EPoX eX5-300S Mini-Me review
A good overall system, but the front-mounted PS/2 ports and limited AGP card support prevent it from taking an award.
Review Date: 18 Dec 2003
Price when reviewed: (£235 inc VAT)
Like many of the small form factor PCs available today, the EPoX takes its design cues from Shuttle. The brushed aluminium and mirrored finish make an interesting combination, but the large 80mm LCD panel steals the show. It displays temperatures, fan speeds and the time, although the main bonus is that you can play audio CDs without booting into Windows. However, the PC has to be running, even if you don't want to play files from the hard disk, unlike MSI's silent running mode.
Internally, design is arguably better than Shuttle's. The PSU is mounted at the rear with an 80mm fan to keep it cool, and the north bridge and CPU are located next to each other, allowing them to share the same custom heatsink. Two 60mm Thermaltake fans, one blowing and one sucking, keep air flowing through the heatsink, while a plastic duct ensures the hot air escapes at the rear.
A single hard disk cage is mounted sideways and the right-angle power connector and supplied ribbon cable are perfectly placed ready to attach. Two Ultra ATA/133 connectors reside at the front of the motherboard, while the two memory sockets are on the right-hand side, as seen in the Shuttle and Evesham systems. The AGP 8x slot is welcome but, as it isn't located on the outside of the board, only cards 160mm or shorter will fit - longer ones may foul the hard disk cage.
With all the components installed, it's quite tight inside, but the neat cabling leaves almost as much room for airflow as the Evesham. Also, the headers for the front-mounted USB 2 and FireWire ports are located usefully at the front of the motherboard, keeping the amount of wiring to a minimum.
On the front panel, the 5.25in bay has a stealth door and the two buttons have a limited adjustment. We tried two drives, both of which worked fine, but the panel can be removed for any incompatible designs. The front-panel 3.5in bay is used by a 6-in-1 card reader, although any thoughts of removing it to install a floppy disk drive should be banished, as there's no controller on the motherboard - a good thing in our opinion.
Coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs can be found at the rear, but the lack of TV output could be frustrating for some. More annoying is that the PS/2 ports are mounted on the front panel, and there are no duplicates on the back. The ensuing unsightly wires will put many off, while those wanting a PC that doubles as a hi-fi are better off choosing the MSI.
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