Back to the interior of the case, a funnel attached to the inside directs air from the CPU right out the side of the system. But what about the graphics card? Well smartly, Evesham has plumped for an ATI X700 based board by PowerColor that employs an innovative heatpipe solution. With no GPU fan, the noise level is seriously reduced. The heatpipe is attached to both sides of the card and after a 3D gaming session gets quite hot to the touch. However, the way round this issue is simple – don’t touch it. The PSU fan does direct some air down over the card and the system didn’t overheat during our tests. However if it did become a problem there is space at the front and rear of the case for extra fans.
Connectivity on the X700 is good, with two DVI outputs, which is always nice to see, and an S-Video out. The good thing about the X700 is that it’s a decnt gaming performer and thanks to its inclusion you’ll be able to play any current game at the supplied screen’s native resolution. It you want to enable FSAA and AF you’ll most likely have to drop down to 1,024 x 768. To get a flavour of the performance we fired up Half-Life 2 and it handled this without any issues.
There’s actually an S-Video out integrated onto the motherboard as well as a composite output. This is one of the first systems we’ve seen based on the Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. This has integrated VGA output as well, so if you were so inclined you could attach three monitors to this system at once. The motherboard southbridge is the IXP 400, and offers support for up two eight USB 2.0 ports, though there are actually only a total of six – four at the rear, and two at the front. There is an integrated network port, but it’s only 10/100 and not Gigabit Ethernet, as the chipset doesn’t offer this, but it’s something of a non issue for most users.
There’s one PCI slot free with one taken up by a Black Gold DVB Tuner. This is a very welcome sight as it means that the system can pick up free-to-air digital TV for optimal picture quality (depending on the quality of the aerial) and widescreen recordings. This is a bonus over the analogue tuner supplied by the recently reviewed HP and Shuttle Media Center machines.
Audio is handled by a six-channel AC’97 chip for 5.1 analogue connections. Alternatively, there’s a coaxial output for sending a digital bit-stream to an external decoder.
There are four SATA ports with a single 200GB Western Digital drive hanging off one of them – just the sort of capacity you need for a Media Center PC. Also, you can always add another disk if you find you need to.
Removable storage is offered by a Sony DW-D23A DVD Writer, capable of burning Dual-Layer discs at up to 4x and 16x for single layer discs. It’s accompanied by a Sony DVD-ROM drive as well. However, it’s disappointing to see that Evesham hasn’t included an integrated memory card reader, especially as no floppy disk drive is provided either, though save from BIOS upgrades a floppy drive has no other use these days.