San Jose (CA) - Aopen today said that it is shipping its miniPC, a small form factor PC that resembles the design of Apple's Mac mini and follows an Intel reference design that has been on a road show since March. The computer will be available from different vendors in a wide variety of flavors - ranging from a $400 base system to more than $1300 for performance tuned versions.
We would not go as far as describing Aopen's miniPC as evidence for the firm's "strong R&D capability" and demonstration of the company's "leading product development expertise." After all, we are talking about a device that hardly can be described as innovative, as it takes virtually all design clues from Apple's Mac mini.
The miniPC's case dimensions are virtually identical with the Mac mini. As the original, the PC covers 6.5 inches in length and width, the height is 1.97 inches, which is 0.03 inches less than the Mac mini. The real difference between the two products can be found inside the case. The Aopen miniPC can be configured in a greater variety than Apple's version.
We were not able to get detailed specifications from Aopen - a spokeswoman said that the miniPC will be offered from different vendors in different configurations - and even the specsheet is somewhat different from what the press release states. According to the press release, the unit "features the latest Pentium M notebook processor" while a spec sheet talks about Celeron M and Pentium M chip as available processors. Other components include "1" DDR2-400 or 533 SO-DIMM, Intel's 915GM chipset, a 2.5" 40 GByte or 80 GByte harddrive, integrated Ethernet and a slot-loaded DVD burner. There will be wireless capability - 802.11b/g according to the spec sheet and 802.11a/b/g according to the press release.
Pricing for the base system - we assume that would be a Celeron M chip, 256 MByte memory, 802.11 b/g and a 40 GByte harddrive - will undercut the Mac mini's entry fee by $100. For $399, the miniPC will run a version of Linspire's Linux distribution along with applications such as OpenOffice, a "web browser, e-mail and instant messaging clients, multimedia viewers, photo and music managers and calendaring tools." The price of the device will match the Mac mini at $500, if users request Windows XP as operating system.
Aopen's pricing, however, is more a general guidance and it remains to be seen, if and how many such devices will be available on the market. According to the company, the computer will be available in the United States via Aopen's partners in "early November." To our knowledge, performance PC maker VoodooPC is currently the only company that has picked up Aopen's design but, according to the firm's president Rahul Sood, has heavily modified the PC under the hood. "We changing the thermals and the power supply in order to support higher CPUs," Sood said in an email to TG Daily. Voodoo's base system currently sells for $900. With optional equipment and shipping, the price of the "Idol" climbs above $1300.