Linux hardware review: Biostar iDEQ 200V Cube
|I ordered my Biostar iDEQ 200V from Newegg a couple of weeks ago. My goal was to build a small form factor Linux system that was quiet, fast, inexpensive, reasonably flexible, and easy to work on. I also wanted a Socket A motherboard so that that I could take advantage of AMD's excellent and cheap XP 2500+ Barton core processor. I already had a Maxtor 40 GB disk drive, a Sony CD-RW drive, and a floppy drive so off to Newegg's website I went, credit card in hand.|
I ordered the Biostar iDEQ 200V ($189), a Crucial 512 MB DDR PC-2700 DIMM ($79), and an AMD XP 2500+ (Barton) ($91) processor. [Note that some of these prices may have changed since I last checked them.]
Even though I saved a little more money by selecting the 'Free FedEx Saver Shipping' option, my order arrived in three days. I unpacked the Biostar system first. It is housed in a 210mm wide, 187mm tall, and 323mm deep aluminum case [8.3 inches wide by 7.4 inches tall by 12.7 inches deep]. Four thumbscrews on the back lets you remove either side panel and the top panel without tools. Inside the case is a red system board with an 8x AGP slot, a single full-size PCI slot, two 184 pin DDR slots for up to 2 GB of PC-2700 memory.
Already installed are all the cables you need for an IDE system, prerouted, labeled and cut to exact length. The cables snake around the chassis so cleanly that they are barely visible. The cables are labeled in easy-to-read lettering on sturdy pull-tabs. This is a very well-organized and uncluttered system.
A custom heatsink fan assembly is included, already attached inside the system. This makes the already easy task of figuring out how to mount the CPU cooler almost trivial. Once you've removed the heatsink to install the CPU, you already know how to reinstall it. While you don't really need the included manual to assemble this system, you'll probably want to scan it first just to make sure you install the parts in the recommended order. If you follow the Biostar manual, you won't wind up with one part blocking access to another.
Also included in the iDEQ shipping carton was a pair of brackets to cover the optical and floppy drive bays in the event that you don't install drives in those bays. There was also a set of cables for a serial ATA (SATA) drive. Since I'm not yet the owner of a serial ATA drive, I didn't test that feature. However, Linux kernel 2.6 will support the SATA controller included on the system board and I understand that it already works with the current 2.6 test kernel. [Update 3/7/2004: Here and here are comments based on attempts to get SATA working on 2.6 with no success. It appears that our original information was incorrect and RAID is not yet supported on this system with Linux 2.6. -Ed.]
The system comes with a 200 watt power supply, plenty for the XP 2500+, the three drives, and the AGP and PCI slots -- as long as the more power-hungry video cards are avoided.
The AMD XP 2500+ came with a large aluminum heatsink/fan with a thick copper plate on the bottom. I set it aside to use with another system and, after removing the custom Biostar cooler, plugged the CPU into the socket. The heatsink easily and firmly latches down with a pair of springy levers.
I put the Crucial 512 MB DDR333 DIMM in one of the two memory slots, then turned my attention to the drives.
The hard drive bracket slides out of its slot when you press the trigger release making it a snap to install the Maxtor disk. The floppy bay is centered beneath the 5.25" optical drive bay. I put a floppy there and then installed the Sony CD-RW drive, carefully routing the audio cable alongside the IDE cable so as not to compromise the clean look of the system's interior.
I've assembled about 25 systems and this was the easiest build so far. Everything is where it should be, there is enough room to easily install the components, and everything fits just so. I hooked up the system and popped in a Red Hat 8 installation CD. Using a distribution several months old revealed one problem -- in addition to the aforementioned issue of SATA support. The sound chip wasn't recognized. A little research showed that it, also, would be supported in Linux 2.6. Meanwhile, I bought a cheap but well-supported Creative Lab Sound Blaster 128 PCI ($24) sound card to solve the problem. After plugging the Sound Blaster into the PCI slot, I disabled the onboard audio chip on the mainboard and rerouted the CD-ROM drive audio cable to the Sound Blaster.
That produced acceptable sound without breaking the budget -- and should get me by until I can acquire and install a Linux 2.6-based distribution.
Other than that small sound support hitch, everything has worked perfectly under Linux. The iDEQ 200V is the quietest, fastest, and one of the smallest computers in the house. While it was intended to be a test machine for a while, it has quickly become my main desktop system.
Other features of this system include a sliding door that, when closed, covers the floppy and optical drive bays; a bright blue HDD activity LED; and two depressions on the bottom of the system that provides heat contact between the processor and chipset and the case. That last clever bit of engineering turns the bottom of the aluminum case into a compnent of the cooling system and helps keep the two hottest chips in the box running cool.
The Biostar's BIOS allows control of the processor bus in 1 MHz increments. Just as a test, I stepped up the speed until I had overclocked the CPU to 2 GHz from the XP 2500+'s base speed of 1.833 GHz. Since I'm more concerned that the system run cool inside my poorly ventilated desk, overclocking was not the ultimate goal -- so I reset the bus back to 166/333 once I was satisfied that 10% overclocking was within the capability of my components.
Overall, I'm very satisfied with the Biostar iDEQ 200V, the AMD XP-2500+, and the 512 MB Crucial DDR PC-2700 DIMM. The performance is excellent, it's a nice-looking system inside and out, and the price is certainly nothing to complain about.
System tested: Biostar iDEQ Barebone System for Socket A at 266/333MHz FSB AMD CPU, Model IDEQ200V
CPU Support: AMD Athlon XP (Socket A, Max.FSB 333)
Chipsets: VIA KM400 + VT8237
Memory: 2x 184pin (DDR333 up to 2GB)
IDE: 2x ATA133, 2x SATA(RAID)
Graphics: Integrated VIA UniChrome
Expansion Slot: 1x PCI, 1x AGP 8X
Audio: C-Media CMI9739A
LAN: 10/100 LAN
Extension Bay: 1x 3.5", 1x 5.25"
Front Panel Ports: 2x USB, 1x 1394, 1x SPDIF_Out, Audio ports
Back Panel Ports: 1x COM, 2x PS/2, 1x VGA, 1x RJ45, 2x USB, 1x 1394, 1x SPDIF_In, Audio ports
Power Supply: 200W(PFC)
Dimension: 210 x 323 x 187 mm
If you're looking for a small form factor computer that's a bit higher end, take a look at the Shuttle XPC SN25P Barebones, which supports the Socket 939 dual core chips.
|mail this link | score:8273 | -Ray, December 9, 2003 (Updated: April 18, 2007)|
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