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MSI Announces Barebones Cubi Kits, Will Compete With Intel, Gigabyte, Others

MSI is starting a new product line of barebones mini PCs to compete against Intel's NUCs, Gigabyte's BRIX, and other similar devices.

MSI sent out the specs for the first six of these devices that will come to market. All of the Cubi boxes will use embedded Intel Broadwell CPUs and graphics, and are identical in specs to each other except for the CPU.

Model NameCubi-001BUSCubi-002BUSCubi-003BUSCubi-004BUSCubi-005BUSCubi-006BUS
MSRP$279.99$199.99$149.99$279.99$199.99$149.99
Processor SupportIntel Core i3-5005U (Broadwell, embedded)Intel Pentium 3805U (Broadwell, embedded)Intel Celeron 3205U (Broadwell, embedded)Intel Core i3-5005U (Broadwell, embedded)Intel Pentium 3805U (Broadwell, embedded)Intel Celeron 3205U (Broadwell, embedded)
Processor Speed2 GHz1.9 GHz1.5 GHz2 GHz1.9 GHz1.5 GHz
CPU CoolerWindows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7
OS SupportWindows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7Windows 8.1/7
Video GraphicsIntel HD GraphicsIntel HD GraphicsIntel HD GraphicsIntel HD GraphicsIntel HD GraphicsIntel HD Graphics
ChipsetsIntel Broadwell U PCH-LPIntel Broadwell U PCH-LPIntel Broadwell U PCH-LPIntel Broadwell U PCH-LPIntel Broadwell U PCH-LPIntel Broadwell U PCH-LP
Memory Capacity8 GB Max.8 GB Max.8 GB Max.8 GB Max.8 GB Max.8 GB Max.
Memory TypeDDR3L SO-DIMM x 2 slotsDDR3L SO-DIMM x 2 slotsDDR3L SO-DIMM x 2 slotsDDR3L SO-DIMM x 2 slotsDDR3L SO-DIMM x 2 slotsDDR3L SO-DIMM x 2 slots
Storage SupportmSATA SSD slot x1        2.5" HDD/SSD x1mSATA SSD slot x1        2.5" HDD/SSD x1mSATA SSD slot x1        2.5" HDD/SSD x1mSATA SSD slot x1        2.5" HDD/SSD x1mSATA SSD slot x1        2.5" HDD/SSD x1mSATA SSD slot x1        2.5" HDD/SSD x1
Wireless LAN supportIntel Wi-Fi 3160 (M.2)802.11ac + BT4.0 (included)Intel Wi-Fi 3160 (M.2)802.11ac + BT4.0 (included)Intel Wi-Fi 3160 (M.2)802.11ac + BT4.0 (included)Intel Wi-Fi 3160 (M.2)802.11ac + BT4.0 (included)Intel Wi-Fi 3160 (M.2)802.11ac + BT4.0 (included)Intel Wi-Fi 3160 (M.2)802.11ac + BT4.0 (included)
Wi-Fi Antennas111111
Audio ChipRealtek ALC283Realtek ALC283Realtek ALC283Realtek ALC283Realtek ALC283Realtek ALC283
Mic.-In/Headphone-OutCombo 1Combo 1Combo 1Combo 1Combo 1Combo 1
Ethernet Port1 Gigabit LAN1 Gigabit LAN1 Gigabit LAN1 Gigabit LAN1 Gigabit LAN1 Gigabit LAN
HDMI Port1 HDMI out1 HDMI out1 HDMI out1 HDMI out1 HDMI out1 HDMI out
DisplayPort1 Mini DisplayPort out1 Mini DisplayPort out1 Mini DisplayPort out1 Mini DisplayPort out1 Mini DisplayPort out1 Mini DisplayPort out
USB 3.0Front 2 + Rear 2Front 2 + Rear 2Front 2 + Rear 2Front 2 + Rear 2Front 2 + Rear 2Front 2 + Rear 2
Expansion slotsM.2 x1 (occupied for Wi-Fi)     mSATA SSD slot x1            2.5" HDD/SSD x1M.2 x1 (occupied for Wi-Fi)     mSATA SSD slot x1            2.5" HDD/SSD x1M.2 x1 (occupied for Wi-Fi)     mSATA SSD slot x1            2.5" HDD/SSD x1M.2 x1 (occupied for Wi-Fi)     mSATA SSD slot x1            2.5" HDD/SSD x1M.2 x1 (occupied for Wi-Fi)     mSATA SSD slot x1            2.5" HDD/SSD x1M.2 x1 (occupied for Wi-Fi)     mSATA SSD slot x1            2.5" HDD/SSD x1
Energy Star Qualifiedyesyesyesyesyesyes
Power supply40W AC Adapter40W AC Adapter40W AC Adapter40W AC Adapter40W AC Adapter40W AC Adapter
VESA MountableVESA-mount Bracket         includedVESA-mount Bracket         includedVESA-mount Bracket         includedVESA-mount Bracket         includedVESA-mount Bracket         includedVESA-mount Bracket         included
Unit Dimensions4.53" x 4.37" x 1.38"-1.68"4.53" x 4.37" x 1.38"-1.68"4.53" x 4.37" x 1.38"-1.68"4.53" x 4.37" x 1.38"-1.68"4.53" x 4.37" x 1.38"-1.68"4.53" x 4.37" x 1.38"-1.68"
Warranty2 years2 years2 years2 years2 years2 years

Strangely enough, Cubi boxes Cubi-001BUS and Cubi-004BUS, Cubi-002BUS and Cubi-005BUS, and Cubi-004BUS and Cubi-006BUS are completely identical to each other in specs and price. In other words, MSI only has three different hardware configurations currently available, yet lists six different models. We asked MSI about this, and a rep told us that the Cubi will come in both black and white models, and that is the difference between the similar models.

As is usually the case with barebones systems, you will need to buy RAM and a storage device to use with the Cubi box.

Unfortunately, in overall specs, these units look to be behind Gigabyte's top BRIX unit and Intel's top NUCs. MSI only goes up to an Intel Core i3 with these units, while Gigabyte and Intel have models containing faster Intel Core i7 processors.

MSI told us that while current models only feature Core i3 or lower CPUs, there will be an option out in the second half of the year featuring an i5 with vPro. There is also potential for a model using an i7, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Although in the U.S. we can only expect to see barebones kits available, in Europe, MSI plans to also launch these as complete systems.

Prices for the barebones Cubi kits range from $149.99 with a Celeron CPU up to $279.99 with a Core i3 CPU. MSI expects the Cubi devices to first reach customers in the second week of April.

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  • CaedenV
    I wonder when we are going to see a true modular standard implemented so that we can get a cute little box like this and add an external GPU down the road for game performance. I mean software and hardware has matured to a point where you don't need much more than an i3/i5 for most use cases or even games... but those Intel GPUs are simply not enough to run much of anything beyond Angry Birds.
    Reply
  • Eximo
    Not really for games though. They are quite interesting from a digital signage point of view. With VESA mount you can also turn any Monitor with a mount into an upgradeable All in One PC.

    I would personally stick this in my car to run my digital dashboard. There have been car based computers for a long time, but the NUC, BRIX, and now CUBI are just now making them pretty darn useful. Don't have to get wifi cards or have external antennae at least, and they have all the modern connectors. Whereas the others are intended more for backwards compatibility. With VGA and serial ports Also a lot larger, and they use the same exact SKUs. Different market I suppose.
    Reply
  • Bolts Romano
    I only have 2 questions on this promising mini PC
    1. Why only comes with low end processor? Since you are going w Broadwell go with i5 or i7 and make use iris 6200 for better graphic. What are you thinking MSI
    2. Why still use ext power adapter?

    Can anyone outside apple can do better design? Those mini PC looks been design by people from 90's
    Reply
  • ton-ton
    the last column is covered by "Most popular Articles" (total 6 col)
    Firefox run on OSX retina display and set to max resolution.
    Reply
  • IInuyasha74
    @Bolts Romano: You might have missed it the bottom of my article, but there will be a Broadwell unit with Intel Core i5 coming towards the second half of this year. We were talking to MSI, and they said an i7 unit might come in the future too, but things aren't certain yet.
    Reply
  • Larry Litmanen
    I honestly do not understand why anyone would buy these, they are missing RAM and and storage, so really only relatively tech savvy people would buy something like that. If you are tech savvy well then you know that for $300-$400 you can buy a regular full size PC on sale.

    To me Best Buy is as mainstream as most people are, i have never seen these ultra small PCs in the store and people checking them out.
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    @Larry Litmanen

    The main reason why people buy these is simply for the small size. That small size leads to savings on desktops, easy-to-conceal connections to digital signage solutions, kiosks, and the like. Having bought NUCs before, I knew already that there were no price savings there. I bought it purely for the ultra-small size footprint.
    Reply
  • Bolts Romano
    15540511 said:
    @Bolts Romano: You might have missed it the bottom of my article, but there will be a Broadwell unit with Intel Core i5 coming towards the second half of this year. We were talking to MSI, and they said an i7 unit might come in the future too, but things aren't certain yet.

    Hi Nuyasha, you did mention MSI will release the high end model later, but between you and me , why msi wants to delay the release ?

    Is i5 processor hard to get?



    Reply
  • Eximo
    Power adapter is kind of the point. The whole thing can run on a single DC input. That gives you all kinds of options, even power over Ethernet with the right equipment.

    For what I intend to do all I need is a browser. That it is also a PC means I can also run my monitoring and management software without having to use a separate laptop.

    Bizarrely, with a USB powered monitor and battery you could turn this into a wildly impractical laptop.

    Given the number of 5th gen i5 and i7 laptops already available I imagine it is quite difficult to acquire in large quantities right now.
    Reply
  • IInuyasha74
    15542943 said:
    15540511 said:
    @Bolts Romano: You might have missed it the bottom of my article, but there will be a Broadwell unit with Intel Core i5 coming towards the second half of this year. We were talking to MSI, and they said an i7 unit might come in the future too, but things aren't certain yet.

    Hi Nuyasha, you did mention MSI will release the high end model later, but between you and me , why msi wants to delay the release ?

    Is i5 processor hard to get?



    I didn't ask the MSI rep to know for sure, but its likely to keep prices low, and because the target use for these devices aren't high power scenarios. The i5 and i7 would cost more, and while people wanting to use these for media PCs and similar situations would probably like that, they will be used a lot for just web browsing too and some digital signage and other situations that don't really need more power than an i3 or Pentium.

    Like someone mentioned above, if you get to about $400 in total cost, very possible with RAM and storage, you could build a budget desktop system. For people really wanting performance on a budget that would probably be the better way to go, but it wouldn't be as compact of a system.
    Reply