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March 14, 2004 by Mike Chin
Toaster-sized small form factor (SFF) PCs have invariably been "barebones" products that include the case, power supply and motherboard -- often cleverly integrated with unique design and features. They are the domain of motherboard makers who have driven the SFF market from its inception a few years ago. Antec's new Aria is probably not the first SFF case and power supply designed for use with any micro-ATX, flex-ATX or mini-ITX motherboard, but knowing the company's marketing track record in recent years, it will probably become the first widely successful one. There have been many small PC cases on the market in recent years, but mostly in slim form factor rather than the boxier toaster shape that Shuttle has promoted so successfully.
The Aria is bigger than most SFF PCs, mostly in width. Although the same height as the medium size SFF AOpen XC Cube and only a bit deeper, the Aria at 10.5" is 2.5" wider. The extra width is needed to accomodate the AGP plus three PCI expansion slots of a standard micro-ATX board; most barebones SFF systems come with proprietary boards that have just a AGP and a single PCI slot, designed specifically to fit into those little cases. Its internal volume, at over 17 liters, is much higher than the recently reviewed Shuttle Zen XPC and the AOpen XC Cube, which are 9 liters and 11 liters, respectively.
Antec informed me in an email...
The main target market of the case is for general computing, for second computers, and for LifeStyle type applications ° Quiet Computing, the bedroom, the living room, etc. So users who want the most powerful systems may have to trade off and give up some quiet. For that sort of power user. It is recommended that the included low-speed/low-noise Cyclone Blower be replaced with a full speed one for maximum cooling.
There are many features that can be highlighted, but the one that makes the Aria stand out from the crowd is the composition of its top and side panels. Unlike the sheet metal aluminum of its barebones cousins, the Aria sports a hybrid, sandwich material, a lamination of plastic and aluminum skins. We'll examine what practical impact this unusual construction has on thermal and acoustic properties.
SPECIAL FEATURES (from Antec's preliminary product sheet)
|° Alluring silver and black finish with soft blue illumination
|° Removable multi-layer side panels provide easy access and increased noise absorption
|° Accepts motherboards up to MicroATX (9.6" x 9.6") and 4 full-height PCI expansion cards
|° 300 Watt power supply with universal input delivers quiet, stable power
||- 120mm fan ensures nearly silent operation
- Active PFC provides environmentally-friendlier power
- Universal input allows Aria to automatically accept line voltages from 100V to 240V AC
|° Four drive bays provide convenient expandability
||- 1 external 5.25"
- 3 internal 3.5"
- Flip-up drive cage allows easy installation
- 3.5" mounts include thermal tape for improved heat dispersion
|° Front-mounted ports and 8-in-1 card reader deliver maximum flexibility
||- Card reader accepts all popular formats:
CF I/II, MS, MS Pro, SM, SD°, MMC, MicroDrive°
- Ports: 2x USB 2.0, 2x audio, 1x IEEE 1394 (FireWire°, i.Link°)
|° Remarkably quiet cooling with low speed 120mm fan and Cyclone Blower°
|° Low profile, small form factor allows Aria to fit almost anywhere.
||7.9"(H) x 10.6"(W) x 13.2"(D) or
20 (H) x 26,9 (W) x 33,5 (D) cm
Weighs: 10 lbs (4.6 kg)
|° AQ3 ° Antec's 3-year parts and labor warranty
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