I admit that I have an affection for SFF (small form factor) computers. Always have. While it’s true that they quickly turn into "islands unto themselves" due to the fact they’re difficult to build and/or crack open, I still dig ‘em nonetheless.
With small-box builds you will spend more for the compact size, so if you were looking to build something on the cheap, big boxes still punch the wallet the least. Bear that in mind as you read thru this.
MSI has a slab!
- It will accept a Core 2 Duo processor
- There is an ATI Radeon Xpress 200 on-board
- The north and south bridge are ATI
- 17-inch screen at 1280×1024 (way behind the times for today’s computers)
- 2GB maximum RAM accepted (okay I guess.. but it’d be nice if it accepted 4GB)
- Does not appear to have wireless networking (remedied by USB wireless stick but that’s a bit on the slow side)
- Costs $670
For a barebones box, the price tag is the biggest detractor. Granted, it’s nice it’s even available, but $670 and only 2GB of RAM support? Nah.
But hey, if you wanted a slab that’s not Gateway, Dell or Apple that’s a true build-a-PC style thing, well.. there ya go.
Make sure to check this out if interested and be sure to see the photo gallery so you examine all the ports and so on.
Black. Cool blue lights. Small.
The Thermaltake VF1000BWS is much more up your alley if you’re looking for more options in a small package. It’s compatible with almost any MicroATX or miniITX mainboard, so you have lots of choices. In addition there’s USB/Audio/IEEE ports in the front for easy cable connections. The carry handle on top and transparent side is also trick.
To note: For the full effect of the cool blue you should get lighted rear fans, because the only pre-lit one it comes with is a 90mm front and not the rear.
The nice part about this particular Thermaltake case is that it has a subdued look without looking all gamer-crazy.
In addition, this case is super-sturdy, i.e. not cheesy. Aluminum front panel with SECC chassis. Good stuff.
The price tag is also nice at $129. Yes, it’s more or less just a case, however it’s a darn good small-box setup.
Also note: There’s a silver version.
More Black. More Steel.
This is another Thermaltake case, the LANBOX Lite VF6000BWS. Would you believe it’s cheaper than the one above at only $89.99? It’s true. It also has a piano gloss black finish. Very slick looking. It even comes with a dust cloth to keep it shiny. And you’ll need it because I’m sure it’s super-easy to put fingerprints on it.
This case basically has all the features of the above one. It will do MicroATX or miniITX – however it would appear it’s not as sturdy even with more steel in it. It’s billed as a "gamer cube".
Given the choice I’d take the one above instead of this one unless cost was a heavy concern.
What about the Mac Mini?
You know, I can’t get a straight answer from anyone on what the fate of the Mini is. Some say it’s dead as a doorknob. Others say that yes, there will be a new version of it soon to come.
But one thing is clear: Mac people are saying loud and clear to not buy a Mini right now. Wait. Wait until it’s either discontinued or a next-gen model appears.
If it’s discontinued, you’ll be able to grab one at a bargain price.
And if next-gen?
I’ll tell you what I’d like to see with the next-gen Mini, should there be one.
I’d love to see a Mini with the guts of a Macbook Air and an SSD option. Oh yes I would. That would be so trick it wouldn’t be funny. You’d be able to get that oh-so-awesome SSD in a package that costs only half the price of the Air.
Now that would be frickin’ cool. Power in a small package? If the Mini gets the SSD, yes; that’s some serious speed.
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