AOpen XC Cube EZ65: A Quiet, Powerful SFF

Complete|Mobile Systems
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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The AOpen XC Cube EZ65 sample arrived in the usual heavy cardboard carton. Inside, this nifty retail box with carrying handle was found. To be fair, such boxes have become virtually mandatory or standard for SFF barebone systems. It has something to do with marketing departments' desire to position SFF PCs as simple and user friendly, like any other consumer appliance.

The packing inside was excellent. The PC was well protected from transit damage. Two sturdy cardboard boxes held a slew of short custom-length cables, two AC cords (one for US/Canada and another for... Asia?), accessories, installation CDs, screws, and three manuals (in English, Chinese and Japanese).

EXTERNAL OVERVIEW

As mentioned in the introduction, the Pearl White paint finish on the cover is excellent, with a hard glossy sheen that is quite resistant to showing scratches. The front bezel is clear Plexiglas painted on the underside. When the power is on, a blue light comes on around the large silver power button, which also has a blue LED for HDD activity. Everything else is neatly hidden behind the three doors.

The doors to the 3.5" external drive and the front in/out panel are opened by pushing on the top right of the doors. A little click sounds, then the door hinges out and down.

The bottom door opens to reveal (from left) S/PDIF output, speaker/headphone jack, mic input, two USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394 port and 4-pin IEEE 1394 port. The optical drive cover is spring loaded and flips open and shut by the force of the disc drawer. The drawer mechanism is engaged pressing the silver button on the right. The whole front panel is complete, neat and tidy.

The usual U-shaped cover has two distinct grids of ventilation holes on either side. It is held by 3 thumbscrews on the back. As you can see below, the left side vent is much larger than the right. Despite the large patterns of holes, because the square holes themselves are quite small, the total vent area they represent is smaller than you might think.

All the vent holes are ~3mm square. On the left, the grid comprises 19 x 21 holes in an area about 120mm square. The total vent area is about 36 cm. square, slightly more than a typical 80mm fan. On the right, the grid is 20 x 20 in an area about 80 x 90 mm. The total vent area is also 36 cm. square. Why the more concentrated hole pattern on the right and the more spread-out pattern on the left? Hmmm. We'll have to find out once we get inside.

The back panel is clean and tidy, like the front. On the bottom, there are the usual connections for mouse, keyboard, monitor, printer and COM1, a coax RCA port, IEEE 1394 port, S/PDIF output, two USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45), then the three audio jacks: line-in, multimedia speaker and mic in.

The power supply looks almost like a conventional ATX model, shrunk slightly. There's an 80mm exhaust fan, a 115/230VAC switch, on/off power, and the IEC AC jack. The use of the 80mm fan is a good sign, as many SFF have used smaller fans with a high pitch noise signature that's hard to deal with. The grill doesn't look too restrictive either. Covers for PCI and AGP slots are on one side.

Four nicely designed feet with soft rubber centers are located at the corners of the bottom of the case. They seem soft enough to help minimize vibration transfer from the XC Cube into whatever structure it is placed on. There are no vent openings in the bottom of the case.



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