Change is difficult. The older we get, the worse we become about accepting change. Some people always shop at the same store, order the same thing at a restaurant, buy the same brand of car... and yes, they even insist on running the same OS and web browser, year after year. Some day, your choice of operating system may not matter. To some extent, the Internet has already broken down a lot of barriers. Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same - there are still a few web sites that only display properly in Internet Explorer, for example.

As difficult as it is to change, it comes as little surprise that many people reacted to the launch of the Mac Mini with, "It looks interesting; too bad it's an Apple." I'm as bad as the next person, and while I bear no ill will towards Apple or their users, I'm pretty comfortable with my "Wintel" computer network. We still don't have a universal cyberspace, so for now, the software and applications for a platform play a critical role. For many people and businesses, all of the software that they own runs on Windows PCs, and thus, people continue to stick with the Microsoft OSes.

Give credit where credit is due: when it comes to aesthetics, Apple is one of the best. Small form factor PCs - didn't Apple start that segment with their Mac cube? How about the iPod? Let's not even get into the discussion of MacOS, Windows, and Xerox PARC.... There are many examples of Apple launching a new product with an interesting design, only to see many people avoid it simply because they want to run Windows. (We're not trying to start a debate over which is better, though, and there are many other topics that could be addressed in the PC vs. Mac wars.)

Maybe this will all change with Apple starting to ship x86 systems, but for now, Apple's creative design has once again been "borrowed" - or at least, copied in many areas. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Steve Jobs must be feeling pretty good about himself right now. From the consumer's perspective, however, it generally doesn't matter if one company copies another company's design; if it brings competition and price wars so much the better.

It seems that AOpen has been working towards the creation of the MiniPC over the past year or so. First, we had their Pentium M desktop motherboards, followed by some Pentium M small form factor systems, and then they made the MZ855/MZ915 really small form factor design. These were all decent efforts, but I, at least, continued to think, "Can't anyone make a Windows-compatible computer that will compete with the Mac Mini?" Now, the answer is finally "yes", but there's more to it than that.

Not everyone needs a super powerful desktop system, and a super small, super quiet, super portable computer is an interesting idea. The problem is that we already have those: laptops. If you're going to compete with a laptop, only without a keyboard, touchpad, or display, you had better get the remaining features and the price right! Did AOpen succeed? Let's find out.

Appearance and System Specifications


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  • 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

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