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Entry to the internals is via the two side panels and the top panel. All of these panels can be removed separately, and all of them are secured with thumb screws, so there’s no need for any tools. You can literally gain access to the innards of the PC in a few seconds.
Now, as sleek and stylish as the iDEQ looks on the outside, it’s the inside that’s truly impressive. What sets this little cube apart from so many of its competitors is the attention to detail that’s gone into the construction. Basically, Biostar has done just about everything possible to make system construction as simple as it can be.
When you’re working inside a small chassis, cable routing can be the difference between an easy and a nightmare building experience. Thankfully Biostar has routed all the cables for you, so when you come to install your optical drive, the IDE cable and power cable will not only be exactly where you want them, but also clearly labelled. The floppy drive connector is right at the back of the 3.5in external bay, while the IDE and power cables for the hard disk are also right next to the cage. Talking of the hard disk cage, this is removable for easy disk installation. And, like the side panels, it’s fixed with a single thumb screw for easy access.
Unfortunately I couldn’t make use of the IDE routing for the hard disk, since chose to use an S-ATA drive (yes the iDEQ supports S-ATA drives too). There is of course, an S-ATA cable supplied and I found it easy to route it discretely around the front of the chassis, keeping it out of the way of everything.
Inserting the CPU is easy enough, and Biostar provides a copper CPU protector to stop you accidentally crushing the die when you clamp down the heatsink. Talking of the heatsink, this is custom item complete with a heatpipe to handle heat dissipation as efficiently as possible. It’s also very easy to attach the heatsink/fan assembly, although it’s a bit of a tight squeeze getting it past a row of capacitors. Also, the fan blows the hot air from the CPU directly out of the rear of the case, again keeping ambient temperature as low as possible.
If you don’t want to use the onboard graphics there is an AGP slot, which I chose to fill with a Radeon 9800Pro card. With a decent 3D graphics card installed you really can build a small form factor machine that can handle anything you care to throw at it. Surprisingly, even with an overclocked CPU and a fast graphics card, heat isn’t a problem inside the small iDEQ chassis. There’s also a single PCI slot, which is most likely to house a modem – pretty much the only thing that’s not integrated into the motherboard chipset. Of course if you have broadband you won’t need a modem and I found myself leaving the PCI slot empty. I filled the two memory slots with matched modules for a dual channel configuration. If you're going to do this it's worth buying as much memory as you can afford since there will be no expansion options later without discarding your old modules.
If there’s one thing that I did find a little annoying, it's the lack of a parallel port. I still have an old laser printer that I use at home which has a parallel interface and I couldn’t connect it up to the iDEQ. Of course I am nit picking a little bit here, and realistically I should just get myself a parallel to USB converter cable.
Performance wise, the iDEQ should be comparable with any other system based on an nForce2 motherboard. We will be looking at the Athlon XP version of the AOpen XC Cube soon, so there will be a direct comparison there. It’s safe to say though, that you won’t be disappointed with the performance of the iDEQ.
There will be no shortage of small form factor PC chassis to choose from over the coming months, but for me, the iDEQ from Biostar is currently the best in terms of design and ease of build.
If you want to build a small and stylish PC the iDEQ will make an excellent base platform. With superb design, great layout and lots of features, the iDEQ has everything you need. And with the current price of Athlon XP processors, you can build a cube-based performance PC at a bargain price.