It’s been quite a while since Shuttle unveiled its small form-factor design. And for the most part, the XPC family has persisted, relatively unchanged, since then. Of course, Shuttle has religiously refreshed the lineup with modern chipsets and updated functionality, but as far as aesthetics are concerned, little has evolved. The XPC is immensely popular, is selling exceptionally well, and continues to inspire similar systems from competing manufacturers. Nearly every other player in the motherboard market, it seems, is marketing its own rendition of what a small form-factor system should be. We’ve already evaluated a couple of Shuttle systems in addition to FIC’s ICE Cube. The aforementioned systems maintain a prominent PC feel, while others (MSI’s MEGA, for instance) assume a hi-fi persona. Today, Biostar throws its own hat into the saturated small form-factor marketplace.
But if you’re looking for something completely new, you’ll have to search elsewhere. In fact, it is difficult not to draw parallels between Biostar’s iDEQ 200N and the XPC family. Should that have a negative impact on the system’s utility? That’s for you to decide – as far as we’re concerned, Biostar took an award-winning recipe and added a splash of this and a pinch of that. The result is a sleek chassis enveloping wholly capable innards. Without taking too much away from Shuttle’s fantastic showing, we’d even go so far as to say the iDEQ 200N is what Shuttle’s SN41G2 should have been.
Introducing the iDEQ 200N
Your mother may have told you it is what’s on the inside that matters, but on some level, outward appearances dictate interest level. There are plenty of attractive small form-factor systems, and so the job of building something unique becomes that much harder. Nevertheless, Biostar’s iDEQ 200N sports the sharpest, most elegant chassis we’ve seen to date.
Biostar iDEQ 200N
Case cover slides down revealing drive bays
The top and side panels are constructed of brushed aluminum. Further, each is independently removable via thumbscrews, making it easy to work on one side or the other. The box’s front panel is silvery-grey with a glossy cover that ships with plastic sheeting to protect it from damage. It has two chromed buttons – power and reset – along with an integrated IR receiver. A single Firewire port, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, an optical output and two audio connectors also grace the chassis’ front. But the most important feature, and perhaps the most subtle, is a plastic cover that hides the 5.25 and 3.5” external drive bays. Consider that most of the SFF systems currently available have well-designed front covers, yet most of the CD-ROM and floppy drives floating around are beige. By covering that whole area, it doesn’t matter if your I/O devices match or not; the whole system maintains its appearance.