Single page Print

Soltek's Qbic EQ3901MAY-300P mini-barebones system

Aesthetically unique

Manufacturer Soltek
Model Qbic EQ3901MAY-300P
Price (street) $309
Availability Now

IT SEEMS LIKE everyone and their mother is trying to get into the small form factor business these days. Motherboard makers have been quick to whip up barebones cubes, but few have deviated from Shuttle's popular XPC mold. Not Soltek. Its latest "Mania" Qbic small form factor systems not only offer more expansion capacity than Shuttle's venerable G-series chassis, they also come wrapped in a wild aesthetic that easily sets them apart from the rest of the field.

These ain't no copycat cubes.

For gamers and enthusiasts, the most attractive member of the Mania series is the Socket 939-based Qbic EQ3901. With four colors to choose from, VIA's trusty K8T800 Pro chipset, a pair of 5.25" drive bays, and a beefy 300W power supply, the Qbic EQ3901 could be a great alternative to more established small form factor brands. Read on to find out if it measures up.

The system
The Qbic's spec sheet gives us a good idea of the kinds of features and performance we can expect, but it doesn't come close to conveying what makes it really unique. For that, we need to feast our eyes on the cube itself.

Love it or hate it, the aesthetic is undeniably unique

The EQ3901 looks like a cross between a '57 Chevy and a Mini Cooper, which certainly sets it apart from the rest of the small form factor field. Let's have a closer look.

CPU support Socket 939-based Athlon 64 processors
Chipset VIA K8T800 Pro
North bridge VIA K8T800 Pro
South bridge VIA VT8237
Interconnect V-Link (533MB/sec)
Expansion slots 1 32-bit/33MHz
1 AGP 4X/8X (1.5V only)
Memory 2 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR266/333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/133
2 channels Serial ATA 150 via VT8237 with RAID 0,1 support
Audio 8-channel audio via VT8237 integrated audio and ALC850 codec
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
2 serial
USB 2.0 with headers for 2 more
2 Firewire via VT6307
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via Realtek RTL8110S

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog surround out
1 analog rear out
1 analog headphone out
1 analog line in
1 analog headphone out (front)
1 analog mic in (front)
1 digital S/PDIF outputs (front, TOS-Link)
BIOS Phoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speeds CPU: 200-250MHz in 1MHz increments
AGP: 66, 75.4MHz
HT: 1000, 800, 600, 400, 200MHz
Bus dividers None
Voltages CPU: 0.8-1.7V in 0.05V increments
DDR: auto, 2.6-2.9V in 0.1V increments
AGP: auto, 1.5-1.8V in 0.1V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU and system

The Qbic we'll be looking at today supports AMD's 939-pin Athlon 64 processors and uses VIA's tried-and-true K8T800 Pro chipset. The K8T800 Pro, complete with its VT8237 south bridge, serves up just about everything an enthusiast-oriented cube should have, including a full-speed HyperTransport link, Serial ATA RAID, and AGP graphics for those who aren't quite ready to make the jump to PCI Express.

Soltek augments the K8T800 Pro's feature set with a little loving from the crab. Realtek's RTL8110S Gigabit Ethernet controller and eight-channel ALC850 codec chip both grace the board. Don't confuse the ALC850 with the ALC880; the latter can handle the higher sampling rates and resolutions required by Intel's new High Definition Audio standard, while the former is simply an eight-channel AC'97 codec.

Normally, I'm not too enthusiastic about PCI-based Gigabit Ethernet chips, but I don't mind the PCI-based RTL8110S on the Qbic. The cube only has a single PCI slot, and apart from its Firewire chip, no other devices are vying for PCI bus bandwidth, so bus contention shouldn't be a problem.