“Size matters not” – a small green Jedi Master once claimed, and the Sumicom S600 is a case in point. Distributed in the UK by Jadetec, Sumicom stands for Super Mini Computer. While at first this sounds like another dubious example of a Taiwanese flair for product names it is in fact a pretty good description. Measuring a mere 148 x 254 x 71mm the Sumicom is remarkably small, outdoing even the popular Shuttle PCs in the space-saving department. With its oblong shape and black finish it wouldn’t look out of place on a traditional British hi-fi rack. Indeed it’s even smaller than my Teac CD player, which is remarkable when you consider how much more powerful the Sumicom is. Fortunately the Sumicom is quiet too, and in most rooms you’ll barely hear it running.
Despite its size the system has an impressively solid feel to it weighing in at 3kg. This is because the casing is aluminium rather than the plastic that Jadetec’s Micro PC is cloaked in. There’s a specific reason for this however, as the whole casing is designed to dissipate heat. As with a notebook the Sumicom has to be as efficient as possible at cooling itself down. The power supply is external to the case which keeps both the size and the temperature of the main unit down while the CPU fan directs heat from the heatsink out through the rear of the case. For safety, the CPU temperature is monitored from the BIOS, and is set to automatically shut down if things get too toasty. This is to avoid any long-term damage to the components due to overheating. However, I did leave the machine on for several days straight and found that the Sumicom was only mildly warm to the touch, with the BIOS reporting the chip to be running at a reasonable 49 degrees.
As supplied the Sumicom is powered by a 2.0GHz Celeron and 512Mb of PC2700 RAM sitting in a motherboard based on the SiS 651 chipset. This chipset features a 400MHz or 533MHz bus making it possible to upgrade to a 2.8GHz Pentium 4, and 2Gb of RAM. However the small case will make installing components tricky, so if you think you might want more in the future it’s best to invest in a higher specification at the start. That said, while the Celeron is the ugly duckling to the Pentium 4s swan the 2GHz version still has enough to propel it to a 2D benchmark score of 145. This is no great shakes, but there’s enough power to run the sort of applications that the Sumicom is aimed at, such as browsing the Web, email and listening to MP3s.
The system features a notebook style 24-speed CD-ROM drive. A DVD-ROM drive can be supplied instead for an additional £95. But even though the machine would make a very discreet DVD player it lacks any digital out to feed 5.1 channel surround sound to an external amplifier, instead offering only two-channel stereo output. In fact the AC ‘97 audio codec on the motherboard is capable of outputting 5.1, as demonstrated in Shuttle-based PCs. Additionally there’s no composite or S-video inputs or outputs, so if you want to attach it to a large screen you’ll need a plasma featuring a standard VGA input. Clearly the small dimensions of the Sumicom S600 places limitations on what can be offered, effectively making it unsuitable as a Home Theatre PC.
As for the graphics – gamers should look away now. The graphics chip, integrated onto the motherboard, doesn’t have its own dedicated memory but shares some of the main memory. The amount is takes for itself can be adjusted in the BIOS from between 4and 64Mb. However, even at the maximum amount the performance on offer is a far cry from the latest mobile chips offered by nVidia and ATi. The score of 1495 in 3DMark 2001 is unlikely to get any pulses racing.
The Sumicom does cater admirably for the more basic tasks though. At the rear there are two USB 2.0 ports, as well as serial and parallel ports so you can make use of older printers and scanners. There is also a 10/100 Fast Ethernet port so you can use the machine on a network or share a broadband connection. Present and correct are PS/2 keyboard and mouse connections, an audio line-out socket, headphone and microphone sockets. At the front there’s an additional USB 2.0 port, which is joined by a FireWire port. These two front mounted connections make it easy to plug-in devices such as printers, scanners, cameras and MP3 players.
The power and reset switches are small black buttons on the front, accompanied by a third that’s labelled ‘speed’. This didn’t appear to have any useful function, harking back to when 486 cases featured a Turbo button that did nothing. Next to this, a smart blue LED an aesthetically pleasing look to the fascia.
Internally the Sumicom is fitted with a full size 5.25in hard disk. It’s a Maxtor branded drive and features an ATA133 interface, a spindle speed of 7,200rpm and a capacity of 60Gb. This is a reasonable capacity and should be enough for the tasks this machine will be put to. Amazingly there’s even room for an additional notebook-sized 2.5in hard disk to be added if needed.
Jadetec has pre-installed Windows XP Home onto the Sumicom but there’s no additional software on offer. At the price, it inevitably comes bereft of peripherals such as a monitor, mouse and keyboard, though Jadetec can supply all of these if required.
Compared to the Shuttle PCs, the Sumicom lacks flexibility with no option to add AGP or PCI cards, and no video or digital audio outputs. If you don’t need these features though, the Sumicom’s smaller size and all-black finish could be more attractive. And while you can get totally silent water cooled systems such as those from Hush, they are bulkier and much more expensive.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced basic second system for checking email and totting up accounts, or a server you can tuck out of the way and leave on all the time, without deafening you with whirring fans, the Sumicom will do nicely. At the price, even Yoda would approve.
Like a perfect child the Sumicom S600 is not seen or heard. On the negative side expansion is limited and its lack of video and audio connections means it won’t serve for AV purposes. However its solid design and diminutive measurements enable the Sumicom to break new ground in the mini-pc market.