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Icy-Q – an air-duct with a large inlet 90-mm fan, which blows the heated air directly from the CPU cooler out of the PC case (through the vent holes on the rear panel). When we came across this technology for the first time in EQ3401, a quiet and high-performance exhaust fan Icy-Q had a very good effect on the thermal efficiency of the system, while its noise characteristics were also up to the mark.
It goes without saying that the 300 W power supply unit also requires active cooling, its large fan is located on the bottom (the power supply unit is mounted horizontally under the "roof" of the PC case). Is the 300 W model that necessary, when even 250 W models are not yet common among competitors – it's a difficult question, but the increased power capacity of the power supply unit will definitely do no harm. It's nice that the chipset bridges on the motherboard are covered with pin-fin heatsinks only, while the bundled ATA and FDD cables are ribboned, bundled together, and shielded – these seeming trifles certainly affect the thermal and acoustic conditions. Besides, there is also a row of vent holes in the fore part of the bottom of the PC case. Cold air sucked through these holes provides additional cooling for the drive cage and the motherboard.
EQ3901 bundle includes a CPU cooler, which we used in our tests. Its construction creates a favourable impression: its copper core and fins protruding in four directions (getting thinner at their edges); convenient retention mechanism. Manufacturer of this cooler is unknown, but the fan is made by ADDA (AD0812UB-A76GL – 80x80x25 mm, up to 3700 rpm, up to 46.7 CFM, up to 38.5 dBA), rather quiet even in maximum mode. However, this cooler is perhaps our greatest disappointment in this Soltek barebone-kit. The fact is that the standard Qbic package does not provide a place for a cooler, as it is done in many other barebone-kits on the market. As a result, it comes shipped right inside the PC case, probably mounted on the socket. But in our case something rattled in the received package when we moved it. When we opened the package our misgivings were confirmed: the cooler was rolling inside. (It's high time to weigh a modern cooler in hand and rant out a speech about the times when the trees were large and pentiums together with coolers were small and lightweight.) The motherboard seemed to take no damage except for the surface of expansion slots (on the photo this damage is almost unnoticeable) but we cannot fail to inform potential buyers about this issue.
It should be noted that all the three fans in the system control their rotational speed depending on the temperature. Temperature modes for the CPU fan and Icy-Q can be specified separately in BIOS (Smart Fan technology). As a result the system is very quiet, because the impeller diameter in Icy-Q cooler is compensated by the low rotational frequency (from 1850 to 2000 rpm). And the CPU cooler had to rotate really fast only in the hardest conditions, when top Athlon 64 FX-53 and ATI Radeon 9800 Pro were loaded "to the brim".
As it's the first time we test a barebone-kit with Athlon 64 FX-53 (or close to it), we shall not provide characteristic figures of the thermal mode (temperature of all system components at rest and at full load) – there is nothing to compare them to. But users of such systems are first of all interested in the quietest possible operation of their own computers without overheating instead of in the comparison with the barebone-kit of their neighbours. To emulate this situation we enabled the "quiet" Smart Fan mode, when fans accelerate only at maximum admissible temperatures of the board and processor. As a result, Soltek EQ3901 seems one of the quietest models by subjectively evaluated noise level (among the reviewed models) – it's the lowest limit for "cubes", the only model looking better is ASUS DiGiMatrix.
Sergei Pikalov (email@example.com)|
January 17, 2005