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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.