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Making Ultrasmall Desktops with Mobile PC Components

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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September 21, 2006 10:55:39 AM

Using near state-of-the-art mobile PC components, several manufacturers have built desktop PCs as small as 6.5" x 6.5" x 2". These highly mobile PCs are ideally suited to home theater PC (HTPC) applications. We look at their strengths and weaknesses when used for this purpose.
September 21, 2006 10:57:44 PM

This is Greg Messner, CEO of pcalchemy.com, the manufacturer of the M1B and M2B MiniMCE systems featured in the article. The MiniMCE systems are available here:
MiniMCE - Mini Media Centers

BTW, the M1B is also available in silver and is called the M1S.

All our systems are ready to go right out of the box, we include an MCE certified IR Transceiver for doing IR blasting to control a cable or satellite box, as well as a mini USB2.0 hub for expansion. The main options available are a mini USB2.0 HDTV tuner and an external hard drive with capacity from 320GB to 750GB.

I just wanted to provide clarification and/or corrections on the base configuration of our MiniMCE systems. All three current systems (more to come in the next few months) have the same basic configuration:

• Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T5600 Merom Processor 1.83 GHz
• Genuine Microsoft® Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2005 with Rollup 2
• Wireless RF Keyboard w/Integrated Trackball • MCE IR Remote Control
• Built-in Analog TV Tuner and Optional Mini External HDTV Tuner
• 1GB PC-5400 DDR2 RAM • 100GB SATA 7200 RPM Hard Drive
• Dual Layer DVD±RW Drive • 1000Gb Networking
• Nero 6.6 Suite 3 CD/DVD Burning Software
• NVIDIA PureVideo Decoder Software
• Norton Internet Security Suite 2006
• USB2.0 Powered Port Expander

That is no typo, all systems come with a Core 2 Duo Merom T5600 processor. We also use a 7200 RPM drive which is about a $40 premium over the 5400 RM drives used by our competitors.

All systems are available now and we ship 2 business days from order.
September 22, 2006 2:13:57 PM

I have a few questions. Is there a comparison of how these units score relative to laptops in the $1200 range? Also, do any of these units have the "oomph" to decode HDTV, using MPEG-4 or VC1? At 1080p? Thanks!
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September 22, 2006 2:39:03 PM

Quote:
I have a few questions. Is there a comparison of how these units score relative to laptops in the $1200 range? Also, do any of these units have the "oomph" to decode HDTV, using MPEG-4 or VC1? At 1080p? Thanks!


We have not done any comparisons to notebooks as we are trying to distance the product from the laptop market, since these are desktop (or shelf top, or ...) units. Do you have any specific notebooks in mind? A specification comparison should give you a rough idea.

Our MiniMCE units have enough "oomph" to decode MPEG-4 and VC1, but I'm not sure about outputting 1080p. We tried to test 1080p on the units but were unable to because we did not have a TV or monitor that supported 1080p. I'll have one of our techs clarify this.
September 23, 2006 9:58:40 PM

Compared to every PC offered in this segment the mac mini is a real bargain
September 24, 2006 4:40:20 AM

Quote:
Compared to every PC offered in this segment the mac mini is a real bargain




If you configure the Mac Mini with the same hardware as the M1B, M2B, and WinBook Jiv:

Intel T2400 Core Duo
Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
1GB DDR2 667 RAM
120GB SATA Drive (Mac has no 100GB option)

Factor out the TV Tuner that the M1B, M2B, and Jiv include, which the Mac Mini does not support, the prices end up very similar or almost identical.

I'm not going to get into the OS aspects of the comparison, on hardware alone, the value proposition of the units in the article compared to the Mac Mini is pretty much a draw.

If you consider that the M1B and M2B utilize 7200RPM extended use drives and now use the Core 2 Duo Merom T5600, which alone would add $60-$80 to the cost of the Mac Mini or the Jiv and Shuttle units in the article, maybe the "real bargain" label was misplaced?
September 24, 2006 1:28:40 PM

If you buy the final configuration from apple I agree with you, but if you buy expansion from other sources the price will be a lot lower.
That said, I know it's not your fault, as buying the parts you use and assembling my own miniPC will actually cost more than buying from you. The greedy ones are AOpen/ECS/Shuttle/etc. that sell the base barebone at a far too high price.
September 24, 2006 9:46:03 PM

Quote:
If you buy the final configuration from apple I agree with you, but if you buy expansion from other sources the price will be a lot lower.
That said, I know it's not your fault, as buying the parts you use and assembling my own miniPC will actually cost more than buying from you. The greedy ones are AOpen/ECS/Shuttle/etc. that sell the base barebone at a far too high price.


You do not have an option with the Mac Mini to purchase the expansion elsewhere, unfortunately Apple does not allow you the option of purchasing the unit without hard drive, memory, and CPU (barebones). Plus the Mac Mini does not yet offer support the Core 2 Duo Merom CPU.

If we were in the market to sell non-MCE systems, we could easily configure an AOpen MiniPC with equivalent components as the Mac Mini and sell it at about the same price, this would have Windows XP Home on it vs. Windows XP MCE 2005. All that would be left to argue would be the merits of the OSes and those arguments never go anywhere.

BTW, we also sell the AOpen barebones and you can get pretty close to the price of the Mac Mini with similar configuration. If you hunt around you could match or beat the cost of a comparable Mac Mini.
!