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No More Penny-Pinching: Seven Mini-PCs On The Catwalk

No More Penny-pinching: Bare-bones Models From Biostar, Shuttle And Soltek, Continued

Just before Christmas, seven different bare-bones systems found their way to the Munich THG lab and pitted their various features against one another to win the favor of those enlightened enough to shun discounters. The buyer of a bare-bones system has the option of determining a major portion of his hardware configuration.This includes processor, memory, hard drive (n), drives, mouse and keyboard.

Now more than ever, visuals and the appearance of quality play a role

But first we need to see what's different about the range of platforms and chipsets and find the appropriate combination. Basically, there are three different processor platforms: Athlon XP (socket 462), Pentium 4 (socket 478) and, only recently, Athlon 64 (socket 754). Then come seven different chipsets, with the best selection available for the widely distributed P4 platform. Intel offers its own chips for the P4, such as the 865 derivatives (865PE, 865G) - with and without graphics - and the fast 875P. The SiS651 chipset with integrated graphics, which can still be found in the lower price category, is somewhat outdated. The ATI, with its RS300 chipset, is new and is especially attractive for fans of 3-D games. For both the Athlon XP and the Athlon 64 platform, there are chips from Nvidia: the NForce 2 with integrated graphics (GeForce 2 core) and the NForce 3 with no graphics. Both chips support Dual-DDR400 for memory access.

Good workmanship in components crucial to market success