SINCE SHUTTLE brought an AGP slot to its infectious little barebones systems back in July of last year, the XPC line hasn't seen much in the way of innovation. Shuttle has updated its cubes to support newer chipsets as they have become available. nForce2 and Springdale-based XPCs are the most current as far as chipset support goes. With those new chipsets has come support for exciting new features like Serial ATA, real time Dolby Digital encoding, and dual-channel memory, but the cube itself hasn't changed much.
The success of Shuttle's XPC line has spawned a number of knockoffs from manufacturers like IWill, Jetway, ECS, and even Creative. These cubes have closely followed Shuttle's lead, but they haven't managed to innovate much. Honestly, I think I started getting a little bored of small form factor systems for a while there. Simply adding support for the latest and greatest chipset is progress, but it's nothing much more exciting than the new chipset itself.
Fortunately, MSI has renewed my interest in the small form factor world with the MEGA651, a barebones system that may be a little late to the party, but makes up for it with innovative new features and functionality. Why has the MEGA651 had me practically giggling with glee since it arrived at my door? Read on to find out.