Gameguru reviews of MSI MEGA 651 X48 PC by

Latest Update: Tue, 06 Jan 2004

There's no doubt that computer mini-systems have become very popular during the last year. Yeah, giant computers are no longer the head of the show. Today I'm going to take a look at the barebone system called the MSI MEGA 651 X48 PC which looks most like an audio system at first glance. The main attraction of the MEGA 651 PC is that it's allowing normal music and MP3-coded CD/DVDs to be played without having to start the PC. There's also an independent AM/FM tuner.

Based on the SiS 651 chipset (with peak bandwidth of 2.7GB/s), MEGA 651 PC offers support of Intel Pentium 4 processors with 400/533MHz FSB, flexible memory support: from PC100 SDRAM to PC2700 (DDR333 SDRAM). AGP 2.0 (AGP 4x) interface and an integrated video (64MB of memory can be allocated to the chip as video RAM through the BIOS). There's even built-in 56k modem, ethernet adapted and 6-in-1 Flash Card Reader. The specifications of the MEGA 651 PC are pretty good.

Closer Look

The MEGA 651 PC ships in a large black box, so you don't need to worry about stuff bouncing around in transport. Inside that package you will find the barebone itself /202(W) x 320(D) x 151(H) mm/, an extra P4 heatsink fan, a power cable, an IR remote control ( battery), an antenna, some accessories (screws and two faceplates for using either a floppy or second hard drive instead of the card reader), a driver and software CD (Power DVD and Nero) and an instruction booklet. The MEGA 651 PC is a cutely styled silver-colored case. The front is made from silver plastic with orange painted decoration, there's large LCD display and stealthed optical drive. The model I tested has black text and graphics on orange background while some pictures in the manual show it the other way around. The top of the front panel contains a hi-fi-like power-switch, control knob and eject/stop, forward, backward, play/pause buttons, which allow to control the built-in FM radio and CD/MP3 player without booting the PC.



Adding Components

For the testing, I've added what an average person might practically add to this unit to complete their system: Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz 512k 533MHz, RAM DIMM 512MB DDR PC400 (PC3200) Kingston CL2 and HDD Western Digital Caviar XL WD800JB- 80GB 7200rpm (8MB cache). The panels fastened with three screws can be easily removed. It wasn't much difficult to install the hard drive, CPU (with cooler provided by MSI) and RAM.

Hi-Fi features:
Without even booting the PC, the MEGA 651 PC can be used to play CD audio files (a regular audio CD or burned CD/DVD with MP3 files) or listen music from the built-in FM/AM radio. I've tested a couple of CDs with various MP3 files (mostly 80min CDs with 160/192kb/s songs) and everything worked pretty well. There's a simple equalizer with four presets: Normal, Pop, Classic and Jazz. and SRS (Sound Retrieval System) feature that adds 3D effects to an ordinary stereo signal.

As I mentioned above, there's a large LCD display. The display provides information about the number of the track and time. There're also some pseudo-effects depending on equalizer's preset in use. MP3 files can be played either sequentially or randomly. Another unique choice is the AM/FM receiver for radio listening with memory for 6 stations. The part of MEGA 651 PC package is a remote control which combines functions for operation with MP3/Radio with functions for an optional TV tuner from MSI.

MEGA 651 PC features Phoenix-Award BIOS that allows you to enable/disable various integrated devices, setting a system shutdown temperature threshold and things like that. MEGA 651 PC (at least the bundle I had) comes with MSI X48 CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo drive by default. Over on the performance side of things this drive is really everything you would expect when reading and burning CD's at 48x.

Noise Levels:
You will probably agree with me that the most unpleasant thing about computers is its noise. That's why developers of a barebone systems trying to create an efficient and quiet cooling system. And it must be really efficient as the hot components of the computer are all grouped close together in a limited space. I think they have no choice since I wouldn't buy a barebone to listen to its roar :) So, what the solution from MSI looks like?

The supplied heat sink is surprisingly light and uses a smaller fan than a regular heatsink, but does a fine job of cooling the CPU. The fans are temperature-controlled which is a good thing. Under small CPU workloads, the temperature inside is low enough and the barebone is practically noiseless, as the CPU cooler is rotating at a reduced speed. When the temperature goes up, the rotational speed does the same reaching a notch (CPU cooler ~ 5400rpm) That means that most tasks like web surfing, or email will be near silent.

When I first saw the MEGA651, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. After working with it for a while, I have grown to love it. It is smaller than most computers, and that small footprint means a lot if you are running low on space.

Pros: unique Hi-Fi ability, supplied MSI X48 CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo and 6-in-1 card reader, easy setup

Overall, I would say that the MEGA651 is a small, handy, and quite silent desktop replacement for average users that doubles a stereo with FM/AM and CD/MP3 playing capabilities. I think Microstar made a good product, which is quite worth the money.












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