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AOpen's XC Cube EY855-II mini-barebones system


(Pentium) Mmmmmm good
— 12:01 AM on March 2, 2005

Manufacturer AOpen
Model EY855-II
Price (street)
Availability Now

INTEL HAS BEEN HAVING an interesting time of it lately. Things were going well until Prescott came along with its mile-long pipeline, light-dimming power demands and silo-tall heatsinks. Since then, many have begun to wonder if Intel is really heading in the right direction with its desktop processor technology.

One reason that people started asking this question was Intel's "other" processor, the Pentium M. This chip could be described as Prescott's polar opposite, with extremely low power consumption, low cooling requirements and very impressive clock-for-clock performance. Some have even done the unthinkable, seriously considering a mobile chip for their desktop PC, of all things. Enough people have had this thought that more than one manufacturer has created a desktop motherboard for the Pentium M. The obvious question is: What's next?

A Pentium M cube, of course.

AOpen's XC Cube EY855-II is an attractive small form factor system with many of the common SFF features (USB 2.0 and Firewire, Gigabit Ethernet and an AGP slot) and at least one very uncommon feature: a 479-pin socket suitable for a Pentium M. But execution is everything, after all. Has AOpen put the right pieces around that nifty socket to create a worthwhile system? We'll soon find out.

The system
Let's take a closer look at those pieces. Below is a chart detailing the specs of the EY855-II.

CPU support Socket 479 Intel Pentium M processors with 400MHz front-side bus
Chipset Intel 855GME
North bridge Intel 82855GME MCH
South bridge Intel ICH4M
Expansion slots 1 AGP 4X
1 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory 2 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR266/333 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/100
Audio 6-channel audio via ICH4M integrated audio and Realtek ALC655 codec
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 serial (DB-9)
1 parallel
4
USB 2.0 (2 front, 2 rear)
3 Firewire via Agere FW323-06 (2 front (1 mini), 1 rear)
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Ethernet via Realtek 8110SB
1 VGA

2 line out (1 front, 1 rear)
1 line in (rear)
2 microphone in (1 front, 1 rear)
1 optical digital in (rear)
1 coaxial digital out (rear)
1 optical digital out (front)

BIOS AMI BIOS

The EY855-II is based on Intel's 855GME chipset which is used in many notebooks. Notably, this chipset is limited to support for DDR266 or DDR333 memory. The 855GME includes on-board graphics processor that shares memory with the rest of the system. Fortunately, one may add an AGP video card and disable the on-board graphics. Other features include Gigabit Ethernet (hanging off the PCI bus, unfortunately), on-board audio with both optical and coaxial digital outs, and Firewire support.

Perhaps the most interesting item is the one that's missing from the list: Serial ATA. It's not like ATA/100 drives are hard to come by, but I can't remember the last time I reviewed a product that didn't have SATA support.