Just the basics
The ePC-II uses some notebook components to help keep its profile as trim as possible without sacrificing the necessities. Our test configuration came with a 1GHz desktop Pentium III (iBuyPower now offers only Celeron CPUs, ranging in speed from 1.0GHZ to 1.2GHz), 256MB of PC133 memory, a DVD-ROM drive, a 20GB notebook hard drive, and a built-in speaker. Your few options include slower processor speeds; a CD-RW, CD-ROM, or combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive; and a 10GB or 30GB disk. The i810E motherboard provides integrated video and audio. No input devices are included, but mouse and keyboard options are available.
Because the ePC-II has no expansion slots, connectivity is key. For attaching external devices, you'll find a decent assortment of ports, including serial, parallel, two USB, and PS/2 for mouse and keyboard. You also get outputs for super-VGA, composite, and S-Video displays. For networking, there's an internal 56K modem and a 10/100 Ethernet port. It's a shame iBuyPower didn't raid the laptop-parts bin one more time and add a PC Card slot.
What's it for?
With its assemblage of components used in low-end notebooks, it's no surprise that the ePC-II performs like one. With just 4MB of graphics memory, 3D performance is awful--a general characteristic of integrated-graphics architectures. Thanks to the 4,200rpm hard drive, the ePC-II even lags behind the poky eMachines T1140 by about 5 percent in our office-productivity performance tests.
The ePC-II's capabilities are so limited that it seems underqualified even for situations in which its size would be advantageous. For instance, the system is small enough to fit in a crowded living-room entertainment center, where a full-sized PC--if it fit--would be obtrusive. Connect the ePC-II to your TV, stereo, and phone line, then attach a wireless keyboard and mouse to create a system for casual Web browsing and CD/DVD/MP3 playback. We had to drop the graphics resolution from its maximum of 1,280x1,024 to 800x600, however, in order to get smooth DVD playback. And the weak internal speaker makes even typical laptop-audio setups sound like a THX system in comparison. You can connect amplified speakers to the headphone port, and we'd suggest doing so.
The ePC-II might also be useful for travel, if you know you can borrow your host's keyboard, mouse, and monitor. But it's twice as thick as many notebooks and uses an external power brick, so it's no easier to travel with than a laptop. And once you added a display, a keyboard, and a mouse, the entire assemblage would take up more space than a similarly priced notebook--which most likely would be a lot faster also.
You get few extras and little hand-holding with the ePC-II. Its only bundled software is a copy of WinDVD 2000, a DVD player, although iBuyPower does offer various versions of Microsoft Office as options. Support and warranty policies are very basic; there's no toll-free support, and you'll have to pay postage to return the unit should it fail during the one-year warranty period.
The ePC-II addresses a specialized desktop-computing niche where space or aesthetics prevent even a minitower from fitting in. But with full-featured notebooks (let alone faster, more expandable desktop PCs) available for the same price, choosing the slow, minimally configured ePC-II makes sense only in those situations where size truly matters.
--by Denny Atkin
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800 processor, an Intel 815EEA motherboard chipset, 128MB of 133MHz SDRAM, a GeForce2 with 32MB DDR, ATA/100 hard drive, Windows 2000 with Service Pack 1, and Windows' display properties set to 1,024x768 and 16-bit color at 75Hz
Longer bars indicate better performance
|Quake III Arena test
Longer bars indicate better performance
Windows XP Home; Celeron 1.1GHz; 128MB SDRAM 100MHz; Integrated Intel 810E graphics 4MB; Seagate ST320410A 20GB 5,400rpm
Windows XP Home; Pentium III 1GHz; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Integrated Intel 810E graphics 4MB; Toshiba MK2018GAP 20GB 4,200rpm
With its assemblage of low-end-notebook components--a Pentium III CPU, 133MHz SDRAM, integrated graphics, and a slow 4,200rpm hard drive--it's no surprise that the ePC-II performs like one. With just 4MB of graphics memory, this isn't a system that you should think about playing games on; 3D performance is awful--a general characteristic of integrated-graphics architectures. Thanks to the hard drive, the ePC-II even lags behind the poky eMachines T1140 by about 5 percent in our office-productivity tests.