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The AOpen XC Cube EZ65 is an impressive first entry into SFF computers. It's clear that the AOpen design team have examined and learned much from the competitors who preceded them. In the XC Cube, AOpen have tried to achieve something of a PC for Everyman (and woman), and they have largely succeeded with surefooted confidence. It is possible to create with this platform...
- A very quiet yet capable modern PC at a modest price. Yes, that's what the XC Cube is in minimalist configuration. In this regard, its appeal is very similar to the Shuttle Zen.
- A powerful if not state-of-the-art gaming machine. With the AGP slot, any level of video performance is possible. Combine that with the high performance dual channel memory capability of the 865PE chipset and the native SATA RAID hard drive controller, and you have a machine that can compete almost on even terms with big tower PCs.
These are the extremes of the range of configurations the XC Cube can support; the wide range of points between these extremes means that it can meet a great many PC users' needs. The noise level rises naturally between these extremes, from about as quiet as SFF has been thus far, to as loud as the loudest VGA card and hard drive. But the choices are the users. With something like a fanless ATI 9600 Pro VGA card and a 8mb cache Samsung HDD to go along with a fast CPU and dual channel memory, the XC Cube would make a fine low noise home theater PC or gamer machine.
Like the Shuttle (and 99.9% of cases and systems we know about), the direct coupling of the hard drive to the chassis leads to vibration induced panel noise. In the aluminum box, it is more noticeable than in steel ones. The HDD noise reductioon solution is DIY for now, but I bet it won't be too long before AOpen and other SFF makers hear what we are hearing, and saying, and act to provide ready-made solutions.
Let's not forget how attractive, well-finished and easy to assemble the XC Cube is. The all-matching bezel with external drive covers and "designer colors" will attract a lot of new buyers. In short, the AOpen XC Cube is a well-executed, inexpensive, powerful and versatile SFF computing platform that can run very quietly. Strongly recommended.
Much thanks to AOpen for providing us the XC Cube EZ65 sample.
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