Small Form Factor PCs (techies just say "SFF"), are
compact and diminutive little systems that hardly take up any room, often look
more elegant than full desktop PCs, and are easily transported too and fro. Of
course small formfactor PC's are best where there are obvious space
limitations, because of the inherent quantity of hardware that can be installed. Still, if you've been skeptical in the past you should know that for most applications, and in
particular home multimedia or standard old web surfing and office tasks, SFF PC's
fit the bill very nicely indeed.
Mini SFF system is one of the best examples of just how small these
kinds of computers can get, many operating like super-condensed notebooks. MSI
Computer has come out with a small form factor PC that is a little bit bigger
than the AOpen 'mac' Mini, and that extra space is put to good
use - it can handle a full sized PCI
Express videocard, top of the line Intel processor, regular desktop DDR-2 RAM and a couple of drives too.
MSI Computer is a pretty creative small form factor PC manufacturer considering its main business is motherboards, and we like the fact that it has dropped the conventional design for something more radical. The snow white MSI MEGA mPC doesn't really look like a computer, and it's hard to identify it at first glance as one. While computer geeks might like seeing PC's everywhere, most people think
computers are ugly. MSI's new MEGA mPC945 SFF PC is definitely one of these unique
looking machines, and it fits right on a book shelf or at the top of a home theatre pyramid.
The MSI MEGA mPC945 system is based around the
Intel 945G and Intel ICH7 chipsets and is compatible with all Socket 775 Intel
Pentium 4/D/XE and Celeron processors running on a 1066/800/533MHz
front side bus. It is not compatible with Core 2 Duo CPUs however. Under the glossy white hood, the mPC 945's two DDR2
memory slots will support up to 2GB of dual channel DDR2-533/667 memory. In
terms of storage space, the system has one 3GB/s Serial ATA II
channel and one IDE controller. There is onboard video care
of the integrated Intel GMA950 graphics card, it comes part and parcel with the Intel 945G
chipset. If you want to use a better videocard the system will accommodate
single or double slot PCI Express graphics card. PCSTATS would advise a Geforce 7800GTX or equivalent videocard if you plan on doing any gaming at all... as you'll see in the benchmarks.
The MSI Mega mPC 945 barebones system includes such features as high definition Intel Azalia 7.1 channel audio, Gigabit networking, front mounted 7-in-1 media card reader, and a 802.11b/g Wireless LAN miniPCI network card with rear mounted dipole antenna.
Peripheral expansion possibilities include a PCI Express x16 slot, PCI and
miniPCI slots. The unit PCSTATS tested came with a miniPCI 802.11b/g wireless networking card installed.
All of this goes for a quite reasonable retail price of $290 CDN ($260 US, £142).
Expansion Very Limited
Drive expansion is somewhat limited as the MSI MEGA mPC 945 system has
just one internal 3.5" drive bay and one 5.25" bay - that's it. Notably missing is
space for a floppy drive... but perhaps the designers figured that a collection of flash memory media
readers was all that was really required in this day and age.
The chassis has been designed so installing drives is a tool free affair, a rarity for SFF PC
chassis, and a nice treat. The MSI MEGA mPC 945 comes with a custom heatsink for
the Intel socket 775 processor, and there is no choice but to use this heatsink.
Standard Socket 775 heatsinks are not compatible.
Aside from the 60mm power supply exhaust fan, there is
also an 80mm system exhaust fan for expelling hot air out the back of the all-aluminum chassis. All fans inside the MEGA mPC 945 are temperature controlled, and during low loads the system is extremely quiet. The power supply is rated for 260W, and should be sufficient for all that the MSI Mega mPC945 can accommodate.
The rear I/O
panel as various jack sensing audio inputs/outputs, PS/2, a serial port,
analog video connection, SP/DIF optical audio out, four USB2.0 ports and
one 10/1000 Ethernet jack.
There must be a limitless number of external USB devices
on the market, and the MSI MEGA mPC 945 is ready for just about anything. There
are a total of six USB 2.0 slots, two on the front, four on the back. It has two
IEEE 1394a Firewire ports (full sized, and mini) at the front, as well as a full
compliment of 7.1 channel audio jacks, optical audio outputs, and the
aforementioned integrated Intel GMA950 videocard.