ASUS Terminator 2 T2-AE1: Mod-friendly Barebones System

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SYSTEM INSTALLATION

The following components were installed:

  • AMD Sempron 64 3300+ 62W TDP, 2.0 GHz
  • 1 x 1024 MB Corsair XMS PC4000 DDR SDRAM
  • Western Digital Scorpio WD1200BEVS 120GB SATA notebook HDD
  • LG GSA-H10A DVD±RW drive
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 fully updated

No VGA card was tested; instead, the integrated Mirage2 graphics was used.

As is the standard for our system builds, a 2.5" notebook drive was used in order to minimize the amount of noise added to the system. The noise measurements made in this review reflect this choice; using a full 3.5" drive can be expected to add 2~3 dBA/1m in vibration and resonance, especially when hard mounted.

Installation begins with removing the cover and the power supply so that the motherboard is exposed. This is a simple matter of removing the appropriate screws: Three for the cover and one more for the power supply. The power supply then slides upwards until it disengages from the chassis. The short cables do not allow the power supply much range and, as we didn't want to go to the trouble of undoing the cable routing that had already been done, it was balanced precariously out of the way between the optical drive cage and the back of the case while the installation took place. This proved to be dangerous, as the power supply had a habit of falling onto the motherboard when disturbed. This happened frequently as the system often needed to be lifted or turned over to access the back side of the chassis.

With the power supply out of the way, the motherboard is accessible, and the CPU and RAM can be installed as in any other system. Installing the heatsink is a matter of placing it on the CPU and securing it in place with two clips. The process is simple and intuitive, and should be familiar to anyone who has worked with Socket 478 before. Our only issue was that the limited space around the CPU socket made it a little difficult to maneuver the top clip into place.

That done, the power supply can be screwed back into place. As noted, care is needed to keep stray cables out of the heatsink fan.

Next, the drive cage is removed by undoing a single screw and pulling the cage out on its own. The location of the screw is not obvious; we spent a couple of confused minutes wondering why we couldn't just pull the cage out before we realized that there was a screw holding it in place on the back side of the case. This meant turning the whole system over to get at the screw, and we almost dumped the power supply into the system in the process.

Once the drive cage is removed, it is quite easy to screw a drive into it, or, in our case, use elastic cord to suspend a notebook drive. The cage goes back in the way it came out; sliding into place on four tabs protruding from the front panel and locking in place with a single screw.


The removable drive cage makes suspending a notebook drive child's play.


The drive cage in place.

Getting cables to the drive is not very well thought out. The T2-AE1 has only a single IDE channel, making the use of a PATA drive less than ideal. Not only will a PATA drive suffer a performance penalty by being on the same IDE channel as an optical drive, but both devices will need to be on the same physical cable. Given that the hard drive bay is located at the bottom front of the case, while the end of the optical drive is in the top back, this is hardly a workable arrangement.

So, SATA drive is needed. But, strangely enough, the stock power supply does not ship with any SATA power connectors. ASUS includes an IDE to SATA adapter cable to correct the problem, but it is hardly an elegant solution. The photo below illustrates just how inelegant it is: The stock cables leave the drive in opposite directions.


The SATA data and power cables do not allow the cables to be routed together.

The lack of attention to cable management for SATA drives seems odd compared to the obvious effort that went into routing the IDE cable. Although the cable is a conventional ribbon cable, it is folded lengthwise through most of its length. The photo below shows the impressive bit of folding that makes this possible. (Editor's Note: Reminiscent of the work of SPCR's own cable-gami master, Ralf Hutter.) The resulting half-width cable is much easier to manage than a full width cable, and fits nicely into the bundle of cables that runs along the top edge of the motherboard.


A bit of cablegami to make the most fastidious neat-freak jealous.

At the other end of the cable is the optical drive, whose installation is also quite involved because it requires removing the front bezel. Like most bezels, it is held in place by a number of plastic tabs that lock into place — there are six in total. Each tab must be lifted individually and the bezel pulled out to release it from the metal frame underneath. Four of the tabs are easily accessible and can be released quite easily. However, the two tabs along the right edge of the bezel are difficult to get at. One of them is not even visible until the drive cage is removed.

With the bezel out of the way, installing the optical drive is matter of sliding it into place and fixing it in place with screws. The screw holes on the left side of the drive are inaccessible because of the pre-installed floppy drive, and are not intended to be used. This means that one side of the drive simply rests loosely in place. Luckily, our drive fit tightly enough in our sample that vibration noise was no more an issue than usual, but a slight difference in tolerances could have left us with a drive that rattled against the chassis whenever it was spinning.


The metal latch is press-fitted: Presto, screwless expansion card installation.

Last of all are the expansion cards, which can be added even when the power supply is in place. The photo above shows how to access the expansion slots — no screwdriver required.


Heatsink, RAM, and drive in place.
The power supply would protrude just past the center of the heatsink fan if it was in place.



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