I ended the last section of the review issuing all manner of warnings, so let me now say a few words in defense of the MEGA PC concept. I think that the fundamental problem the users usually encounter with barebones is not due to any fault of the developer’s, but rather due to the misunderstanding of the purpose of a barebone PC.
You cannot assemble an extremely-fast machine basing on the MEGA PC. You are as unlikely to upgrade it up to the level of an advanced gaming system, a kind of “fps generator”. Of course, you shouldn’t try to build this barebone into a workstation for processing sound or video and other similar tasks.
The purpose of this device is being a home multimedia computer for playing music and movies, for Web-surfing, for not-very-hard video games and office tasks. The MEGA 865 is designed to meet the aesthetic needs of its owner: the bright colorful display, the special Hi-Fi mode for listening to music and the solid support of the remote control by the MSI Media Center Deluxe III suite make this barebone a “home pet”, an embellishment of your work desk. Its functionality in the basic configuration is enough for such uses. I also think it would be proper to add a TV-tuner to the default configuration of the MEGA 865, since it must serve as an entertainment center. As for the wireless capabilities, I find them a bit superfluous for a home use. By the way, you don’t have to buy a regular AGP graphics card to connect the MEGA PC to a TV-set: there are special add-on cards available that enhance the functionality of the integrated graphics core – you plug them into the AGP slot and they have a very small size.
Now that we’ve put forth the aesthetic considerations with respect to the MEGA 865, be ready to shell out more money. A 17” LCD monitor just demands to be bought along with this barebone. A combination of the small MEGA PC with a clumsy CRT monitor would look ridiculous. You may also want to pay attention to the color of the monitor: black is what you need. Of course, the mouse and the keyboard just must be black! Don’t also forget about a good multi-channel speaker system to build a home theater to astound your friends.
The developers from MSI took great pains to perfect the MEGA PC concept and, although with many shortcomings, the system is already winsome and attractive to the home user.
- Nice looks and functionality, compactness and elegance;
- High-quality materials and neat assembly;
- A modern chipset inside, the i865G from Intel;
- The box is operational in the Hi-Fi mode right after you take it out of the package – no need even to install the CPU and memory;
- A big and bright and nice-looking LED display;
- A high-quality AM/FM receiver; several equalizer modes, stereo base enhancement; good scan sensitivity in the PC mode;
- Low system noise under the ordinary load;
- Notwithstanding the harsh temperature conditions, the system remains stable after installation of an external graphics card;
- You can use the LED display for showing the temperatures as well as the rotational speeds of the CPU and PSU fans;
- An integrated 56K modem, a card-reader, and a Wi-Fi unit;
- The MSI Media Center Deluxe III software suite is specifically designed to use with the remote control and covers a majority of “entertainment” tasks.
- The MEGA PC form-factor is too small, causing a number of problems. The engineers could have avoided many of them by simply making the system a bit larger;
- The LED display is bright and pretty, but its functionality might be wider if they used a raster and programmable display; you cannot disable the display;
- You have to grope for MP3 files in the Hi-Fi mode blindly, browsing through all of them to get to the desired one;
- The remote control works with errors; this may be a problem of our sample, though;
- The AM/FM auto-scan feature in the Hi-Fi mode skips over many FM stations; you can’t input the broadcasting frequency manually;
- There’s no removable front panel for replacing the card-reader with a second HDD or a 3.5” floppy drive;
- It’s difficult to extract and put back the drives basket;
- The cables from the PSU block the CPU cooler, preventing proper airflows;
- The AGP slot is too close to the PSU and the CPU cooler;
- It’s difficult to install an external AGP graphics card; moreover, such an installation raises cooling-related problems;
- The memory modules are not practically cooled down and become very hot at work;
- There’s no way to control the correlation between the temperatures and the fan speeds manually;
- The AC’97 codec employed in the MEGA 865 is not the market’s leader in sound quality;
- Incompatibility with some optical drives (well, the manufacturer honestly warns you about that);
- Only one SerialATA connector.
And as a kind of P.S., I’d like to say that the latest industry trend to a higher priority of “home” applications of the computer is overall and totally good. Many of us can recall the times when computers were big and slow, while the current epoch is the one of fast, hot and noisy PCs. I hope that the future will bring in other home computers, compact, easy-to-use, functional, noiseless, nice-looking and affordable. It is in this future that the era of the digital home will succeed to the era of the personal PC!