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System Operation

The assembly is done and now we can have a look at what we’ve got as the result. It’s not easy to characterize the working system in one word. The temperature of the components remains in the safe range even at full load, but the noise from the CPU cooler and the two exhaust fans on the rear panel is quite audible. The full-load mode like in dynamic 3D games isn’t the main operational mode of the computer, though. And even in games you don’t hear the noise from the fans because of the sounds of the game itself, even at a small volume level. If the CPU is idle or under a small load (like in office applications, or when you’re watching video or listening to music), the noise isn’t audible at all as the speed of the fans is decreased considerably. The integrated codec can serve to the inputs of any speaker system of 2.0 to 5.1 format and priced at up to $150 – the quality of the sound is quite good. Audiophiles with appropriate speaker sets can use the optical SPDIF connection.

After we had made sure the S-presso S1 can serve well as an ordinary home PC, we thought if it would be possible to transform this barebone into a high-performance gaming station capable of running the latest 3D titles. So we dismantled the system and replaced the feeble RADEON 9600 PRO with a GeForce 6800 Ultra and installed fast memory from GeIL (two sticks, 512MB each). This was going to be a hardest trial for the ASUS SL-22A power supply: a Pentium 4 3.0GHz and a GeForce 6800 Ultra are almost the maximum this PSU can sustain. The power supply didn’t falter: there was not a single failure during our rather long tests. Moreover, all the voltages remained within acceptable ranges even in the hardest operation modes. As for the performance of the computer, here’s a table for you:

3D Graphics Performance

The games were all tested at 1280x1024 resolution with 32-bit color depth and the highest graphics quality settings. The anisotropic filtering and full-screen antialiasing settings were left default in the driver. A faster processor would have helped to get even higher results, without doubt, but the system anyway proved its ability to run all modern games at an acceptable speed. This computer will surely handle upcoming games, too.

Then we compared the performance of the barebone to a similar desktop computer. The latter had a different mainboard (ABIT IC7-MAX3 on the Intel 875P chipset) and an Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz CPU (Prescott core). We didn’t run too many tests, but limited ourselves with the PCMark2004 suite:

PCMark2004 Results

As you see, the advantages of the more expensive and seemingly more powerful computer aren’t so evident. Yes, the desktop configuration is far ahead in the memory test, but the i875P chipset is the best in this respect on the Socket 478 platform. Otherwise, the numbers above suggest that the end-user won’t feel any big difference in typical tasks from using a barebone instead of a desktop computer.

The only disadvantage of such an advanced configuration of the barebone is the impossibility to use the single PCI slot. Well, you have to compromise here as top-end graphics cards are all equipped with dual-slot cooling systems as a rule and you have to choose between two expansion cards and average performance in 3D or a single but powerful graphics card. The ASUS S-presso S1 is a rare example of a barebone system that allows to install full-size graphics cards with “two-storied” coolers. Moreover, this barebone ensures a normal thermal environment for the device: 68°C under load is a good temperature for a GeForce 6800 Ultra.

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