SOYO Mini DRAGON 651 Review

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SOYO Mini DRAGON 651 Review - Page 2

SOYO Mini DRAGON 651
A New Pentium 4 Small Form Factor PC In The Crowd

By: Chris Angelini
July 28th, 2003

Enter the DRAGON
Cramming Capabilities into a Compact Case

The Mini DRAGON ships in one box, but it is split into two separate units.  You'll notice that both are significantly smaller than most competing small form-factor systems, even when stacked together.  SOYO separated the primary enclosure, with the motherboard, from the secondary enclosure, which houses the storage subsystems.  Furthermore, rather than utilizing an internal power supply, as found on many other SFF boxes, SOYO includes a 200W external unit that closely resembles the model used in Shuttle's revered XPC line.  Many will undoubtedly appreciate the size concessions that can be made with an external power supply.  However, it is more of a hassle than anything, especially in a day where we strive to minimize the prominence of wires behind the PC. 

     

The first enclosure houses the system's motherboard.  It sports a single 184-pin DIMM slot, capable of accommodating up to 1GB of DDR333 memory.  The slot itself is slanted, presumably to allow clearance for an AGP card, connected via a riser card. We were able to fit a RADEON 9700 Pro without issue, and SOYO even had the foresight to include a power header to be used with the video card.  Installing the processor is also a fairly simple process: plug the chip in, apply some thermal grease, set the heat pipe system into place and cover the whole configuration with a special sheet of metal equipped with an exhaust fan.

Unfortunately, there isn't enough room in the primary enclosure to house a 3.5" hard drive.  Instead, SOYO allows you to install a 2.5" drive, mounted adjacent to the processor interface.  If you'd like to use a more common, less expensive 3.5" drive, you'll have to mount it in the second enclosure, connected through a USB 2.0 interface.  According to SOYO, both CD-ROM and hard drive can harmoniously coexist in the secondary unit, but we were unable to get both drives operating at the same time from the box's single IDE channel.  We were instead forced to install a 30GB 2.5" drive in the primary enclosure - only then would the CD-ROM function as a valid boot device.  SOYO included expansion ports for Serial ATA connectivity, but the Mini DRAGON doesn't boast the feature quite yet.

     

Upon configuring the system, there were a few concerns that immediately surfaced. First and foremost, the Mini DRAGON is clearly designed to eliminate legacy devices.  Sporting six USB 2.0 ports and not a single PS/2 connector, you'll need to buy a USB keyboard and mouse (if you don't already have one).  Printer connectivity is also limited to USB 2.0, as the Mini DRAGON doesn't have a parallel port.  Secondly, whereas most other small form-factor systems feature six-channel audio (at least through analog ports, if not digital as well), the Mini DRAGON is limited to two-channel output.  And while we can appreciate a low profile, the system's lack of PCI connectivity means you'll never be able to add a more robust sound card or an 802.11g wireless card.  Finally, it should be noted that despite the platform's AGP expandability, our tests with ATI's RADEON 9700 Pro revealed that many titles fail to render properly, even with the latest drivers from SiS and ATI.

Along with the two enclosures and external power supply, SOYO includes IDE cables, power cables, a 2.5 to 3.5" IDE adapter, screws and an instruction manual; the manual has a lot of tips to get the Mini DRAGON up and running, making it an integral addition to the package. 

  

The Hot Hardware Test System
Integrated versus discrete

 
Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz (533MHz)

 

SOYO Mini DRAGON 651

 

ATI RADEON 9700 Pro (Catalyst 3.6)

SiS Integrated Graphics

 

512MB Corsair XMS2700LL

 

Toshiba 30GB 2.5" HDD

 

Windows XP Professional with SP1

DirectX 9.0a

 

Configuring the Mini DRAGON involved setting the USB CD-ROM option as a boot device in the BIOS and then installing Windows XP on a 2.5" drive (CD-ROM would not function in conjunction with a 3.5" drive on the same channel).  With a RADEON 9700 Pro installed, both 3D Mark 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2003 encountered serious rendering issues.  With the SiS integrated graphics driver installed, platform booted up in an incompatible mode and had to be connected to another display device to work properly.

 

Each platform featured Windows XP with Service Pack 1.  In configuring the operating system, we disabled System Restore and the Automatic Updating feature.  Finally, we set all of the graphical enhancements to "Performance" in the Windows XP properties.  It should also be noted that we disabled audio and Ethernet in order to minimize the effects of these subsystems on overall performance.

 

PC Mark 2002 and Quake III

Tags:  dragon, Mini, review, view, AG, IE

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