The production of desktop mini-systems becomes more and more widely spread. According to the analysts’ forecasts, the number of SFF PC sold in 2004 will more than double compared with the sales volumes of these systems in the year 2003. And this is not surprising at all. Since contemporary PCs can also function as many home electronic appliances, such as movies and music playback devices, it is quite logical that more functional computers will little by little oust the traditional highly tailored devices.
Many mainboard manufacturers, who were willing to enrich their product range, liked this idea a lot. This is how stylish-looking small barebone systems also known as small form-factor PCs appeared in the today’s market. The pioneer here was Shuttle Company, which introduced the whole family of small systems in the popular “cubic” format. On the one hand these systems boasted highly original design, which made them suitable for any interior, including that of a typical living-room, small size and the performance level comparable to that of an ordinary desktop PC. A little later other manufacturers also joined Shuttle in this new field. Now “cubic” barebone systems are also offered by such companies as ABIT, AOpen, BIOSTAR, EPoX, Shuttle, Soltek, and get more and more popular.
The competition in the SFF market inspired some manufacturers to develop more outstanding solutions than just a stylish-looking small computer. For example, the MegaPC family from MSI combines the features of a cubic SFF PC and those of a music center, which doesn’t require the OS to work as such.
Among the mainboard companies developing and manufacturing mini-systems, there has been only one big name until recently, which didn’t stand out in any way. I am talking about ASUS. Yes, ASUS has been offering office barebones for quite a while already. However, they didn’t manufacture any SFF systems, which could be called consumer solutions. At the same time, keeping in mind that ASUS is one of the best mainboard developers in the industry, everybody have been expecting something brand new and outstanding from them, not just a common cubic system. Well, finally, the first home barebone system from ASUS has been announced and released into the market. It differs drastically from the similar competing solutions. I believe the arrival of this new mini-system aka DIGIMatrix, many barebone manufacturers will revise their vision of a home PC architecture. Even ASUS calls its own DIGIMatrix “digital entertainment PC”, which does make perfect sense. Designed like a DVD-player, DIGIMatrix may serve not only as a PC, but also as a DVD/VCD player, music center of TV and FM tuner.
All in all, DIGIMatrix is really worth taking a closer look at. Especially, since we are most likely to see similar looking “entertainment” solutions from other manufacturers pretty soon.