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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  • 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

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