Review: ECS EZ-Buddie SFF PC

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August 4, 2003 -- by Mike Chin

Product ECS EZ-Buddie Desktop (SFF) PC
Manufacturer/Supplier ECS Elitegroup
MSP ~US$180

Small Form Factor PCs have been around for a while. They haven't always been called SFF; that's a term coined maybe 2 years ago, perhaps to suggest more than a passing fad or obscure interest in miniaturization. Slim PC, Book PC, Mini PC -- these terms preceded SFF PC and are still in use today. But it's when Shuttle, the motherboard maker, came up with a toaster-sized highly integrated barebones system called the SV24 that the SFF PC started to really take off.

Simultaneous with Shuttle's takeoff was the release of VIA's Mini-ITX integrated systems. Suddenly tiny PCs were a happening thing. Recent VIA advertising even tries to link their Mini-ITX to BMW-revived Mini coolness. Now, it seems little PCs (that are not notebooks) are everywhere. One of the most recent additions to the competitors in this sector is ECS. Their first of several entries is the EZ-Buddie.

The ECS EZ-Buddie is a barebones system in a brushed aluminum box with a lot of stylish appeal. It is so feature packed that it's difficult to describe it as a "barebone", although that's what it is: It is supplied without CPU, memory, hard drive or optical drive. It does, however come with the ~half-cubic foot case that you see, a highly integrated microATX motherboard, a PSU, a heatsink fan for the CPU, and a case fan. As you might guess from the unusual colorful LCD display front panel, it has a gimmick or two to perk up even jaded hardware addicts.

What ECS designers have done is to shrink the proportions of a mid-tower case around the microATX motherboard. It's somewhat unusual, as most small vertically aligned cases are narrower. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; while it may not be beautiful to all, the design works for this beholder. The mix of LED colors, including the super-cool blue that's all the rage, the brushed aluminum and the black trim all combine for a sharp, appealing modern look.

Before going farther with this descriptive narrative, let's get all the technical details down.

Case Parameters
  • ECS custom form factor ATX specification
  • Slots for 2 expansion cards (1x AGP 4x, 1x Shared PCI and CNR slot)
  • 1 x 5.25-inch drive bays (external)
  • 1 x 3.5-inch drive bays (internal)
  • Power, reset and eject buttons for PC
  • Blue LED for power and HDD indication
  • LCM display for system status (EZ-Watcher) and Overclocking control (CPU Tuner)
Expansion Ports
  • Front Panel
    • 1x USB 2.0 ports
    • 1x Line-out / Headphone
    • 1x Mic-in
    • 6-in-1 Card Reader
  • Back Panel
    • 1x Serial Port
    • 1x Parallel Port
    • 4x USB 2.0 ports
    • 1x RJ45 10/100 LAN port
    • 1x VGA ports
    • 1x Center/Bass speaker output or Mic-In
    • 1x Front Left / Right speaker output or Line-Out
    • 1x Rear Left / Right speaker output or Line-In
Motherboard & CPU Support
  • ECS S4-2 Custom Form Factor ATX
  • Based on SiS 651 Northbridge chipset and SiS 962L Southbridge
  • Supports Socket-478 CPU (400/533 FSB)
  • Supports DDR266/DDR333 memory
Graphics Subsystem
  • Integrated SiS 315 Graphics Engine
Sound Subsystem
  • C-Media CMI9739A 6-Channel sound output with Xear 3D Virtual Surround Sound Technology
Case Cooling
  • Cooler Master DI4-7152A HSF provided but standard Intel P4 Cooler is also easily mountable
  • 1x 80mm Rear Exhaust fan
Power Supply
  • Chi Sam Electronic AD200-12P External AC to DC Adapter
Dimensions & Weight
  • Width: 162mm
  • Height: 263mm
  • Depth: 310mm
  • Material : Aluminum
  • Color: Brushed Aluminum

Even though it has only 1 AGP and 1 PCI slot, it is a PC capable of competing with full sized ATX systems, what with so much integrated right into the system.

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