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Many users must have faced the problem of choosing a home computer. At any industry-wide exhibition we see the leading manufacturers show various concept systems of a “digital home” or a “multimedia center”, and this topic is discussed at length in computer-related media, but these visions of the future still remain in the distance while we mostly go on using the standard office PC at home, shoving it under the desk or in the corner – out of sight.

Still, users and manufacturers now oftener agree that the true home PC should differ from the office machine as concerns design and functionality, like wild animals differ from the domesticated ones. The problem grew more urgent with the advent of the LCD monitor, which is smaller and more elegant that the CRT one and quickly replaces the latter on our desks. For a well-to-do owner of such a monitor, the problem of the grey box of the standard PC case is a constant vexation – if you set aesthetics and design as the goal, you should pursue it everywhere.

The last fashion in the home PC sphere is the so-called barebone system, usually consisting of a small well-designed and decorated case with a preinstalled PSU and mainboard of a special form-factor, sometimes with other components. Shuttle Inc. may be considered a trend-setter in this field – due to the efficient marketing policy and a lucky combination of design, functionality and affordability, the company’s XPC series barebones are known to many users nowadays. The rest of the manufacturers found themselves lagging behind: although many have such products on their hands, none can boast a similarly wide model range. Anyway, each manufacturer is trying to be ahead in another factor: nearly every barebone has a “candy” inside, which distinguishes this barebone from the crowd of others.

MSI, a well-known maker of mainboards, optical drives and other PC components, launched the MEGA barebone series some time ago (MEGA – MSI Entertainment and Gaming Appliance). Devices of this series are all targeted at multimedia applications – you often find a phrase like “Digital Media Platform” in descriptions of the models.

The “candy” point of the MEGA PC is the ability of the system to work in two modes: “Hi-Fi” and “PC”. Thus, the user can listen to music without powering the PC component up and booting the OS. In the first operational mode the integrated AM/FM tuner and the optical drive are the only devices that work, while the CPU and the rest of the system don’t even receive power (more – they can be missing altogether!). In the second mode, the MEGA PC is a simple multimedia computer. Let’s check out how these two functions mix and match together!

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