little doubt that Small Form Factor (SFF) computers have revolutionized the way technology fits into the home, media room,
and our lives. Yet as computers continue to advance by leaps and bounds, the whole the small
form factor PC trend seems to be stuck on the initial chassis design Shuttle Computers first introduced in
2001. Now mind you, the toaster-sized SFF PC box isn't bad, it just doesn't
fit into all situations.
There have been a few half hearted attempts to steer the
SFF PC market into other directions, and AOpen is the latest to try its
luck. AOpen's mini PC's are some of the most innovative machines we've seen in a
long time, and what really sets this small silvery box apart from everything
else in the SFF PC universe is that its essentially built with laptop components. The hard drive, power supply, motherboard chipsets and
CPU are all of the mobile variety - drawing less power, taking up less size, and
creating less noise and heat than equivalent desktop computer parts. Aside from the keyboard, mouse and monitor requirements
of the AOpen miniPC, you could be forgiven for thinking it's a notebook having just
looked at the spec sheet.
The cute little AOpen mini PC MP915-B (Super Multi) system
is based on the Intel
915GM chipset and supports Socket 479 Pentium M 400/533 MHz processors. There is a
single 200 pin DDR-2 SO DIMM slot which accepts up to 1GB of DDR2-400/533 memory. On
devices packed into the dictionary sized PC include a Realtek Gigabit network adaptor,
a 5.1 channel sound card, IEEE 1394a, an onboard Intel GMA900 videocard and
even a dual layer slot loading DVD writer!
The system supports IDE 2.5" notebook hard drives and has a miniPCI
slot for expansion devices, although the only real option is to add a wireless networking card. All this
goes barebones for the price of just $388 CDN ($333 USD/£190 GBP) which is
about the same price as a mainstream SFF PC! The AOpen mini PC MP915-B (Super Multi) is also sold as a complete
system from most resellers - so the options for users is pretty open. Barebones systems will require a
CPU, memory and hard drive.
The sleek looking AOpen mini PC MP915-B (Super Multi)
system is 165x50x165 mm in size and weighs just over 1.5kg when fully loaded. A
slot loading DVD writer is included in the barebones package, and the button for ejecting disks is the
only other control to dot its clean aluminum chassis than the power switch. AOpen get away
with such a small chassis size because the 65W Fortron DC12v power supply is
external. The power supply supports 100-240VAC input range, which means the AOpen mini PC
MP915-B can be used anywhere in the world.
The super-compact size of this
system allows the AOpen mini PC M915-B (Super Multi) to be placed pretty much anywhere, and
its stylish aluminum chassis doesn't create an eye sore.
In fact, the first
impression one gets after taking the PC M915-B out of the box is that it's a
small DVD player and not a PC at all.
The overall AOpen
kit is well designed and the manual does an excellent job at explaining installation
and initial set up.
I know because even though the AOpen mini PC MP915-B (Super Multi) review sample
didn't come with one, the one I purchased locally did - I use it
for my media PC.
The AOpen mini PC MP915-B comes in two flavors,
one with a slot loading DVD/CD-RW combo drive and one with a slot dual layer
DVD writer. Considering an optical drive is included in the package, the price of
the AOpen mini PC barebones system is quite competitive.
Since the AOpen mini PC MP915-B is based on notebook
parts, it is quieter than even a standard SFF PC. Not just that, the system also
does not produce as much waste heat at regular desktop machines will.
Ultimately, if you are power conscious you'll spend less money on electricity
running a computer like this. We'll dive into the AOpen mini PC MP915-B in detail in
a moment, but first let's take a closer look at this remarkably sexy little
PC... it kinna reminds you of a MacMini doesn't it?