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Breaking into the Intel SFF Market with Shuttle, Soltek and ABIT - ABIT DigiDice

In the first of our looks at the increasingly popular Small Form Factor (SFF) systems, we focus our attention on Intel Pentium 4 based platform systems from Shuttle, Soltek and ABIT.

| SFF PCs in Computer Systems | Posted: Feb 29, 2004 5:00 am

ABIT DigiDice

 

- External

 

 

ABIT are a big contender in the enthusiast market on motherboards, there is no denying it. When word got out that ABIT was releasing its own form of SFF, we were very excited.

 

The DigiDice has the most features as far as the exterior goes. First off we see a giant knob on the front that gives off that old 70's style HiFi feel, a giant LCD and a few buttons that let you access certain areas with a click of the button.

 

 

 

A sliding door opens to reveal a card reader, two 5 1/2" bays and a few easy access ports including audio, Firewire and USB. We won't deny it but it did take a few minutes to figure out how you turn the DigiDice on. The HiFi knob also works as a button and by pushing it you instantly turn the computer on. Once you fire the DigiDice up you see just how much information the LCD gives including processor speed, temperature, system temperature and fan speed.

 

 

The DigiDice, like the QBIC, is definitely a bigger unit when compared to the Shuttle. This unit also sits on a different angle. It is wider than the other units and slightly shorter than the QBIC. The DigiDice is full of eye candy and looks fantastic.

 

- Internal

 

The ABIT DigiDice is a beautiful system to setup but there is one thing you need to note, and that is once it is setup the last thing you want to do is have to go and remove your memory or processor. It feels as if the DigiDice is setup in layers and to get to something like the processor or the memory it involves totally removing the cradles that holds the drives, making a simply task quite time consuming.

 

 

Thanks to the vast amount of room inside the DigiDice, you notice how much nicer it is to move around much like the Soltek SFF system. Everything sits in the ABIT DigiDice perfectly; it is just unfortunate of the design as it is not the easiest to work with once everything is installed.

 

- Cooling

 

As far as cooling goes with the ABIT DigiDice, the heatsink is bolted into the motherboard which is excellent as when it comes to moving the computer around, you don't have to worry about it falling off and causing damage. The ABIT system does get very warm and you can feel the heat being extracted out the back of the case. ABIT use two fans and heat pipe technology to remove heat away from the processor. A little fan on the back of the case is used to cool down the rear pipes making the cooling solution in the DigiDice very effective.

 

 

 

Out of the three systems, the ABIT DigiDice does produce the largest amount of heat and the rear heat pipes do become very hot, at some points too hot to touch. When it comes to heat the only thing you really have to worry about is if your system is still stable. Now while the heat coming out the rear was quite bad, the system ran non-stop for a week with multiple hard drives and we did not have a single crash or any form of data corruption.

 

- Chipset and Features

 

The ABIT DigiDice uses the very popular Intel Springdale chipset just like the Soltek QBIC system. We won't say too much about it as we had a quick look at it in the Soltek Chipset and Features section. One excellent little extra with the DigiDice was the infrared remote control we received with it. It gives you the ability to adjust volume, turn it off, open DVD player software, play, pause and so forth at a click of a button. This really gives you the ability to use this unit as a true home theater system.

 

 

Like the Shuttle XPC, ABIT has chosen to also include a card reader. This is very handy if you want to take your card from your digital camera and plug it straight into your computer. For example if you have some pictures but don't have the upload cable on you in just a moment you can have the files showing under My Computer. This is a very handy feature that is becoming more and more common among SFF systems.

 

One weird and unexpected item we found within the package was an essential oils kit that is designed to be placed in the back of the case so a nice aroma is let off. In all honesty we would be a bit worried if we walked into someone's computer room and smelt the smell that the oils were putting off - from their PC!

 

ABIT always go out of their way to give the user what they want and one sign of this was the inclusion of the carry bag. This fits the DigiDice perfectly including your cables and mouse, the only other item you would have to carry with this bag is a keyboard. Bags are becoming more and more common amongst these SFF systems but we feel that if they simply chose to include a handle the system would be just as easy to carry around.

 

Now let's see how we go when we throw a few benchmarks at these beauties.

 

 

 

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