I've wanted a Micro-ATX system for ages. I don't know what it is about them but I just love them to bits. I don't even need it from a practical point of view, where it would be easier to carry around; this for the simple fact it wouldn't move off my desk. The thing is, there's something cool about having a 30" monitor powered by this tiny machine. Most of the things I find myself buying these days are because I want them, not need them. A Micro-ATX system would sit nicely in that category.
The problem is that for so long there has never really been the components out there to really build a system that could power such a large monitor. But this has changed a few months ago thanks to two companies; the first was Lian Li who brought out a Micro-ATX case that was small, but not too small. What it allowed you to do was have a small footprint whilst still holding the goods.
The other company was DFI; the release of the LANParty Jr board based on the P45 chipset brought the biggest smile to my face. Talking to the guys down at IBuyPower Australia, it was only a matter of time before the two pieces of equipment found themselves merged together. The time has come and that time is today. This is one machine that you will find yourself getting excited about. Upon powering the machine up, I felt like a kid in a candy store...with all the windows open and a hurricane coming through. But we will get into that a bit later.
Like most Lian Li cases, looking at it from the outside doesn't do a whole lot for most people. Personally I find their cases to be more elegant than out there. While some people like the plain design, others will find it...plain.
The front of the case doesn't have a whole lot going on. The top corner has the Lian Li logo while the bottom right corner has a power and reset button. Towards the right of the case we have a silver line that runs down the middle.
Moving to the right hand side, we can see two 5.25" bays along with some connectors down the bottom. Here we find a FireWire port, two USB 2.0 ports and an audio in and out port. The other side is almost identical with some more vents, but no connectivity ports.
IBuyPower Australia have included a Pioneer Blu-ray drive that also burns CDs and DVDs. Below that we have a card reader that reads just about everything along with a single USB port. As you can see, the case is fairly prone to finger prints; nothing unusual, though, when it comes to black aluminum cases.
Moving around to the back of the case, we can see our power supply up the top. Next to that we have a small fan that helps extract some of the hot air. The bottom half of the case shows us our I/O ports for both the motherboard and graphics card.
With the outside looked at, it's time to dive inside to find out exactly what we have going on. Pulling the covers open, there isn't a whole lot to see. One side shows us a HD 4870 X2, our card reader, Blu-ray ROM drive, a single 120mm fan and our connectivity ports.
You can clearly see for yourself the amount of room there is to play with, or therelack of I should say. The biggest problem that we were worried about come testing was the system over heating due to the sheer amount of power in the system.
Turning over to the other side, we can see a bit more. At the top of the case we see a 1000 Watt modular Antec power supply unit that manages to only just fit. Below that we have a Zalman cooler that is helping our Q9550 run at a super fast 3.6GHz.
Behind we see the back of the HD 4870 X2; this isn't the back of the same one, though. Installed in this system is not one HD 4870 X2 cards, but two! Moving back towards the front of the case we also see four 2GB DDR2 Team memory modules giving us a total of 8GB of memory.
Hidden away in the tiny system is not only a single 1TB drive for storage, but two 128GB OCZ Core SSD drives in a RAID 0 configuration. Everything about this system is mean, from the overclock to the graphics card configuration. It should prove to be quite the performer in our tests.
Test System Setup and 3DMark06
TweakTown Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Graphics Card(s): Sapphire HD 4870 (Supplied by Sapphire)
Smooth Creations Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 @ 3GHz
Motherboard(s): Foxconn P45-A
Memory: 2 X 2GB G.Skill MQ 6-6-6-18
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Graphics Card(s): Diamond HD 4870 XOC Black Edition
IBuyPower Australia Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 @ 3.6GHz
Motherboard(s): DFI Lanparty Jr P45-T2RS
Memory: 4 X 2GB Team Xtreem PC-8500
Hard Disk(s): 128GB OCZ Core SSD x2 in Raid 0. Samsung 7200RPM 1TB
Graphics Card(s): 2x Powercolor HD 4870 X2
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Catalyst 8.9
With the setup the IBP Australia FragBox offers, it's not going to come as any real surprise it's going to perform the best amongst our other setups. With that said, though, let's see exactly just how much more power the system has.
Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.
3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
Our first test shows the power of the FragBox being seen straight away. It also doesn't come as any real surprise that we do run into a CPU limitation issue under the older 3DMark06.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Increasing the intensity, we can see the power of the four GPU setup offering some massive gains under this synthetic benchmark. What really matters, though, is how this translates into the real world.
Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.
Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
Under PT Boats we can see at 1920 x 1200 there isn't a huge gap between the systems. The power of the IBP Australia FragBox is really seen at 2560 x 1600 where it manages to throw out some extremely impressive numbers.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
Under CINEBENCH we can see that the increased CPU speed manages to give us a good jump on the other two setups.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.
The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
Like PT Boats we can see at 1920 x 1200 and below the systems sit quite close together. The big performance jump is seen at 2560 x 1600 where it puts out some impressive numbers.
Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3
Unreal Tournament 3
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
Again we see the FragBox dominate at the highest resolution. This configuration is really designed for the largest monitors available on the market.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AF
Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.
Turning on AA and AF shows the system again performing extremely well, thanks to the large amount of load on the graphics cards.
World In Conflict
WIC also sees big performance numbers thanks to the intensive settings we are running at here.
Benchmarks - wPrime
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.62
Developer Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/
wPrime uses a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.
Checking out wPrime, we can see that the extra speed on offer from the CPU helps bring the time it takes to do its calculations down.
Benchmarks - EVEREST Ultimate Edition
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: Ultimate Edition 4.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com/products/overview.php?pid=3&ps=UE&lang=en
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC.
The increased FSB gives us some impressive memory performance which coincides with everything else we've seen here today.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: PRO 3.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com/>
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
Benchmark: measures the performance
Info: shows detailed information
Health: checks the health status by using SMART
Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
HD Tune may also work with other storage devices such as memory cards, USB sticks, iPods, etc.
We can see the maximum and average speeds are up compared to the other systems, but probably not quite as high as we expected, considering the RAID 0 SSD configuration.
Here we can really see the benefits in the SSD. While the Raptor in the Asylum halves access times, the SSD configuration brings the access time down to nearly nothing.
Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
While the case may only be small, it doesn't come as any real surprise that the system draws a massive amount of power. Fortunately, the 1000 Watt Antec PSU in the system doesn't have any trouble keeping the FragBox running at 100% at all times.
From the word go this beast had performance written all over it. We didn't think for a second the machine wasn't going to fly; it literally blitzed all our tests, including those game ones at 2560 x 1600.
Coming in at around $5900 AUD just for the box, it does carry a massive cost. But fortunately through the IBP Australia website you can configure a FragBox for significantly less whilst still having the same quality behind the system. If you're only using a monitor that supports up to 1920 x 1200, you could remove a HD 4870 X2, drop the two SSD drives, come down to 4GB of RAM and move to a standard DVD-ROM and still have a machine that absolutely flies.
What's amazing, though, is just how much power you can get out of something so small. But with that said, there are cons to come with it. When you put this much into such a small space, the system's going to run warm. Move from the micro-ATX case which gives you the option for a bigger cooler means you would get 4GHz out of the CPU. With that said, though, while it runs warm it still never missed a beat and ultimately that is the most important thing.
The only other con to the system would have to be the noise. Upon the word go it's pretty loud due to the HD 4870 X2 cards being on top of each other. Their fans tend to spin faster more often, increasing the dBs.
At the end of the day you can't have your cake and eat it. If you didn't want the noise you would either have to move to a bigger case or start to down grade the system and lose some of the power. Fortunately, moving to a configuration similar to what we mentioned above brings not only the price down, but also the noise while still offering some very impressive performance.
As far as service on the system goes, like all IBP Australia systems we have a three year warranty. The other good news is that the guys at IBP Australia aren't just sales monkeys who want to sell systems, but also gamers who have a passion for what they do. You can feel confident in the advice that they give you when it comes to asking questions about the configuration you want.
While the system might be a bit rich for some, a few key downgrades can help drop the price while still keeping performance up. You don't have to be going to LANs to want a small system; you simply might not have the space for something so big or you just want something that powers a monitor twice its size. I love the FragBox due to the plain fact I love small systems. It's just nice to know that we're able to get some real power out of one these days without going to town on the case with a dremel.
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