In case you are unfamiliar with the SFF products, they usually can be descibed as a “barebones” system in a box. In most cases this simply means that you are getting the small form factor case, a motherboard, a power supply and generally your cooling mechanism for the processors. All other components are left up to you: the actual CPU, the graphics card, the memory, hard drives and optical drives.
Unlike building a standard ATX computer, there are certain things you’ll want to know about a SFF system before buying it. Namely, you’ll want to be sure the components you desire will actually fit in the case! Since we are dealing with a non-standard case size and structure, each manufacturer is left to their own devices. You don’t want to get one of these systems and buy an X850 XT Platinum Edition to find out that the fan on the card is too big and the power supply won’t feed it, do you?
The AOpen XC Cube EY855-II Box
The EY855-II comes shipped in a relatively small package formed around the shape of the case.
Cables and included extras
Inside the package you’ll first find most of the accessories you’ll need to build your new system including cut (but not rounded) IDE and floppy cables, power cable, accessory cables and manuals. Notice that the cables are specifically tailored to the size of the system such as the yellow IDE cable for the HDD being exactly the correct length to reach from the drive cage to the IDE channel on the board. This creates a build that is both clutter free and allows the appropriate air flow inside the system.
The AOpen EY855-II Front 3/4 View
The case itself measures 7.9 inches wide (across the drive bays) x 7.2 inches tall x 12.6 inches deep and isn’t much larger than my four slice toaster. If you want to know how much water you can fill in it, AOpen provides that info as well: 11.84 liters. Without any components in it, it weighs 8.4 pounds which is about as much as my last notebook computer.
Rear 3/4 View
The exterior of the case is made of a very smooth aluminum finish that is light yet the system doesn’t feel wobbly at all; it’s a pretty sturdy design. There are three thumb screws on the back that you have to remove to lift off the single piece side/top to access the innards.
Front view, with included angle mount
The face of the EY855-II shows that it has room for a single 5.25″ drive and a single 3.5″ drive with external access. That translates into a DVD/CD burner and a floppy drive, if you want it. There is a small, silver button to the right of the 5.25″ bay that is used for opening and closing of the optical drive. The big round button on the front is the power button, and underneath it is a bright blue LED power indicator. Oddly, there is no reset button for the system at all, which did become a bit of a pain during my overclocking tests.
The EY855-II has front system access for optical audio output, as well as for mic and speaker output (or headphones too). There are also two USB 2.0 ports and a single Firewire port on the front for easy access of peripherals. The “angle mount” that AOpen includes is screwed into the bottom of the case here and allows you to slightly angle the case front up towards a user if it is desired.
Back view of the case
The back side of the case gives the clues as to what feature set the motherboard has on-board. We see a pair of PS/2 ports, a serial port and a parallel port as well as video output for the included Intel graphics solution. Audio output is provided with a SPDIF and optical output and connections for stereo output, line in and line out. These audio connections are attached to a fairly basic AC97 5.1 channel audio solution. There are two more USB 2.0 ports back here as well as one additional Firewire jack.
You can see there are two spaces for expansion cards: one is for a PCI slot the other for an AGP slot. The retention mechanism requires you to remove the screw on the hinge above them before installing or replacing any cards in it. The power supply is a custom sized 275 watt PSU — this may come into play when choosing your other system components; you can not upgrade this power supply with a standard retail unit for more power.