Specification and thoughts
|Novatech Allspark VHP64|
|Processor||Intel Core 2 Quad 9550S (2.83GHz, 12MB L2 cache, 1,333MHz FSB, quad-core)|
|Motherboard||ZOTAC GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi (MCP7A) mini-ITX|
|Memory||4GB Buffalo DDR2 @ 5-5-5-15-2T 800MHz (dual-channel)|
|Hard disk(s)||320GB Hitachi 7K100.B 7,200rpm, 16MB cache|
|Display/TFT||None, optional extra|
|Graphics hardware||ASUS GeForce GTS 250 512MB|
|Optical drive||Samsung SN-S083 DVD ReWriter|
|Sound||Realtek HD audio|
|Networking hardware||Gigabit LAN, 802.11b/g
|Ports and connectors||8x USB2.0,
VGA-out, HDMI-out, DVI-out, RJ45
audio connectors, eSATA, coaxial and optical S/PDIF, PS/2
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1, 64-bit|
|Notable extras||Logitech wireless
keyboard and mouse
|Chassis||SilverStone Sugo SG05B, with FSP 300W PSU|
|Dimensions||222mm x 276mm x 176mm (W
x D x H)
|Warranty||One year, return to base|
|Price||£757.85 (as tested)|
DiscussionWhilst many other vendors have opted for Core 2 Duo or even Atom chips in SFF boxes, Novatech goes the whole nine yards and puts the aforementioned Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550S as the brains of the outfit. A lower TDP comes at a cost, however, as the 'S' variant is around £70 dearer than regular Q9550, which is currently etailing at £165. Both share a 2.83GHz clock-speed and are imbued with the full complement of 12MB L2 cache.
The CPU is on top of a ZOTAC mini-ITX motherboard that's based around NVIDIA's GeForce 9300 GPU and, tellingly, sports a x16 PCIe slot for housing a discrete card. The motherboard has a long list of features for its mini-ITX footprint, including eSATA; WiFi; Gigabit LAN; HD audio; integrated graphics; multiple video outputs - HDMI, DVI, VGA - and optical/coaxial S/PDIF.
Novatech eschews the onboard graphics and places a mid-range ASUS GeForce GTS 250 512MB card in the x16 PCIe slot, taking gaming into another league. The solid SilverStone Sugo SG05 chassis can house a slimline optical drive - a DVD-ReWriter in this case - and has space for a single 3.5in drive, populated by a 320GB Hitachi. Given how cheap storage has become of late, the hard-drive size is paltry.
The small chassis requires a built-in PSU, and it's duly outfitted with an FSP 300W model. Our testing will show that the system can consume 200W when playing games, so whilst Novatech plays it relatively safe, we'd prefer a larger-capacity model that runs at less than 50 per cent load, keeping the fan quiet.
Set up with Windows Vista Premium 64-bit and bundled in with a wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse, the Allspark aims to appeal to a wide range of buyers, from students looking for a space-saving PC with a modicum of grunt, to gamers who want a portable LAN box.
Warranty-wise, it's the regular 12 months back to base should things go awry, and you'll have to pay the courier bill in both directions should that be the case.
The base specification costs £677 without an operating system and £758 with Vista Home Premium. Adding up the individual component costs and we come to a figure of around £630, excluding OS, intimating that Novatech is providing reasonable value for money, should this be your choice of components.
Competition in this space comes from the likes of Dell's Studio Slim and Shuttle's range of SFF boxes.