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MSI Titan 700 Micro PC - MSI Titan 700
The front of the unit maintains the sharp, box-like styling. It is constructed from matte black plastic, which doesn't pick up fingerprints. And that's a good thing, as everything except the power button and two status indicators is covered by two flaps you'll be opening and closing regularly. The lower one hides two USB 2.0 ports spaced well apart, and the usual headphone and microphone jacks. The hinges are of course plastic, but they hold the cover open without problems.
However, the top flap, behind which the slimline DVD writer resides, is rather disappointing. It's slightly annoying that the cover doesn't stay in place due to a loose hinge, but the biggest issue is that putting in a disc is more convoluted than it rightly ought to be. First you need to press a point (marked by a small icon) to release the cover's catch, then pull the cover open, and finally push the button on the actual drive and pull it all the way out. Again, this problem could have been easily averted by mounting the drive flush with the front of the case, or at least providing a cover that could open with the tray.
Speaking of opening covers, it's really easy to open up the Titan 700: just remove two screws and pull the top cover off. This reveals a removable tray which, after a bit of pressure from a thin flat-head screwdriver, gives access to the very generous 120GB 2.5in SATA hard drive and laptop SATA DVD writer. Nothing else about the Titan is actually upgradeable; according to MSI, even the single 1GB DDR2 DIMM is the maximum amount the VIA chipset's architecture can handle as well.
Getting around to the rear panel, we have quite a few connections with some less desirable than others. Starting off with video, there's the usual DVI (though in this case not HDCP enabled) and D-SUB port, unusually joined by an S-Video connection. For peripherals there are two USB 2.0 ports, two PS2 ports - perhaps outdated for the consumer market but still very much in use in business environments - and no less than two serial ports. This latter inclusion might seem nonsensical, but can actually be justified; when a large company is purchasing multiple systems based on their cheap price as the defining factor, it doesn't want to have to purchase new peripherals too, and yes, some companies still use serial devices. Of course, going by that argument, VIA should probably have included a parallel port too.
In addition to the obligatory power connection and LAN jack, there are three 3.5mm analogue connectors for 5.1-channel audio, one of which also doubles as a microphone jack - meaning that if you go for stereo sound and use PS2 adapters for your mouse and keyboard, you can hook pretty much everything up to the back of the Titan, leaving the front unspoiled.