Build Your Own Mini-PC For The Office

Conclusion: The New PC Style - Not Maxi But Mini!

We're sold on this ultra compact, bare-bones system. We installed an Intel Pentium III/1000 and 512 MB RAM (SDRAM - PC133) on it, producing a powerful, home-grown, all-around PC. And the best thing is: the stylish, aluminum-paneled case is a sight for sore eyes after years of looking at those elephant-like, conventional cases. Even its weight is astonishing. The entire PC, components and all, weighs about ten pounds. And it takes up exactly a quarter of the space a comparable standard system does. Thus, the mini-PC is stiff competition for both classic desktop systems and modern notebooks.

There are numerous ports to communicate with peripheral devices. The TV-out port (in S-VHS and cinch formats) serves to feed the picture to a television or an additional monitor. It uses a different system from conventional graphics cards - when a TV is attached, it automatically switches to the video output. There are also two FireWire jacks for a digital video camera, so you can transmit audio and video data. But if you want real video editing capabilities, you'll have to get an additional video card. Thanks to the integrated network card, this small PC can easily be included in a network.

It's no surprise that this system can't quite provide the same functionality as a high-end, big tower. One of the limitations is the number of peripheral devices that can be included - there's only one PCI slot, while the RAM slots max out at 1024 MB. The board is based on the VIA PL133 chipset, so you won't be able to use Intel processors with Tualatin cores. Shuttle really should consider replacing the VIA PL133 with the PL133T, because only the new chipset supports newer CPUs with Tualatin cores.

So what's the bottom line? Our home-grown system, based on the Shuttle SV24 kit, is ideal for office use. It also plays DVDs or MP3 audio files with no glitches. Add to that its ability to rip DVDs to the hard drive/CD-R and then convert them to MPEG-4 files. In fact, the system only has one true weakness - real fans of current 3D games will be disappointed to hear that the S3 graphics only support low refresh rates at low resolutions and few details (effects). One way to solve the problem would be to integrate a GeForce chip on the board or include an AGP slot. This would make a mini-PC system just about unbeatable and refute any arguments in favor of getting a large tower.