AOpen's newest barebone (motherboard and case) small form factor (SFF) PC is the first we've seen to use an Intel Pentium M (notebook) processor - perfect for reducing noise and heat. Processor installation was easy enough, but the circuit board to which the external 19V DC adapter connects needs to be removed. The PCI and AGP slots both require low-profile cards (the latter could be useful for installing a graphics card with TV-out).
We appreciated the MZ855-II's quietness, a result of it using just one side-firing processor fan and plenty of ventilation along both sides, assisting the escape of warm air throughout.
This MZ855-II has two IDE hard disk ports, but we felt the system would benefit from easier-to-manage SATA cables. This is more a limitation of the 855GME chipset (400MHz front-side bus, 2GB maximum memory). This SFF design doesn't provide room for a 5.25in CD/DVD drive, so you'll need to obtain a slim, notebook style optical drive, nor does it have provision for a floppy drive. Only one 3.5in device can be installed in this unit, and that device is your hard drive.
The front-left fascia of the MZ855-II flips open to reveal a 7-in-1 media card reader, while a front-bottom lip pops down, allowing easy access to connections (see "Specifications").
Verdict It's taken a while for notebook technology to creep into SFF PCs and we can't wait to see further and more positive approaches from AOpen, particularly those based on Intel's 915PM Express chipset with SATA and PCIe controllers.
AOpen Mini XC Cube MZ855-II
Price: $720 Distributor: Bluechip IT Phone: (02) 8745 8401 URL: www.bluechipit.com.au; http://xc.aopen.com.tw
Specifications: Intel 855GME chipset; two DIMM slots; single low-profile AGP and PCI slots; one slim-line optical drive bay; one 3.5in hard drive bay; 5.1 channel sound. Front ports: optical audio, headphone, microphone, two USB 2.0, 6- and 4-pin FireWire. Rear ports: two PS/2, single parallel, serial, VGA-out, S/PDIF audio, 6-pin FireWire, optical audio, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, two USB 2.0 plus surround, left/right and centre/bass audio outputs. 300x200x106mm (DxWxH).
FEATURES: 5 VALUE: 5 OVERALL: 5