Watching the box: S-Presso S1-111, XCube EA915 AV

Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs are designed to be space-efficient and packed full of features. Since appearing on the market in 2001, they've matured from a fad into respectable Mini PCs ideal for transporting (to your friend's house for example) or building an entertainment setup around.

Mini PCs are also largely do-it-yourself jobs shipped as "barebones" systems - you supply the processor, memory, hard disk and optical drive.

Although on-board graphics are included, you'll want to use your own graphics cards if gaming is your thing. That said, some vendors (ASUS and AOpen included) also offer built-to-order systems that are ready to go straight out of the box.

Although PC World tested a bunch of Mini PCs in March, we've looked at the following two systems separately as, unobtrusive size and noise aside, both have interesting multimedia touches ideal for the bedroom or lounge room.

Both of these ASUS and AOpen models have an "autonomous" feature, letting you access multimedia tasks without the hassle of waiting for Windows to load. Both Mini PCs use front controls combined with software to browse through and play back content on CD/DVD media, or pretty much every type of multimedia photo card.

The ASUS S-Presso has touch-sensitive buttons that light up when pressed, whereas the AOpen XCube AV uses a mode button to jog through the functions.

Both vendors bundle TV/FM tuner cards as standard (complete with remote control) and each configuration is ready to optionally run Microsoft's Media Center Edition of Windows XP.

Both Mini PCs are structured around an Intel platform. The S-Presso is based upon the 865G chipset (Socket 478) whereas the XCube is based on the newer 915G chipset, supporting Socket 775. Ports at the rear of the case on the motherboard are similar for both systems, with connections for USB 2.0, Ethernet, S/PDIF audio-out, 3.5mm stereo audio and VGA (monitor). The XCube AV has the edge though, with support for FireWire and PCIe built into the motherboard.

Both systems are severely limited in expansion due to their size, so it's wise to chose components carefully instead of buying additional parts haphazardly. The XCube offers better cable management inside the enclosure and installation of components was easier with the removable case lid, in comparison to the hood design of the S-Presso. We had no technical issues in connecting various peripheral devices, as both have the same connectivity as their bigger PC counterparts.

In use, we did find the autonomous features were a little slow on both units. If Mini PCs are to appeal to the masses used to instant-on consumer electronics, then this will need to be looked at in future revisions.

SFF PCs have come along way since their inception and although not perfect, they have embraced the latest multimedia trends and are integrating well into the lounge room. The less tech-minded may be daunted by the DIY approach, but such fears can be overcome by ordering a pre-configured system.

ASUS S-Presso S1-111

The S1-111 is aesthetically attractive and well priced. However, it's bigger than most SFF PCs, has an older chipset without FireWire and it can be a challenge to install components.

Price: $599 Vendor: Cassa Australia Phone: 1300 278 788 URL: www.asus.com.au

AOpen XCube EA915 AV

The XCube has a simple, straightforward design that is supported by a newer chipset and Windows XP MCE. The integrated features alone are enough to keep the upgrade demon at bay. Price: $799 Vendor: Bluechip Infotech Phone: 1800 803 802 URL: www.bluechipit.com.au

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ryan Shaw

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?