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Biostar's iDEQ 330P small form factor system

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Manufacturer Biostar
Model iDEQ 330P
Price (Street)
Availability Now

SINCE SHUTTLE STARTED the small form factor craze with the seminal SV24, other manufacturers have been eager to carve themselves a slice of the market. Rather than simply releasing XPC clones, these new entrants have usually offered interesting new features and chassis designs, injecting a little flavor into a market largely dominated by Shuttle.

Biostar's iDEQ 330P is the latest small form factor system to offer something a little different. Based on a 939-pin Athlon 64 socket and NVIDIA nForce4 chipset, the 330P sports BTX-style front-to-back cooling and an innovative chassis that hinges open to provide better access to system components than any other small form factor enclosure. But does this newcomer have what it takes to match Shuttle's nForce4 XPC? Read on to find out.

The specs
As usual, we'll kick things off with a look at the system's spec sheet.

CPU support Socket 939-based Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 and Sempron processors
Chipset NVIDIA nForce4
Interconnect HyperTransport 16-bit/1GHz
Expansion slots 1 PCI Express x16
1 32-bit/33MHz
1 Mini PCI
Memory 2 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR266/333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/133 with RAID 0, 1, 0+1 support
2 channels Serial ATA RAID 0, 1 support
Audio 8-channel audio via nForce4 and Realtek ALC850 codec
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
2 serial
USB 2.0 (4 rear, 2 front)
1 RJ45 10/100/1000
2 Firewire via VIA VT6307 (1 front, 1 rear)

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog surround out
1 analog rear out
1 analog line in

1 analog line out (front)
1 analog mic in (front)
TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output (rear)
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF input (front)
BIOS Phoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speeds HT: 200-250MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: 100, 133, 166, 200MHz
LDT: 1000, 800, 600, 400, 200MHz
Voltages CPU: auto, 0.8-1.7V in 0.025V increments
DDR: auto, 2.65-2.95V in 0.1V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU, System

The iDEQ's spec sheet isn't particularly remarkable, but that's not uncommon for small form factor systems that only have so much board and chassis real estate for features. Most of the iDEQ's features are provided by its nForce4 chipset. Unlike the nForce4 Ultra, this plain-Jane version of the nForce4 doesn't support 300MB/sec Serial ATA transfer rates or ActiveArmor Gigabit Ethernet acceleration. Few will miss 300MB/sec SATA transfer rates, and until NVIDIA gets around to releasing ForceWare K8 drivers that address ActiveArmor's high CPU utilization, ActiveArmor probably won't be missed, either.

Heck, the iDEQ 330P doesn't even use all of the nForce4's integrated features. Remember, there's only so much room in a cube. The chipset has a full 20 lanes of PCI Express, but the iDEQ only features a single x16 slot. Standard and Mini PCI slots offer additional expansion capacity, but to be honest, I'd rather see the Mini PCI slot replaced with a PCI Express x1 slot. PCI Express peripherals may be few and far between, but looking forward, it's a better bet than Mini PCI.

On the storage front, the iDEQ only implements two of the nForce4's four available Serial ATA ports. This limits SATA RAID support to RAID 0 and 1, which is just fine considering that the system can only accommodate two 3.5" hard drives. If Serial ATA isn't your style, the system does have two ATA/133 ports.

Next to its relatively strong PCI Express, storage, and Ethernet implementations, the nForce4's basic AC'97 audio looks pretty weak. Like most, Biostar mates the nForce4's audio controller with Realtek's eight-channel ALC850 codec. You won't get support for high definition sampling rates or resolutions, though, and you won't get hardware acceleration for 3D audio. Audio enthusiasts will likely want to reserve the system's PCI slot for a real sound card.