This is an old archive page of HWZ prior to revamp. Please visit HWZ for the latest reviews and news.


» Articles
EPoX Mini Me eX5-300S
By Vijay Anand
Category : Barebone/SFF
Published by Jimmy Tang on Monday, 8th March, 2004
Rating : 3 out of 5 stars  

The EPoX Mini Me eX5-300S

No different from other SFF systems, the EPoX eX5-300S has an all aluminum chassis and surprisingly it has very similar dimensions to the Shuttle and AOpen systems. Quite likely, Shuttle had already researched upon the ideal SFF size long ago that it is hard for others not to mimic them.

The matt-silver finished EPoX Mini Me eX5-300S struts its LCM module on the chassis front along with the sliding optical drive front panel and the 7-in-1 card reader on its retro-styled case design.

The most prominent feature of the Mini Me would be the integrated LCM module that displays system information and facilitates the playback of Audio CD and MP3 Audio without having to boot into the operating system.

This is how it looks when the system is powered on.

When the system is powered up, the current time, CPU speed, memory capacity, hard drive space and graphics resolution is reported on the LCM. Additionally, the hard drive and CD icons depict the hard drive and optical drive operation respectively; hence the system does not have power or drive operation LEDs. The current time display is read off your BIOS and is even displayed when the system is shut down as long as it remains powered by the mains (albeit without the blue backlight). Basically, it’s just a cool way of reporting the system status, but it’s not revolutionary since the ECS EZ-Buddie (also reviewed by us) was the first to incorporate an LCM module to report most of these parameters, plus the display of the ECS system was colorful and vibrant. The monochrome display on the EPoX was fine though we had higher expectations after handling the ECS EZ-Buddie. We’ll touch more about the audio playback portion using the LCM without booting into the OS on the later pages.

Look! The eX5-300S has its own optical drive faceplate and a 7-in-1 card reader occupying the bay below.

Unlike Shuttle who has yet to design a case that can accommodate any optical drive without marring the overall outlook of the SFF, we were pleasantly surprised that EPoX, like AOpen, have carefully taken this into consideration in their design. The Mini Me eX5-300S incorporated their own optical drive faceplate (with a sliding tray bezel), which naturally blends into their case design. Additionally, the faceplate also has buttons that can be adjusted laterally on the rear to provide the best contact with the optical drive buttons. Although such fine refinement isn’t necessary in most situations, it is nevertheless a thoughtful addition to cover all scenarios.

The buttons on the faceplate can be laterally adjusted to achieve best contact with the actual optical drive.

However, the adjustable nature of those buttons attributed a flimsy feel to them and required numerous trial and error before we could achieve the right contact required with our CD-ROM drive. That’s not the only drawback because the design of the sliding drive bezel requires the optical drive tray’s bezel to be dismantled before installing within the EPoX Mini Me. Most optical drives should allow for easy dismantling of this tray bezel with some force, but we feel that this is an unnecessary step that could have been avoided with a slightly revised front panel drive bezel on the EPoX Mini Me. After all, we have in the past had other SFF systems with a similar design concept but they did not require this step.

As recommended by EPoX, you will have to remove the drive tray’s bezel before installing it within the SFF.

You can perhaps get away by not even performing this step, but that is really dependant on the design of each drive. The inclusion of a 7-in-1 card reader can be either a good or bad thing depending on your preference. On one hand, you get the convenience of the reader built in to the system, but on the other hand, it occupies a prime space that could have been serviced by a floppy, ZIP or a secondary hard drive. It all depends on your needs and how you view it, but in our opinion, we would have preferred the external facing 3.5” drive bay to have been vacant for more flexibility. An external card-reader these days isn’t very expensive, uses USB 2.0 to provide the bandwidth for large transfers and comes in many designs to suit your tastebud.

Below the LCM display, there are some connectivity options hidden nicely behind a plastic flap, which is held close by a magnetic tip. Oddly, the PS/2 ports are also up-front.

From left to right: microphone input, headphones output, dual USB 2.0 ports and a Firewire port.

Notice that the keyboard and mouse PS/2 ports were routed to the front of the system? As bizarre and unsightly it is, EPoX ran out of space on the rear of the system!

Now you know why the PS/2 ports weren’t located at the rear.

Here’s the close-up of the rear with a COM port, Parallel port, VGA port, Optical and Coaxial digital audio outputs, a Firewire port, a Fast Ethernet jack, four USB 2.0 ports and the usual analog surround sound connectors.

Due to the internal system design, EPoX is unable to route some of the connectors elsewhere on the rear of the system as Shuttle has done on their SFF systems. We are afraid that you have no choice but to live with the PS/2 ports located up front on the system. The large exhaust directly above the rear ATX I/O ports is for the CPU’s exhaust and we will reveal more about that when we discuss the interior of the eX5-300S.

For the overall case ventilation, the sides of the EPoX SFF have intake vents and there are more at the bottom front of the chassis:-

Both sides of the case cover have air in-take vents.

Those small vents are not quite adequate yet but the bottom of the chassis has even more openings for air intake vents as shown here.

<<Prev | Page 2 of 15 | Next>>