Review: ECS EZ-Buddie SFF PC

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All this is Good but What About Noise?

It's the question many readers will be asking. Most SPCR regulars know that the SFF Shuttle PC systems are not quiet machines. They are not even good candidates for modifying for quiet operation. The Achilles heel of the Shuttle SFF PC is a built-in custom PSU that uses a 40mm fan. The nature of small fans is that they have to spin fast to create any significant cooling airflow. Naturally, the Shuttle PSU fan is a screamer (at least by SPCR standards). Given the very tight spacing in SFF PCs, the choice of fan size is critical for noise. There is simply no room to modify most SFF cases to accept larger fans. As a result, while Shuttle boxes continue to sell in the mainstream, following an initial rush to experiment, PC silencers have pretty much dropped the Shuttle boxes like hot potatos.

The good news about the ECS EZ-Buddie is that there is only one fan in the case, and it is a 80mm case fan on the back panel. It is connected to the motherboard via a 3-pin connector, and is controlled by a thermal speed controller embedded in the motherboard. The fan itself is a fairly ordinary 12VDC fan rated at 0.18A, which suggests a medium speed 30~35 CFM fan. As the photo below shows, four screws are all that need to be loosened to release this fan. It means that a swap for a quieter fan like our reference Panaflo 80L1A is easily achieved.

Airflow potential in the case is also quite good, with perforated grill openings in the front panel (shown below in left photo) as well as on the bottom panel (right photo below). The front bezel is rather obstructed but the bottom panel openings are reasonably generous. Taller feet on the bottom of the case would help with air intake. (See Cooling Note in NOISE / COOLING ANALYSIS below.)

The one other fan for the main case is part of a CPU heatsink that is supplied. It is also a 80mm fan, just 15mm deep. The HSF (heatsink fan) appears to be sourced directly from Cooler Master. This fan again, is not special. It is quite loud at 12VDC. However, when the fan is plugged into the motherboard header as intended, the CPU fan speed is thermally controlled by the motherboard. It runs at a modest speed most of the time and produces only a moderate amount of noise.

This HS, by the way, is not that different from a stock Intel P4 HS, being made from a single aluminum extrusion and being reasonably chunky. The main difference is the larger diameter fan -- the stock Intel P4 fan measures somewhere around 65mm diameter. It does mean this fan is quieter, certainly less whiny.

What of the Power Supply?

The lead-up discussion pointed out the PSU as a noise downfall of the Shuttle SFF boxes. In the EZ-Buddie, the PSU has been split up into 2 sections. One section is the Chi Sam Electronic AD200-12P External AC to DC Adapter, a sleek box with matching brushed aluminum housing and a blue LED light that has a 4-foot cord connection to the main case. It houses the transformers and the bulk of the PSU. It delivers dual 12VDC lines to the main box. The external PS box is rated for 12VDC, 16A: The total of 192W is fairly generous for a SFF design.

The bad news: The external external PS box has a 40mm fan. It starts at a low speed but the fan speed increases as the PSU warms up, as does the noise. The second section of the PSU is shown in the photo below. It is located at the top rear of the case.

OK, let's go back to the external power box. Here's another look. It looks very cool.

The fan is on the other side. It's a 12VDC Sunon rated at 0.8W, model KDE1204PKV2MS.

A look through Sunon's fan specs did not turn up this model but 2 other 0.8W models rated at 6200 and 6500 RPM. A noise of 22.5 dBA is indicated. This normally refers to a 1 meter distance while the fan is completely unimpeded in free air; 22.5 dBA still seems optimistic.

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