Around the back of the Cute there’s an unusual 70mm fan vent, a single expansion slot which is taken up by the TV tuner, and a fairly generous selection of connectivity courtesy of the J&W 780 Mini-ITX AM2+ motherboard. This consists of a PS2 mouse connector, Gigabit Ethernet port, six USB connectors and an eSATA port, video outputs in the form of VGA, DVI and HDMI, and both digital (co-axial and optical) and analogue audio outputs for a variety of 7.1 surround sound options – certainly no complaints here.
Undoing three cross-head screws gives you access to the chassis. Surprisingly it is quite roomy inside, leaving the single 16x PCI Express slot (which can take a discrete video card as long as it’s not full-length, full-height or double-slot), CPU and RAM within easy reach. On the topic of RAM, it’s well worth going for the 4GB upgrade when you buy as the Cute’s motherboard uses more expensive laptop memory, and in the 2GB configuration both slots are filled leaving no room to upgrade.
The case allows for reasonably good airflow, but unfortunately its unbranded 70mm cooling fan isn’t exactly quiet and though never acutely annoying, the Cute can get noisy during use. It’s a great shame as this single factor will probably dissuade many from choosing Mesh’s compact and affordable system as a Home Theatre PC (HTPC).
The small fan is even more puzzling when you consider that there’s plenty of room to install a bigger one, so those who aren’t afraid to get creative with a dremel can alleviate the issue – not that the Akasa CPU fan and tiny motherboard cooling fan aren’t somewhat on the loud side too, despite the temperature inside the case staying nice and cool even when under load.
Examining the PC’s specifications in more detail, Cutes come with an AMD Athlon II X2 215 dual-core CPU as standard, which runs at 2.7GHz and sports 1MB of cache. This can be upgraded to a 3.1GHz Phenom II 550 Black Edition with 7MB of cache, though only in models that don’t allow discrete graphics. As is, the 215 gives more than enough performance for anything the rest of the system can handle.
A 320GB drive takes care of storage, which again can be upgraded all the way up to a 1TB model on Mesh’s website for £30. The Blu-ray reader is a Lite-On model that won’t handle HD-DVD (as many such drives do), though of course it will write to DVD. Both the optical drive and hard drive are standard desktop models, and therefore easy to replace.
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