After a long wait following our first sighting of it at CeBIT, the next generation iDEQ from Biostar finally turned up in our office last week. The good news is that the 330P was definitely worth waiting for. Not only is this the first Socket 939 small form factor (SFF) barebone to arrive at TrustedReviews, but it’s also the first one based on the nVidia nForce4 chipset. This is a combination that has been eagerly awaited by many SFF users out there. Although Shuttle was first out with a barebone based on the nForce4 chipset, Biostar might be able to steal some of the limelight away with the 330P.
I’m not sure if the new design will be to everyone’s liking, as it is not as stylish as Shuttles SN25. The grille across the front adds to the idiosyncratic looks, but there is a good reason for it to be there. The main chassis construction is shared across the 300-series of iDEQ’s and features a shark mouth type opening mechanism. This is where the grille comes into play as behind the front is a 92mm fan. This might seem odd, but the iDEQ 330P is very BTX inspired. As such the CPU heatsink doesn’t feature a fan as the front fan cools the heatsink.
But it’s when you open the iDEQ 330P that you realise how many hours the Biostar engineers have put in to construct the chassis. As with the iDEQ 200 series the sides are separated from the top, which make it easy to get into the case. Once the sides are off there are two latches at the bottom that need to be pushed apart to enable the front of the machine to be lifted upwards, this giving you access to the innards of the iDEQ 330P. I can honestly say that I have not come across another SFF system that is this easy to assemble.
It’s not quite perfect though, as the hard drive caddies could be easier to remove. A quick release catch would be preferable to the thumb screws as they’re fairly stiff to pull out. The CPU heatsink is even easier to remove than in the older iDEQ 200 machines due to the simple fact that there is more space to get your hands in to reach it. The memory modules are equally easy to get to and with everything you need to access in the front of the case, things couldn’t get much simpler.
As the iDEQ 330P is based on the nForce4 chipset, PCI Express is part of the package and a x16 slot is ready to accept most graphics cards bar the mighty 6800 Ultras due to the positioning of the x16 slot. I tested the iDEQ 330P with an nVidia GeForce 6800GT card. There is one problem with using high-end graphics cards in the iDEQ 330P; there’s no PCI Express power connector present. You can of course use an adaptor but it’s hardly an elegant solution and it has to trail across the CPU heatsink. Biostar could easily have routed a cable that would have been in exactly the right position inside the case, and they should do this on the next revision.