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FIC’s Condor Small Form Factor PC
By Jason Cross


We review a lot of small form factor (SFF) PCs at this site, to be sure. And why not? The market for these smaller-than-usual PCs has exploded over the past two years. In fact, you can see eleven of our most recent SFF PC reviews packaged together in our recent SFF roundup. With all those systems, you’ll notice they have one thing in common: their shape. Sure the sizes vary a bit, and the internal components and cooling solutions are different from one system to the next, but they are all shaped like little squashed cubes.

We like the typical SFF cube shape, but we’re not ready to pronounce it the only desirable form factor for tiny computers. FIC is trying something a bit different with their new Condor barebones PC. It’s a bit narrower and taller, with an overall look that definitely conjures up comments about toasters. Let’s dive into the new PC and see what makes it tick.

Fit and Finish
On the outside, FIC’s new system is nothing if not a breath of fresh air. Though it’s about as deep as most small form factor PCs, it’s a bit narrower, and quite a bit taller. The silver finish with a black base and black/chrome highlights make it a pretty attractive PC, although everyone who has seen it says that “it looks like a toaster!” That’s not meant to be an insult–this is perhaps the coolest-looking toaster you’ve ever seen.

The front of the system has three doors: one for the optical drive bay, one for the 3.5″ drive bay, and one that hides a pair of USB ports, the headphone output, and the digital optical output. These front connections are a bit less than we’re used to seeing. Typically, you get a microphone input and FireWire jack as well. This system, in fact, has no FireWire connections at all, on the front or the back.

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The optical drive mounts vertically in this system. It’s unusual enough to be a bit squeamish about, but most optical drives have little “catches” on the drive tray that will hold a disc just fine in a vertical position. Though the optical drive door worked fine, we are a bit concerned about the long spring that pulls it shut. It’s rather exposed and fragile; it doesn’t take a leap of imagination to think it wouldn’t last too long.

Click to Enlarge

The cooling solution is pretty unique here. A large heatsink/fan on the CPU draws air in through a large vent in the bottom of the machine and pushes it out through the top. We’ll have more on this when we take a look inside, but it does present some concern for those who might put the system down on carpet. Without a relatively hard surface to sit on, the vent might be blocked, particularly with deep pile carpet. This design has the advantage of letting the tall and narrow box sit in a crowded area, since the sides don’t need to be kept free for airflow.

Click to Enlarge

Speaking of the top, that’s how you get into the system. A grey latch in the center of the top is the only means of access; slide it forward and the left half of the system swings down in a manner not unlike Apple G3 and G4 computers. This is supposed to make the system easier to assemble and work on, but as we’ll see in a bit, that isn’t quite the case. We generally like this external design, but it would be nice if we could keep it closed in a more secure manner for travel or shipment–perhaps with a thumbscrew in the back. Continued…

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  • table of contents
    Introduction
    Inside the Condor SFF system
    Performance Testing Setup
    Overall system Performance
    Game and 3DMark Performance
    Final Thoughts


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