Benchmark Summary: The Epox eX5-320S did very well in our benchmarks, consistently placing second in each and every test we threw at it. The memory performance enhancement on the motherboard gave it a slight advantage over the similarly configured Shuttle SB61G2 XPC, and it has a more stylish look to boot. It lost out slightly when compared to a full-sized motherboard, such as the Asus P4P800 Deluxe, but the difference in almost every case was miniscule. All in all, a top-notch showing for a company relatively new to the barebones arena.
We were completely pleased by the Epox eX5-320S, and have very little to complain about. Appearance-wise, the eX5-320S was a real looker. It's a sleek multimedia machine, with nary the hint that it is a computer at all. Put this in with the rest of your audio hardware and no one would be the wiser. Drive bays are effectively stealthed by the sliding door panel, and the only noticeable ports are the PS/2 ports on the front. The system's internals were well planned as well, with large open spaces around the CPU and RAM, and a cooling device which not only helps in cooling down the CPU and NorthBridge, but apparently does so in near-silent conditions. Not once did we notice any loud fan noises emanating from the case, even during strenuous benchmarking or overclocking. Our only concerns here were with the placement of one of the headers on the motherboard as well as an issue with removing the drive tray, but both of these are minor problems that may not even arise in all installation scenarios.
The real advantage of the eX5-320S over the competition may come down to the Music On Now or DJ Mode. From experience, we can say that having one of these boxes around as a PC jukebox is a pretty cool concept, but it doesn't always translate into being useful in the real world. What has always held us back somewhat was the clunky controls and need to boot into Windows, find the music we wanted, queue them up, etc. With the Epox eX5-320S, however, all we needed to do was boot up into our playlist and hit play, either from the unit itself, or while sitting on the couch using the handy remote control.
Compared to some other SFF boxes we've tested, the Epox eX5-320S is competitively priced, retailing for about $310 for the Pentium 4 model, and slightly higher for an Athlon XP compatible model. It might cost more than the typical CD/Receiver combo, but with all of the extra benefits the eX5-320S provides, it's well worth it. With the right pieces, you would have the perfect combination of music jukebox, video game console, and still be able to surf the web or pay bills. With all that in mind, we're giving the Epox eX5-320S a 9 on the Hot Hardware Heat Meter...
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