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AOpen XC Cube MZ915-M - SFF Barebone - AOpen XC Cube MZ915-M
The manual is of average quality, covering the steps you need to take when setting up the MZ915-M. However, the manual is fairly generic rather than system specific – also, as is often the case with Taiwanese products the translation leaves a lot to be desired, but it also injects some amusement into the build process. A quick setup sheet provides the information that more seasoned users will need and as there are generally no jumpers or switches that need to be changed around, there shouldn’t be any problems putting it together.
Performance wise the MZ915-M is on par with the Pentium M motherboards we’ve looked at in the past. It might not be quite as fast as the latest desktop PCs but it is virtually noiseless and as a media PC in your front room the MZ915-M makes a compelling case (no pun intended) for itself. There are a few drawbacks such as expandability but AOpen offers an external drive case that connects via USB and can house two 5.25in drives – although to be honest, if you’re desperate for drive space, you’re not going to be looking at a tiny solution like this in the first place.
The cost is really the major issue here, but to be fair, the bulk of the cost isn’t down to AOpen. Basically Intel is charging a significant premium for its mobile chipsets compared to the desktop parts, plus the CPU itself is going to set you back a fair whack too. At £235 including VAT the MZ915-M is quite expensive, but for now it’s a one of a kind solution, although I’d expect to see more Pentium M system shrinking down to this size, if not smaller. Considering that AOpen is going to launch its Mac Mini-like Pandora system later this year, it seems like the MZ915-M is only a stop gap.
The AOpen XC Cube MZ915-M is a very small and quiet system, it doesn’t have the power of bigger machines but a system like this isn’t about power. For those looking for a compact media PC to connect to their TV, this could be the ideal choice.