Taking it Apart

This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.

While we have mentioned some of the advantages and disadvantages of this unit already, there is an important positive that we have yet to bring up – ease of upgrading and installation. If you own a laptop, you know that upgrading them consists mainly of upgrading the memory with SODIMM sticks and that’s about it. The ECS i-Buddie XP gives the user a lot more options and makes them easier than ever before for upgrading your mobile machine.

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Looking at the bottom of the machine we can see three main panels. The top left panel hides the 4200 RPM notebook hard drive – the upper left panel is where the processor and heatsink are located – and the lower panel is where the DDR SDRAM memory is stored. Access to these three ports is as easy as taking out a few screws and removing the panel itself.

The hard drive bay fits the standard mobile size, laptop hard drives. In this case, ECS is using the IBM Travelstar drives. They run at 4200 RPM and this has a capacity of 10 GB. This is not fast or large by any of today’s standards and you’ll find that the I/O speed will be the biggest drawback of the system in the benchmarks later on. Laptop drives are harder to purchase, but should you find one, installing it is as easy as it would be in a desktop machine.

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The memory port shows that ECS has included a 256 MB DDR SDRAM module for the i-Buddie XP system. The fact that the ECS desknotes use standard PC2100 memory and not SODIMMs means that upgrades will be less expensive and easier to find. There is only one DIMM slot so ECS made sure to give us adequate RAM – because the video card uses shared memory you will always want to get the next step higher in memory size.

Removing the processor panel shows us the heatsink setup that ECS uses on the i-Buddie XP system. A large aluminum plate covers the processor with a smaller copper one actually touch the processor core. Between these two plates a pair of pipes run to an external copper fin heatsink that sits below the 60mm Sunon fan. The fan is temperature controlled, but because of the heat the Athlon XP gives off, don’t expect it to be quiet anytime for you.

As you expected, the processor that sits underneath is a standard desktop processor joined by an almost standard processor socket. The socket does not have a ZIF bar to help in installation or removal. Instead you must manually slide the socket into its unlock and lock positions. Moving the black locking bar and then inserting a flat head screwdriver into the opposite sides opening allows you to push it back (gently!) until you hear it snap open. You can then remove the processor easily to upgrade or replace. Push it back the other direction and replacing the black lock strip completes the install.

Interestingly, the ECS i-Buddie XP system accepts every Socket A processor currently available on the market, including the new Thoroughbred processors. I tested Durons starting at 800 MHz as well as all the different steppings of the Athlon, including the latest 2200+ processor. All worked flawlessly.

The rest of the motherboard and components are hidden beneath the under belly of the casing, so of course I had to take them out! 🙂 There isn’t much to see except to note the interesting layout changes that were made since we are all used to seeing desktop motherboards so often. We can see what else the ECS i-Buddie XP has underneath to power all the features we are seeing on the outside.

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First, the on-board video is powered by the SiS 740 chipset with its integrated controller. While it is adequate for all the 2D uses you can think of, its 3D capabilities are severely limited. Gaming on this unit would need to be kept at a minimum and at fairly low resolutions for the latest games to run.

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The SiS 961 south bridge is also included in the desknote and it is responsible for the AC’97 audio, Ethernet, USB 1.1 and the IDE ATA100 channels that the Travelstar hard drive sits on. However, VIA is the one supplying the Fire Wire and USB 2.0 to the ECS i-Buddie XP courtesy of the VT6202 and VT6306 chips.

Other connectors found including the S-video output chip that works in conjunction with the integrated video of the SiS 740 chipset as well as the Realtek controller that is actually powering the ethernet on the desknote.

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