatpipes weren't machined as clean and neatly as we have seen with others, but once installed you'll probably never look at them again. A single 80mm fan is then placed around the radiator and blows air across the fins thus cooling them off. At startup, this fan gets quite noisy. Once it kicks down to normal speeds it's actually not too bad, although you will notice it rev up from time to time. Overall, it's definitely not the quietest SFF system we've ever tested. Finally, once everything is installed, we're ready to boot up and install Windows. If you see a penguin start dancing across the mini-LCD screen then you know you're on the right track.