Soltek EQ3401A
Posted on: 06/23/2004 05:00 AM

Let's look at this SFF together and I'll try to make some quality observations regarding my experiences with it. Namely, putting everything together and working inside the cube.

I think the first thing we should talk about when discussing the physical layout and construction of Soltek's EQ3401A is the fact that we actually get two, yes two external 5.25" bays. For those of you who rely on two optical drives (maybe a DVD-ROM and CDRW or a CDRW and DVD+RW), this will be a welcome addition. Soltek really didn't add a lot of height to squeeze that second bay in either. This SFF is only marginally taller than a comparable Shuttle XPC. Soltek takes it one step further by also hiding your optical drives behind matching face plates which automatically open downward once the eject button is pushed and your optical drive tray pushes forward. This removes one potential headache when putting together your SFF system... color matching. Already own a beige optical drive which seems to work just fine? No worries, toss it in the EQ3401A and forget about it. This is a feature that I like and appreciate.

On the lower front of your EQ3401A, you'll find a hidden panel of front IO ports. You won't be surprised with what you find here: 2 USB 2.0 ports, one firewire port, headphones and microphone jacks and of course the SPDIF input/output. Having everything hidden on the front of this SFF almost makes it look less like a computer and more like a slick appliance.

Moving inside of this SFF, we'll find a layout that I'm sure most of us have grown relatively comfortable with. The CPU socket is located near the rear of the unit in the middle of the motherboard where there is ample vertical space to install the Socket 478 heatsink of your choosing.

The 3.5" hard drive bay is located in a slightly different location than we're accustomed to seeing on Shuttle's XPCs. While it's attached to the removable drive chassis, it's on the bottom and the drive will be mounted in an inverted fashion. This seems to be more convenient for cable routing. The only downside that I've noticed to this point is that I'm unable to uninstall/install memory in the EQ3401A while the drive chassis is installed and a hard drive is in that bottom bay.

One of the coolest (heh, pun intended) features that this little SFF brings to the table is its cooling solution, Icy-Q. You'll see this device in the middle picture on the top row above. It's a big fan and blower unit which basically sucks any and all heat away from the processor and removes it through a small grill at the rear of the case. The fan is quite large and is able to move a lot of air without spinning at a high rpm. The result? A kick-ass cooling solution which is hardly audible. Major kudos here.

As we spin the unit around to check out its rear-end, we see the standard array of ports and slots. VGA, four USB 2.0 ports, audio, LAN, and firewire are present. I have a hard time understanding the need for two serial ports but I won't complain that much.

Working inside the EQ3401A is relatively easy, even for a big-handed caveman like myself. The combination of the supplied rounded cables and the solid layout make cable routing relatively easy and it doesn't leave you feeling like your unit's interior is congested to the point where it will impact overall airflow. The drive chassis feels a little flimsy when I'm installing it or removing it but given the fact that we're dealing with aluminum here, it's not something that overly surprises me. Even the Shuttle XPCs feel that way to me.


The EQ3401A comes with a malleable AWARD BIOS which will let you tweak out this little box to ensure you get the most out of your hardware. You'll be able to trick out your memory to ensure they're running at the lowest possible latencies or enable/disable any of the integrated components to match your current needs.

Overclocking is always a hot topic when it comes to the BIOS and I think Soltek's EQ3401A has plenty to offer in that regard. You'll be able to adjust your CPU, DIMM and AGP voltage levels and obviously adjust the front-side bus without any difficulty. The FSB can be increased in 1MHz increments all the way up to 350MHz, which is more than adequate. The CPU voltage has a ceiling of 1.6 volts, which should be sufficient to tweak your processor to its limits.

I've become quite conservative in my older days (I'm almost 27, eek! :-P) and as a result I didn't bother even trying to overclock my 3.2GHz Northwood in testing. I'd rather not burn up this little gem as it's generally the basis for my everyday machine (IRC, email, browsing).

I was quite satisified with the BIOS on the EQ3401A and I'm pretty sure you'll feel the same way, regardless of your insanity level when it comes to tricking out your system.

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