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8/10

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TriGem Kloss KL-I915A

I like to keep an eye on what is going on in the Small Form Factor (SFF) market so I was intrigued when I was sent the KL-I915A for review. Kloss was not a brand that I was familiar but digging deeper I quickly discovered that it was the brand name of a new range of SFF barebone systems from Korean manufacturer TriGem. I discovered that the company was established in the early eighties and manufactures a wide range of products for several well known PC brands, one of which at least, namely Advent, will be familiar to our UK readers, as the PC brand of the high street PC World stores.

The Kloss is a new concept from TriGem, although at first sight it looks very much like an overgrown Shuttle system. However, once you open the case and have a look inside its clear that the Kloss is quite different. In a departure from the usual SFF design the motherboard is actually fitted on top of the storage drives, which as bizarre as it might sound actually works amazingly well. The motherboard has been specifically designed for the case, and though some of the connectors are in very unusual places it makes perfect sense once the two come together.

Having the motherboard on top has its advantages, as it is much easier to fit the CPU, memory and any add-in cards compared to the normally cramped interior of a SFF chassis. The motherboard is based on the Intel i915G chipset and thus has built in graphics, although this will work fine for most applications, anyone looking at playing games on the Kloss should invest in a discrete graphics card. Apart from this, the Kloss comes with everything you’d expect from the latest generation of SFF barebones, such as high definition 5.1-channel sound, optical S/PDIF in and out, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire and Serial-ATA.

While you can get these features on pretty much any SFF system, the Kloss offers one added feature that I have so far only seen on a couple of other barebones - and that is a front LCD display. Ok, this might not be a life-changing feature, but at least you are able to see your CPU temperature and fan speeds at a glance. It’s also useful for changing sound and equalizer profiles with the help of the big jog dial on the front of the case. This also acts as a volume control and can be pressed in to make selections. There’s also a set of play control buttons on the front fascia giving quick access to playback features of the supplied CyberLink PowerCinema software and it all worked far better than I expected it to. But let’s not get too much ahead here; I’ll come back to that later on in the review.

The 915G motherboard supports the latest LGA 775 Intel Pentium 4 processors and PCI Express. There’s a single PCI Express x16 slot as well as a PCI slot for expansion and two memory slots that accept only DDR memory. TriGem has gone down the cost sensitive route here, as DDR2 memory still attracts a price premium without any noticeable performance gains. TriGem could improve upon the heatsink on the chipset, as it got very hot during benchmarking and there’s definitely plenty of space for a larger one.

Round the back there’s a full set of the most commonly used connectors, with two PS/2 ports, three USB 2.0 connectors, one six-pin FireWire port, the two optical S/PDIF connectors, a single serial and parallel port and a D-Sub for the integrated graphics as well as three 3.5mm audio connectors. These can be configured in the audio drivers to be line in, out and microphone, or front, rear and centre/sub for 5.1 surround sound output. The good news is that there are headphone and microphone sockets at the front as well so you can use those while reserving the rear connectors for 5.1 output. Also, at the front hidden behind a flap are two USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port and a 3.5in external drive bay for a card reader or even, should you feel retro, a floppy drive.

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