The simplistic look of the AOpen case on Carrera’s new cube system belies the interesting mix of components inside. The single 5.25-inch drive bay contains an NEC DVD rewriter which records at up to 8x, but it’s a little disappointing that the 3.5-inch bay underneath is not used for a memory card reader or a floppy drive. There is a card reader with the system, but this is an external unit which plugs into one of the PC’s four USB 2 ports.
As you might imagine, the components inside the case are pretty densely packed, with a side-mounted cooling fan on the 3GHz Pentium 4 processor, to reduce its height. The processor comes with a full complement of 512MB of fast 400MHz memory and a 160GB Maxtor SATA hard drive for fixed storage. The neater cabling afforded by the serial ATA hard drive standard is put to good use inside this compact cube.
This AOpen design allows for a graphics card in a single AGP slot positioned near the case’s side, so it can benefit from some ventilation. Carrera has used an ATI Radeon 9800 All-in-Wonder card in the slot, which gives the added benefit of a TV tuner and I/O sockets for digital and analogue video, as well as pretty spectacular performance.
The All-in-Wonder card drives a 19-inch Neovo LCD monitor from AG, a comparative newcomer to this country but a welcome one, as the monitor’s picture quality is high, with a tight, well-developed pixel array giving a precise, high-contrast image.
Sound is provided by a 5.1-channel Realtek sound chip on the system board and drives a set of Creative I-tregue speakers. Although these are only 2.1-channel, they create a well-developed sound stage and provide strong output across the frequency range. They look pretty funky, too. The wireless keyboard and mouse from Microsoft keeps the number of cables on the desktop to a minimum.
Performance tests showed the system loses little by being squeezed into a cube case. The SYSmark result of 318 is impressive, although, as with many Pentium 4 systems, the Internet content tests score over twice as high as the office productivity ones. The 3DMark results of 14,002 for 3DMark 2001 SE and 3,718 for 3DMark 03 are high enough to give good gameplay, with little jerkiness to distract you.
The C Home EZ65 comes with a copy of Works Suite 2004, which provides most of the standard applications you’ll need for typical home office tasks. Carrera provides a very healthy five-year warranty, too, with the first three on-site and a further two back-to-base, labour costs only.
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