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  • davecason - Friday, March 17, 2006 - link

    Just an FYI for the reviewer: use tweezers. The plastic inner shell is designed for tweezers with an angled grip point. There are both cut-outs and spaceous slotting to accomodate tweezers on every screw installation.

    Did anyone pick up one of these and have trouble with the IDE PCB? I have two problems: 1) DMA turns itself off and the drive resorts to PIO mode when I attach it through to the PCB. I have tested the drive elsewhere and on the USB bus and it runs at normal speeds but when it is attached internally it slows down to about 1/10 of the speed. Removing the optical drive from the PCB has no affect on the problem.
    2) The system hiccups when I boot it. The optical drive goes into a long series of IDE bus restarts and if I remove it, the IDE drive simply takes forever to boot (probably because of some bus error and the speed is being backed down to almost nothing).

    Any suggestions for that?
  • davecason - Tuesday, March 28, 2006 - link

    The IDE bus was restarting itself due to a power problem. I had the following plugged into the USB bus:
    1) USB Keyboard with USB hub with a USB mouse plugged into it.
    2) USB bus-powered hub with a self-powered PDA base and a UPS plugged into it.

    I removed #2 and the IDE bus began functioning normally. I guess four/six items on the USB bus was too much power draw from the system. If you experience this, get a self-powered USB hub.
  • Plugers - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    On the next revision.

    Add a upgradable laptop video card slot. If laptops can get a nice small Nvidia / ATI solution, why not this? Also add the other audio port, or just add a toslink for HTPC use and I think most of the high end PC sound systems have a digital input option anyway.

    throw in another sodimm slot while your at it....
  • bldckstark - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    I am glad to see that for once there are not many whiny posts about the comparison systems. Thanks for the inclusion of the Sempron system. Reply
  • Kishkumen - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    Actually my interest with these Mini PCs whether Aopen or Apple is to use them as a lightweight frontend to a Linux/MythTV HTPC with storage and encoding duties relegated to a master backend and better yet no need to whine about the additional cost of an OS. The mini is small enough that it can be easily attached to the back of a plasma or LCD for a very clean look. That said, Aopen's audio solution is absolutely tragic. I really don't understand how they thought they could skimp in this area even if they were completely unaware of it's potential as a HTPC solution. At the very least a digital optical connector should have been included. Thus I'm inclined to go with the Apple solution on the audio issue alone, but in general it seems like the better hardware and I have no reason to believe I can't run Linux on it just fine. I'll be paying for an OS I don't need but maybe I can just pawn it off on ebay or I'll just keep it around for the halibut. Something to gape at once in a while like a two headed snake in a jar at the circus. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    Does Linux run on EFI okay? I don't have any idea. It's certainly a lot more likely than XP on EFI. Anyway, the MP945 is supposed to go with at least 5.1 audio I think. Reply
  • mindless1 - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    PLEASE, quite trying to pretend Apple is some kind of leader in form factor. no, it was not the MAC cube that started SFF. This AOPEN is not imitation anything either. Did you really think the entire computer world was NOT moving towards high integration and as-small-as-possible systems?

    It had absolutely nothing to do with Apple. Apple merely did the same as everyone else, sometimes coming up with a particular niche product sooner than others, and sometimes later than others. The one most noteworthy thing apple did was advertising.

    How about the ipod? It wasn't first either. Good grief, why in the world do you have an arbitrary false conclusion that apple was first at much of anything?

    That's not to downplay Apple's influence, they did add a certain esthetic appeal, more artistic cases on many products. That's not what was implied in the article though...
  • JAS - Monday, March 06, 2006 - link

    Just a general comment:

    MAC = Media Access Control, as in a computer's Ethernet address

    Mac = shorthand for Macintosh
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    By your reasoning, Apple was first at nothing, and the only first was probably the ENIAC. After all, we've just been moving to smaller computers for over 60 years now.... Seriously, there is no way you can convince me that the AOpen MiniPC wasn't an attempt at copying the Mac Mini design. Was the Mac Mini completely original? Maybe someone had something like that before, but they're the ones that really put the "Mini" computers on the map.

    Anyway, how about some comparisons from AOpen - nice pictures, and they clearly show that any resemblance to the Mac Mini is likely more than coincidence.">MiniPC vs. Mac Mini #1">MiniPC vs. Mac Mini #2">MiniPC vs. Mac Mini #3">MiniPC vs. Mac Mini #4">MiniPC vs. Mac Mini #5
  • psychobriggsy - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    The Mac Mini looks better, both in terms of looks and design (e.g., the back panel looks so much better). If you're gonna copy a design, at least try and make it look even better if you're not going to compete on price... Reply
  • bldckstark - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    Maybe lots and lots of people do care, but I couldn't give a crap less about what the back panel of any computer looks like. Maybe someone could tell me why they do.

    As for it not looking better, that would be a subjective opinion.
  • Snuffalufagus - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    Just for the sake of the 'Company that sucks' copied the 'company that had the idea first' argument, what, in a low profile box, of the same approximate dimensions, could they have done to make people not claim it was a duplicate? Change the color? Change the rubber foot pads? Revert back to PS2 connections? This idea that one company shouldn't build off the strengths found in another is stupid, and would ultimately lead to stagnation if no company learned from the mistakes and successes of another.

    Copying form doesn't really mean shit as far as one being better. Hell, I think the Mac Mini is a piece of crap due to it's lack of versatility, but now its being praised for that capability now that this new piece of crap is out (i.e. two vs. one mem slot).

    FWIW - this wasn't purely a response to your post, it was just a covenient place to put the comment.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    I couldn't care less about copying. Whoever does it best gets my vote. The lack of versatility really isn't a major lack, though. The only things the MiniPC can't do are:

    1) Gaming (other than old games or 2D stuff)
    2) High-end audio (without USB add-on)
    3) TV Tuner stuff
    4) High performance computing.

    Most people don't need any of those things. Given that it's small, reasonably fast, and reasonably quiet (and all of the above pretty much applies to the Mac Minis as well), these things could be great for the less power hungry people.

    Unfortunately, my mom still can't use a computer worth a darn, so reducing hardware complexity isn't going to help her with the software side. (And please don't bother suggesting OSX; she really is clueless about computers, and we're just happy when she can manage to read/write email!)
  • Herrterror - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    yeah, poor Apple. They wanted to introduce Sloanism to the computer industry and ended up losing out to copycats. Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    The price of this has to be at least lower than a laptop. You can get a decent laptop for the same price, with a built-in LCD and Keyboard, and a lot more IO. You can still just hook up a Keyboard and Monitor with a laptop, as I do at work everyday, plus you get portability if you need it. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    A few things laptops are generally lacking:

    1) DVI output
    2) Component output
    3) Anything more than 2.1 audio output

    So, the HDTV connections of the MiniPC are definitely something to think about. Component out is probably the best way to guarantee a system can function as an HTPC (though the whole HDCP issue is looming on the horizon....) Also, these systems (Mac Mini/MiniPC) are both smaller than a laptop - why have a screen if you're not going to use it, right? But I do agree that the price needs to at least match an equivalent laptop.
  • WhoBeDaPlaya - Monday, March 06, 2006 - link

    The Audigy 2 ZS PCMCIA has #3 covered ;)
    Been using it with my trusty 'ol eMachines m6805 since late 2004.
  • Snuffalufagus - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    but fill a particular niche market that's appealing for certain applications. Reply
  • joey2264 - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    I was just thinking ... what if they did an end run around apple by making this a dvr? Apple's stupid allegiance with the content providers practically guarantees they will never put out a true dvr, but aopen obviously has no such qualms. They need to make a version with core duo, decent tv tuner built-in(preferably ati 550 pro if that was possible), 2 ram slots, at least 4 usb ports, and spdif (basically the same ports as the mac mini + a tv in).

    How cool would that be? It might even put the pressure on apple to produce a dvr of their own.
  • joey2264 - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    I think the key thing here, the reason why Apple can charge such a low price, is because you are not paying for the os with the mac mini. This price advantage does not factor itself into every other Apple product, because of Apple's crazy profit margins. But this is the one product where they are willing to make little to no profit, and so, who whodathunkit, they are price competitive. If only they would take a similar strategy (although obviously not to this extreme) with their other products).

    The only way the wintel world could compete is if Microsoft designed a mini pc of their own, or gave it away to an extra special favorite manufacturer of theirs.
  • Questar - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Where else in the x86 market is Apple not price competetive? Reply
  • rowcroft - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Considering it's Friday, the new Mac Mini's were announced on Tuesday (one is on a FedEx truck on it's way to my house) the article really shouldn't have the errors that it does. You can certainly tell Anand didn't write this one.... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    There are a couple places where I mention the fact that this has already been superceded by the new Mac Mini. Considering this product is less than two months old (and really only 1 month in the US), the choice is either to not review it at all or to review it and basically end up with "nice, but unless you're a die-hard Windows user the Mac Mini is better." If it wasn't clear that I think that the Mac Mini is the better choice, I apologize. However, for people dead set on XP, until the MP945 is launched you really don't have any other option that uses a Pentium M chip. The only factual error right now (that is corrected) is that a USB X-Fi doesn't exist, unless you've spotted something else? Reply
  • rowcroft - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    I was referring to comments about i386 macs not yet shipping on the first page and overall sense that there the comparable mini's are the one's released a year ago now. I was a bit too harsh though, I apologize for that.

  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    Oh... heh. That intro page was written a couple weeks ago, then the article got delayed as I waited for some answers and other information. I'll change it to the present tense instead of future tense. Of course, we're still waiting for a "Windows on Intel Macs" solution. I'm betting Vista will be necessary, as I don't know if it's even feasible to get XP runnign on an EFI architecture without massive effort. (First person to prove me wrong gets a pretty sizeable check, I suppose.) Reply
  • Nocturnal - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    I have worked with many laptops and this unit doesn't look that much different from the pictures although the pictures are probably a little bigger than the actual unit (I think?). Other than that, I'd definately invest in one of these for the wife. Reply
  • themelon - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    There are quite a few USB audio devices on the market today, including an X-Fi product from Creative.

    They have a USB X-Fi? It's not on there product page and this is the first time that I have seen mention of one.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Right you are. I could have sworn I saw a Creative X-Fi USB, but I'm clearly mistaken. The best Creative USB option is still the Audigy 2 NX (right?). I will fix this error. Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Pointless unless you have a Windows based application that you need to use.

    And for the uses this type of system will be good for, there aren't many of those.

    If you want a small system, then the Mac Mini is clearly the better choice, and will be cheaper to boot. AOpen really need to trim their prices when they release their more-equivalent update.

    There is still the issue of the market size for a computer this small. In home entertainment systems you have the option of creating a system as large as your standard HiFi separate. Elsewhere the large box can be stuck under the desk. However it is ideal as a zero-configuration computer, one that you'll use until it dies or you replace it.

    It feels really odd writing 'Macs are cheaper and better' ...
  • Hikari - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Page two says, "Open has cloned the original Mac Mini with a system that is going to be faster in nearly every area."

    How old is this review? This isn't even close to as fast as a Mac mini with a Core Duo in it and 945G chipset. You just might want ot make sure you're making it clear that its slower than the old G4-based mini.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    "...*original* Mac Mini...."

    The Core Duo version was officially launched this past week.
  • mlittl3 - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link


    Since the article was posted today, I don't think anyone is going to care about the original Mac Mini. The computer industry moves and it moves fast. If Aopen's mini is better than what Apple put out in the past, then Apple has solved that problem with the new Mac Mini. That is the important issue today.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    I Aopen had sent this to me in the past week, I wouldn't have bothered with the review. I've been putting this unit through it's paces for a lot more than a week, so the launch of the new Mac Mini is a non-factor. I mentioned it, I suggested it's a better choice right now (at least, I feel I did), and I really wouldn't recommend this model to anyone unless it were to sell for $650 or less. (Core Solo is for all intents and purposes equal to Dothan, so if it matches the Core Solo priced Mac Mini it would be fine.) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    First word: "I" should be "If..."

    Update #2: I'm betting not many people bothered reading the whole article, so they missed the comments on page 10 implying that the new Mac Minis are clearly faster. ("...with the recent launch of the Intel-based Mac Minis, that advantage is going to be short-lived.") I've updated the conclusion to make more specific mention of the Core Duo Mac Mini priced at $800.
  • Sunbird - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Looks like they followed my">advice on the styling (I can dream cant I?) and its not silver and blue.

    I like it.
  • Sunbird - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    A question though:

    Is all the hardware OSx86 compatible?

    Then you could enjoy the best of both worlds on one little box...
  • plinden - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    I'm afraid I'm going to have to sound like an Apple fanboi now, but AOpen are still playing catchup with Apple:

    In typical Wintel fashion, AOpen has cloned the original Mac Mini with a system that is going to be faster in nearly every area. Here are the specifications.

    So to compare the specs:
    Processor: Intel socket 479 (Celeron M to Pentium M 740) - Intel Core Solo/Duo
    RAM: 1 X DDR2 SO-DIMM (Maximum 1GB of RAM) - 2 GB RAM Max
    Hard Drive: 2.5" PATA Notebook HDD - Same HD
    Graphics: 915GM (Intel GMA900) - Intel GMA950
    Optical Drive: Slim CD/DVD slot load - same or similar, i.e. combo or superdrive
    Expansion Slots: 1 X Mini-PCI (for WiFi) - no expansion slot but WIFI and bluetooth included by default
    Audio: Realtek ALC655 AC'97 2CH (Speaker/Headphones + Microphone) - S/PDIF output
    Power Suply: 65W (19V, 3.5A) External Adapter - 85W power supply
    Internal connections from motherboard to HDD and ODD
    Front Ports: None. Power Button, HDD Activity LED, ODD Eject Button - same
    Rear Ports: 2 X USB2.0 - 4xUSB2.0
    2 X 3.5mm Audio (speakers and microphone)
    LAN (GbE) - same
    1 X DVI-D and 1 X TV-Out (S-VIDEO, Composite, Component) - 1xDVI, no TV out
    1 X Optional WiFi Antenna wireless G included

    All for $599 - $799 (for 512MB RAM).
    Despite the moaning over on Mac forums, this is still a much better deal than the MiniPC.
  • mlittl3 - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    The hard drive in the Mac Mini is SATA not PATA. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Which is basically what I say in the conclusion. This MP915 has been done for about three months now, and available on the market for just over a month (and a bit longer in Europe/Asia). MP945 will go up against the new Mac Mini, but the real question is whether or not it can come close to matching Apple's price. I'd like $850 with Core Duo 1.86 GHz (or higher), XP Home, 60+ GB HDD, DVD+RW, and 1GB RAM standard. I've said as much to AOpen, so we'll see if they can do that or not. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link


    Bold off Let's see if that works.... :p Reply
  • plinden - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Yeah, when are we getting the ability to edit our posts? Reply
  • siliconthoughts - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    When a genuine mac mini costs less, is more upgradeable (dual core, 2 DDR slots, digital audio, WiFi, Bluetooth, 4 USB ports, faster graphics) comes with a nifty secure OS and includes a whole suite of apps, why would anyone buy this? XP just isn't that great that I'd spend a $300 premium for it on an inferior box. Reply
  • Googer - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    These are nice, but It is my suspicion that a Turon in an Mini PC would be the faster choice. Reply
  • NegativeEntropy - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    Agreed -- a Turion "version" would be interesting. That said, I think this statement from the review could use a bit of modifying:"...if you really want low power, you can go with one of the Pentium M platforms. End of discussion. "

    Tech Report recently found that the Turion can compete pretty well with the PM on power consumption">
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 04, 2006 - link

    This isn't meant as a far-reaching statement. What I'm talking about is small form factors, or systems that will compete with the MiniPC. Turion support on socket 754 platforms is lacking, meaning that there are boards that support it but there are definitely boards that won't support it. Most of the socket 754 small form factors are pretty old, so I don't know how many of them would support Turion.

    The article at Tech Report is interesting, but idle power draw is only half of the question. 94 W at full load really isn't that much better than the rest of the Athlon 64 line. I mean, the HP DX5150 with an old ClawHammer core running at 2.4 GHz is only about 20 W higher. If you were to use a 90 nm Athlon 64, that would cut off 10 W or so right there.

    Basically, the Athlon 64 design is really good, and it doesn't require all that much power. However, it still can't really compete with the Pentium M. when you shift to laptops, the whole system probably doesn't consume more than 45 W, so 20 W more for the processor is a major deal. Using desktop systems to try and determine laptop suitability is definitely not the best way to go about it. Ideally, you would want identical laptops, with the only difference being motherboard, chipset, and memory. But that's a story for another day.
  • Googer - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    I would love to see this Aopen MINI PC rebench marked with a Pentium M 733 or 753 Ultra Low Voltage Processor that has a Maximum of 5W TDP! I would love to see it compaired against the higher 27W TDP Pentium M 740 in both Power Consumtion and Application benchmarks.

    I bet that at full load the power usage on full load will drop from 38W (with 740) down to 16w and even lower at IDLE! (10W maybe?) With a processor like that this would be the perfect pc for those guys who like to intergrate computers with their cars. Bye bye VIA C3! (C3 Will have">other uses though)

  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Actually, with the HDD and other components, the system is probably using around 18W for the system and 7 to 20W for the CPU. It might even be 20-22W for the system. Still, 38W at maximum load (i.e. HDD activity along with 100% CPU) is hardly going to tax a car, I don't think. (But I'm not a car A/V guy, so maybe I'm wrong.) Reply
  • michael2k - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    You would think, with AOpen's resources, that the AOpen MiniPC would be cheaper than the more powerful and featureful Mac mini.

    What is AOpen doing that is making it more expensive? It's got an older chipset, slower CPU, less USB ports, no rewritable optical drive, no bluetooth, and no wireless networking.

    It's an odd day when buying a Mac is cheaper AND more powerful.
  • Questar - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    AOpen isn't isn't a computer manufacturer, they are a board maker. What could they do to bring down the price of a system? Reply
  • jconan - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    It's the economy of scale! Apple definitely has this contract manufacturing capacity considering its hardware/software business as well as its distribution channels. AOpen is just a manufacturing firm and is not in the software business to install an in house OS and plus it doesn't have sufficient sales offices out in the distribution side to push its wares. They have to rely on major OEMs to buy in bulk quantity to leverage prices with them. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Okay, read that as "AOpen or one of their partners." The point is that AOpen can't possibly charge $330 for this unit (with DVDR) and expect people to prefer it over the new Mac Minis. $200 gets you a Pentium M, $100 for the HDD... and you're still missing the OS. Then again, $100 price premium over a Mac if you really want to run Windows isn't the end of the world. Would I recommend it over a Mac Mini? No. If you want to buy it, though, it's still a pretty cool system to play around with. I would definitely take it over the older G4 Mac Minis, because it's clearly faster in important areas (like HD stream decoding). If the MP945 launches at $850 or less for a complete Core Duo system, we have a worthwhile contender. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    Well, this is the initial version, and it does have a DVD+/-RW drive. The optical drive runs about $85 at retail, I think. I definitely agree that AOpen should be able to get the cost of the tested model down to the $650 range (including OS), which would put it up against he Core Solo Mac Mini that just came out. Reply
  • Furen - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    The OS price is the killer...

    The T2300 (1.66GHz) costs around $240 bucks (yet the core solo costs like $210), plus the $330 for the motherboard and $100 for the OS and you're already at $670. Add HD, the ram and you're way over budget. I suppose going for a Celeron M is the solution to this problem considering that Celeron performance is pretty comparable with the Pentium M's.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 03, 2006 - link

    That's why this needs to be sold as a pre-built system, including OS. Large businesses can negotiate very good deals with MS and Intel, and realistically there's no way the case/chassis/mobo/PSU costs $330. At wholesale component prices, they should be able to match the price of the Mac Mini. Sell more at a smaller profit margin is the idea, though again I'm not sure how many people would buy one of these. Guess we'll see what happens. Reply

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