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Biostar iDEQ 200A Small Form Factor Barebone System Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £165.00

Our third run in with the Biostar iDEQ comes in the shape of the 200A. The last two iDEQs we looked at were AMD based, but this one supports Intel Pentium 4 chips. However, the motherboard is not based on a chipset from Intel or even VIA or SiS, but rather ATi. The chipset of choice is the IGP 9100, which features superior integrated graphics compared to all of the competing solutions.


The chassis of the iDEQ 200A is of the same design as the ones previously reviewed and it shares the same aluminium finish with the iDEQ 200N. The internal design is up to Biostar’s usual high standard, and other small form factor manufacturers could learn a lot from the iDEQ. The motherboard design is however somewhat different, but since this is the first Pentium 4 iDEQ we’ve seen, that’s not overly surprising.


General motherboard layout is uncluttered and it’s easy to fit everything into the case. The only small caveat was that the GeForce FX5900XT graphics card that we use for testing purposes was a bit awkward to get in place due to its size, but it wasn’t impossible to fit. This is a fact of life with small form factor systems, but Biostar has made an effort to make it as easy as possible.


One advantage of Biostar’s decision to place the AGP slot behind the PCI slot is that it is possible to fit cards with double rear brackets such as the high-end nVidia boards. The downside is that this makes it a little bit more awkward to fit a normal graphics card as you have to get it past the PCI slot.


As with the previously reviewed models the 200A offers easy installation of the hard drive and memory and there is very little that needs to be fitted to the motherboard. All the IDE and power cables are pre-routed, but if you intend to use an S-ATA drive you’ll have to fit the cable yourself. That said, it is easy to route this in a tidy manner around the front of the case, without adding any clutter. The VIA S-ATA controller allows for RAID configurations, so if you’re willing to sacrifice the floppy drive bay, you could run a RAID 0 or 1 configuration with two S-ATA hard drives.


The most noticeable change is that the cooler has been moved further back in the chassis, closer to the rear fan. Because of this there is no plastic ducting between it and the CPU cooler. This makes it somewhat more awkward to get the CPU cooler out, but as long as you’re careful it’s not a huge problem. The cooler itself does differ from the previous models being that it’s for a Pentium 4 chip, but it still features heatpipes that draw the heat away from the CPU and into the heatsink.


If you want a quiet PC then the iDEQ 200A has to be your ideal choice. This little box produces very little noise and the fans are controlled either through the BIOS or with a Windows application that allows you to change the fan speeds as required.

In terms of connection options the 200A is crammed full with everything you could want from a modern PC. Around the back are outputs for 5.1-channel sound, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, optical S/PDIF, a serial port, D-SUB for the integrated graphics, a FireWire port, two USB 2.0 ports and an Ethernet connector. Around the front is a further FireWire port, optical S/PDIF input, mic and headphone sockets and a further two USB 2.0 ports. The only thing missing is a parallel port, but this is available as an option.


One interesting aspect of the IGP 9100 is the option of using its integrated graphics together with an ATi graphics card to allow for up three displays at once. This might seem like a bit of a niche feature, but the option is there. What is missing however is TV out, which is really a shame on a system with integrated graphics, as the iDEQ would have been an ideal base for a low cost home entertainment PC.


The manuals could do with some work and it would be more helpful if the installation instructions where in colour rather than black and white. There are also some instructions that aren’t needed, such as how to install the motherboard, which comes pre-fitted in the case. More information about the supplied software would have been welcome, since this is only covered very briefly.


For those intending to use the iDEQ 200A as their main PC, performance is as important as features. Our standard set of benchmarks where used to test the performance. Overall benchmark numbers were good, but the Abit DigiDice with the Intel 865G chipset was faster in SYSmark 2004. The iDEQ 200A scored better in PCMark 2004 and the integrated graphics managed to better the 865G with over 2,000 points in 3DMark 2001SE. Adding a GeForce FX5900XT to the mix favoured the Intel 865G chipset again, but not by much.


The iDEQ 200A is yet again an excellent unit from Biostar with plenty of features, good performance and very little noise. It is not perfect as the lack of a TV out feature shows, but this is really a minor issue. The price is somewhat high for the 200A compared to other iDEQ models at £165, but if you want a small form factor system with integrated graphics, then this is the model to go for.


”’Verdict”’


Yet another great product from Biostar with good looks, great build quality and almost every feature you would need from a system its size. Biostar has yet again proven that it offers some of the best SFF systems on the market.

(table:features)

The Biostar iDEQ 200A was tested using a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 Northwood, 512MB Corsair XMS PC3200LL memory and a Seagate Barracuda ATA V hard drive.

The Biostar iDEQ 200A was tested using a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 Northwood, 512MB Corsair XMS PC3200LL memory, a Seagate Barracuda ATA V hard drive and an AOpen FX5900XT graphics card.

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 8
  • Performance 8

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